Helpful advice about selecting and buying binoculars for young observers
If you’re traveling with kids or just going for a walk in the park, looking through a pair of binoculars with an ergonomic design for younger children’s small hands and faces can be a great eye-opening experience. A pair of colorful, durable compact binoculars designed for kids can cost less than $30. Using binoculars encourages kids to explore nature and the environment around them up close as a whole new world unfolds. Encourage curiosity in kids with binoculars and choose them based on features designed for them. That is with little hands and safety in mind.
Features to consider
Binoculars are marked with two numbers identifying their magnification and light gathering ability. For an adult a popular general-purpose binoculars could be rated 8X42. The first number displays the ability of the binocular to enlarge faraway objects, 8 times in this case is its magnification power. The second number is its objective lens diameter. The larger this number is, the more light the binoculars can gather so they perform better in low light.
Kids’ binoculars are typically in the range of 8X21 which means that it has 8 times magnification power and the 21 indicates the object lenses are 21mm in diameter.
If you can borrow a pair of kid’s binoculars or find a sporting goods store that sells binoculars for kids, take a test drive. Kids love to experiment so let them hold the binoculars and operate the focusing wheel. If you can, ask for advice from a salesperson about how to hold and adjust them. If you’re shopping online, have your child participate in choosing them. Internet shopping can be fun and when you both decide on a pair and push the order button, there’s always the anticipation for the binosto arrive.
Choose high quality binoculars that you can afford, but remember as kids grow they’ll need different field glasses that adjust to their size and interest.
Make binoculars an everyday experience for kids
Use the binocs to get a feel for them right out of the box. If younger kids enjoy Pokemon Go it’s a good bet they’ll enjoy using binoculars in the real world to go on a treasure or scavenger hunt for birds. Encourage them to spot a bird and identify it, not easy at first but with guidance a kid can remember the color and markings, maybe draw a sketch of the bird and refer to a field guide later. Take it slow, no pressure and no competition at first to ease into and enjoy bird watching or observing nature. The best binoculars for kids are the ones they’ll use with comfort and ease.
Little kids enjoy using their “magic glasses” whenever there’s something to see. It might be a simple shopping trip but along the way they can focus on road signs, when the car stops. Or take a closer look at a building to see details around the door and windows. At a ball game, go kart track or swim meet kids can try to identify the athlete. We’re always amazed at how clever kids can use their own binoculars.
What to look for in binoculars for kids
- Compact binocular design
- Carrying case to protect and store when not in use
- Good breakaway neck strap
- Foldable so they adjust to match the kid’s eye-to-eye distance. Large binoculars may not be able to close enough to align with each eye.
- Adjustable central focusing wheel and soft rubber eyepieces
- Shock-resistant rubber casing for durability
- Ergonomically designed for small hands
- Waterproof and shockproof (more expensive)
For preschoolers and little kids you’ll find 2X magnification power and focus-free binoculars are best. School age kids will find 8X25 a good choice. There are eyeglass-friendly glasses too. For older kids that can hold the binoculars steady, 10X25 binoculars will keep them interested and exploring.
Choose kid’s binoculars based on your child’s age, interest and ability to use them. Hopefully the investment when they’re young will lead to them becoming hooked on using binoculars to explore the world around them throughout their lives.
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Gene and Katie Hamilton are long-time writers about using binoculars for boating, bird watching, stargazing and traveling. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.