If you’re looking for the best microscope for kids, there are tons of different options on the market. But, you can’t just settle on the first one you see, or the cheapest model you come across. What you want is something that’s fun and educational, simple and easy to use, and within your limited budget.
With these important factors in mind, you have probably considered the Duo-Scope My First Lab Microscope made by C&A Scientific. It’s a cool “toy” for child scientists and adult users alike. In fact, it’s a fully functioning microscope that’s packed with lots of amazing features, all within an affordable package.
In other words, it’s a great beginner’s microscope for developing kids’ science skills and their interest in the world of microscopy. In this article, we’ll talk more about the My First Lab microscope- what makes it great, where it falls short, and whether it’s a worthy purchase that your curious kids will love.
At a glance: pros and cons
In a hurry? Here’s a consolidated list of the benefits and drawbacks of using the My First Lab microscope, so you can make a quick decision as to whether it’s the right microscope for your child prodigy:
Top features of the Duo-Scope microscope
The My First Lab microscope is a popular option for a kids’ microscope for many reasons, and one of those is that it’s a dual purpose stereo dissecting and compound biological microscope. This means that users can view thin specimens mounted on flat slides, as well as solid three-dimensional objects such as insects.
Moreover, not only is it a two-in-one microscope, it also comes with various useful accessories to make it as versatile and functional as possible. It’s fun and easy to experiment and learn with, and it’s certainly one of the best kids’ microscopes that can satisfy the uniquely ravenous curiosity and thirst for knowledge of young scientists.
Unboxing and assembly
At first glance, the bright yellow egg-carton-style box of the My First Lab microscope looks fun and exciting without being too comical that it ends up looking like a toy. It’s filled with descriptions of various ways the microscope can be used. The packaging itself is also decent- the box is lightweight and easy to carry, and the microscope is wrapped neatly in a plastic bag.
Assembling the microscope is also quite easy. For one thing, the entire thing is pretty much fully assembled, so all it takes is just screwing in the eyepiece, and mounting three AAA batteries in the bottom compartment to power the top and bottom lights. That’s it! Even your kid can do it, although it’s probably safer if you take the lead.
The My First Lab microscope also comes with lots of fun accessories for your child genius to play with. It’s not an exhaustive collection, but a great one nonetheless. They expand your kid’s horizons as to how deeply they can delve into microscopy, not to mention providing hours of fun scientific “play”, experimentation, and learning.
Some of these accessories include:
- 4 prepared slides (includes salt crystals, mouth smear, paramecium, and ollen)
- 5 blank slides (ideal for simple experiments with fine specimen like hair strands)
- 1 blank concave slide (intended for wet specimen like pond water)
- Petri dish (great for food or bread droppings and observing mold)
- Teasing needle (for moving around insect specimen)
- 2 bottles stain/ food coloring (non-toxic)
- Cover glass
- Slide labels
- Test tube
- Lens paper
- Plastic dropper
Quality and specs
In many ways, kids’ microscopes should actually be sturdier and more durable than their adult counterparts, since these tools need to withstand the never-ending energy of childlike minds and the clumsiness of curious little hands.
As for the My First Lab Duo-Scope microscope, it looks and feels up to par with its solid construction and plastic main body that is in no way flimsy or easily breakable. With a decent amount of care and barring extreme situations or freak accidents, this microscope can last for quite a long time. In fact, even the eyepiece is very sturdy and quite unbreakable.
Basically, the entire kit is well built without any rattling pieces or disturbing noises. Rather, the mechanisms all work smoothly. This microscope is also quite light at 1.95 pounds, which is a pleasant surprise considering its sturdy construction. It’s also not too big or too small at 4.5 by 6.5 by 11.5 inches.
Other Popular My First Lab Microscopes
- 10X eyepiece + 4X, 10X, and 40X objectives that come as rotating lenses located at the topmost part of the microscope head (to get true magnification, multiply the eyepiece power by the lens number in use)
- Dual focusing knobs designed for left and right handed users
- Rotatable head equipped with real glass optics for better images and more versatile use
- 6 holed disc diaphragm for better and more even lighting
- Upper and lower LED light sources for ample specimen illumination
- Battery operated device with accessory kit and manual
We particularly like the disc diaphragm, which is also referred to as an iris diaphragm. This rotating disc with different sized holes located under the specimen stage, more specifically between the light source and the slide, allows users to manipulate the amount of lighting that the specimen gets illuminated with.
This allows users to find the best possible lighting to look at specimens depending on how translucent a specimen is and how much contrast is needed or desired when viewing said specimen. While the general rule is to use smaller holes for lower magnifications and vice versa, experimenting with the disc diaphragm is a fun way to learn how light plays a part in microscopy.
First time use
Another great thing about the Duo-Scope microscope is how easy it is to use. Even with a quick breeze through over the user manual, kids and adults alike can start playing around and experimenting with the microscope. For one thing, the back switch allows you to easily switch between compound biological and dissecting stereo microscope mode.
Again, the image quality and optics are both great, so you are sure to enjoy clear and crisp images that aren’t blurry, whether you’re looking at prepared slides or ones that you made yourself with stuff you found at home.
When using in compound mode, use the bottom light source to illuminate specimen slides. Place the specimen slide on the main viewing stage, secure the slide with the stage clips, and center it directly on top of the stage hole so that the light from below shines through completely.
You also get to choose between three magnification settings by simply rotating the objective lenses, then adjusting the side-mounted focusing knob to better situate the slide based on the magnification you’re using.
This will allow you to look at the specimen in varying amounts of detail. The general rule is, the larger the magnification, the closer the slide should be, and the more minute details you will also be able to see. For instance, at the lowest magnification (40X) you can see jagged, geometric cells, whereas at the highest magnification, you might be able to see individual cell parts.
Do keep in mind that when using higher magnifications, it’s important to be careful when adjusting the focus knob so that the lens and slide don’t touch. Otherwise, you risk damage to the slide or the lens. So, if younger kids are using the microscope, it might be best to assist them when adjusting the magnification and focus.
Meanwhile, when using in stereo mode, use the light source from the top to illuminate 3D specimens like insects, rocks, coins, and so on. This mode is actually easier and more fun in some ways, since there’s no need for slide preparation and whatnot. Your kids can simply grab tiny objects they find, place them on the stage, and view them under the microscope.
If the object is particularly small, or not as vibrant or opaque, you may choose to place a piece of white or black paper between the object and the stage to increase contrast and prevent the object from falling through the stage hole.
In this mode, you get two magnification settings- 40X and 100X, which is the usual for stereo microscopes. Even with the reduced magnifications, your child will still be able to see an amazing level of detail no matter what specimen is on the stage.
One thing to keep in mind is that since the object being viewed is in 3D, not all parts of the object will be in focus at the same time, so you will have to play with the focusing knob to view different parts or levels of the object.
Overall, the My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope is an impressive product that’s fun and easy to play with, functions exceptionally well for a kids’ microscope, and offers outstanding imagery. It’s made to last and designed to promote a love of science and microscopy in children. It’s also priced reasonably, and even comes with lots of useful accessories.
Ultimately, it’s a great addition to your kids’ study or play room so they can learn through play.