Several years ago, I took my son for a walk along a riverbank. While enjoying the view from there with my binoculars, my five-year-old son asked me if he could try them.
At first, I wondered if I should let him use my binoculars since he was so young and I didn’t want him to drop them.
However, he persisted, so I gave in. I took out an older compact pair of binoculars that I had gotten on an internet auction at a bargain price and let him use them.
As I was telling him to hang them from his neck, he mistakenly dropped them on the road. The binoculars were now out of optical alignment.
Instead of getting angry about it, I thought carefully about which binoculars would be best for children.
As a father, I‘m happy that my son gets excited about what I‘m interested in. It’s wonderful that we can share the same interests.
Now that my son is old enough to use binoculars properly, on clear nights, he enjoys stargazing with me.
The lessons I learned from my experience can help you if your child shows an interest in your binoculars.
I hope their first time looking through binoculars will be a wonderful experience. Most of the children’s binoculars on the market now are too cheaply made to work well.
In this post, I’ll give you some tips for choosing good binoculars for your child.
Binoculars for Preschoolers
Preschoolers want to emulate what their parents are doing, which should not be ignored. However, they may be too young to handle real binoculars for the following reasons.
First, their interpupillary distance (IPD) is too narrow for most binoculars. The minimum IPD of my compact binoculars is 57mm while the average kids’ IPD is 43-58mm.
Secondly, it’s hard to be sure if preschoolers can really focus on an object. As is often the case with them, they might say, ‘I can see it!’, with the lens caps on! Or they might say, ‘I can’t see anything!’, with their eyes closed.
Thirdly, no matter how careful you are, they might carelessly look directly at the sun with binoculars, which could lead to blindness. Also, their hands are small, so they may drop the binoculars which can put them out of collimation.
Basically, I do not recommend giving preschoolers binoculars. However, if you must, here are some tips.
1)They might be destroyed by accident.
No matter how many times you tell them to use the neck strap, accidents do happen. Binoculars do not absorb shock well, which leads to the optics getting jolted out of alignment.
The best way is to get them a pair that might be destroyed by accident. You can find used binoculars on auction sites like eBay at a very low price.
If they are dropped, you can make it an educational experience by disassembling them to show how binoculars work. In the past, I used lenses and prisms from old binoculars to make a simple telescope for my son.
2) Check your child’s IPD.
The interpupillary distance is important when choosing the right binoculars for your child. The simplest way to measure their IPD is to put a ruler between their pupils.
When you decide which binoculars to give them, check the IPD number in the specifications. If the minimum number specified is smaller than your child’s IPD, they should adjust to fit.
3) Choose low-powered and a wide field of view.
Preschoolers are not good at finding objects quickly with binoculars. To solve this problem, you should give them low-powered binoculars with a wide field of view. These will be much easier for them to use.
Although they may lose interest quickly, it’s a lot of fun to go for a walk with binoculars with a child. They enjoy looking at dogs and cats, or even Grandma walking toward them!
For young grade-schoolers: Choose a good pair of binoculars.
If they are older than eight, it’s about time to get them a nice pair. Any child would be happy to get binoculars as a birthday or Christmas present.
There are many binoculars on the market that are made for children, but unfortunately, most of them are just toys. I will point out the specific features to look for when choosing good binoculars for young grade-schoolers.
They are old enough to use binoculars correctly. Still, you need to check the IPD of the binoculars before buying them. The minimum IPD of binoculars varies depending on the model.
Low magnification with a wide FOV
Young binocular users often have trouble finding their objects, so it’s important to have a wide field of view. Generally speaking, low-powered binoculars have a wide field of view.
A shaky image can make a child lose interest in their pair. With low magnification, however, shakiness is not a problem. 5× or 6× is about right for children.
Porro Prism Compact binoculars
In my opinion, Porro Prisms have more advantages than Roof Prisms for children. Porro Prism binoculars are less expensive than Roof Prism, which is better for you in case they drop them.
Even if their prices were the same, Porro Prism binoculars give you a better image.
For compact binoculars, Mini Porro Prisms or Reverse Porro Prisms are used it keep them small. A 20mm or 30mm aperture is fine for a child’s first pair.
Size & Weight
If the aperture is 30mm or less, they should be able to easily hold the pair in their small hands. They might have trouble reaching the focus knob at first, but it‘s not a big problem.
For children, the pair should be less than 350g. If they are heavier than that, they won’t be able to hold them steadily for a long time.
Generosity of Eyepoint
This is the margin of room your eye position can be to get a full view. The flexibility of the eyepoint varies depending on some factors. Generally, the diameter of the ocular lens (eyepiece) has a lot to do with it.
It is easier to get a full view if the ocular lenses are large. This is very important when choosing binoculars for children.
Instructions for children
Parents need to instruct their children on how to use binoculars safely and correctly. Most importantly, you need to tell them to never look at the sun with binoculars.
Children need to learn how to adjust binoculars correctly so they can get a good, comfortable view. For more on this, please read my article on “How To Adjust Binoculars.”
My son’s preference in binoculars
I have many pairs of binoculars, and my eleven-year-old son likes to compare them. He’s concluded that the 6×30 Porro Prism (Hinode B+ 6×30) are his favorite binoculars. I think he has a good sense when it comes to binoculars.
The configuration of 6×30 is very easy for beginners to use. He takes very little time to spot his target. The Hinode B+ has amazing brightness, which is obvious then you look through them for the first time. This is because they use the most advanced lens coatings.
Also, the aspherical lenses used for this pair to reduce optical distortion, work very well. My son commented on their sharpness.
Even though I recommended he use compact binoculars, he chose the 6×30. He seems to prefer regular-sized binoculars. They only weigh 480 grams, which is relatively light for 30mm binoculars.
Indeed, the Hinode B+ 6×30 is quite expensive for children. However, the configuration of 6×30 can be the best choice for children who want to use real binoculars.
The best binoculars for children varies depending on their age. If they are preschoolers, they might be happy with toy binoculars. However, if you want to hear them say “Wow!”, it’s a good idea to give them real binoculars.
However, you must teach them to never look at the sun with binoculars. Doing so can result in damage to their eyesight or even blindness.
Their hands are small so they cannot hold large binoculars safely; so you need to tell them to use the neck strap.
For young grade-schoolers, you may want to give them real binoculars.
When choosing binoculars for them, first check their interpupillary distance with a ruler. If their IPD number is lower than the minimum IPD of the binoculars, they cannot use them.
Low-powered compact binoculars are a safe option for them. They produce a bright image with a wide field of view, which enables them to find their target easily.
As a parent, it’s wonderful to see my child show an interest in nature and use real binoculars to get a better view. It’s worthwhile educationally to give them real binoculars.