Getting your kids interested in what you are interested in is always a rewarding experience, especially if it is educational as well. Think about it, what could be better than having your child outdoors, learning about and enjoying the wonders of nature.
If your kids are anything like my daughter (main image above), they will want to join in and do whatever it is you are doing, even if as it was in this case just copying dad by pretending to use binoculars using a couple of toilet rolls!
But there will be times when pretend toilet roll bins are not enough and the equipment that you are using may not be ideally suited to small, sticky hands!
The best alternative to having your kids use your expensive optics is to get them a pair that is not only less painful for you should they drop them, but ones that are actually designed to be better suited for a child so that they can get the full use and enjoyment out of them.
There are many "children's binoculars" on the market, many of which are very cheap toys that do little more than blur the image when you look through them! With a pair of these don't be surprised if their interest is very short lived. So in this article, I hope to point out some of the features to look out for in a binocular for a child, as well as take a look at some of the best ones available.
Below are the most important features and aspects to keep in mind when looking for a good pair of binoculars for kids:
Try to keep the magnification down and I would say that your maximum should be 8x.
Whilst a high powered binocular sound like a great idea at first, there are many downsides to this that have an even greater impact when younger eyes are using the device:
Field of View (FOV)
A wide field of view (the width of the image that you see through your optics) will make it much easier for your child to locate what it is they are looking for through their optics. It will also make it easier for them to follow fast moving or erratic objects like birds for example.
So if you have a choice between two binoculars that are very similar in all other aspects, take a look at their FOV's and go for the one that is wider.
Tip: Binoculars with higher magnifications tend to have a more zoomed in and much narrower field of view, so to make sure you get a wide view, keep the magnification to under 8x and possibly look for bins with a 7x or even 6x power.
Size & Weight
Binoculars with large objective lenses take in more light and therefore in general will produce a brighter image which is optimal. The down side to this is obviously that the binoculars become larger and heavier.
So even tough they may not perform as well in lower light, I would still opt for pocket or compact binoculars that will make it much easier not only for you child to carry, but also hold up to their face and keep steady.
The two images below are of my two and a half year old daughter showing off that she "can use my binoculars" and even one handed! However whilst these Hawke Nature-Trek 8x42 Open Hinge binoculars are particularly lightweight, I would not suggest getting them specifically for your child. What these pics do not show is how long she could hold them for or how steadily she was holding them!
If you do decide to get a binocular that has not been specifically designed for a child, something to look out for as well as the binoculars physical size and weight is the minimum Interpupillary Distance (IPD).
Most manufacturers advertise the maximum and minimum IPD distances that you can adjust their binoculars to, so you just need to make sure that the binocular barrels can be adjusted to match the width between the centers of the pupils in each eye of your child.
To be 100% sure, just measure the distance between the centers of your child's eyes, but for older children a binocular with a minimum IPD of around 5.1cm - 5.3cm should easily accommodate their smaller faces.
This is a personal and I suppose relative option as what may be expensive to you and me will be considered cheap to someone like Bill Gates! I would however like to recommend that you don't go for the very cheapest binoculars in any class as they will usually only end up frustrating your child and eventually put them off using them.
So now we know the most important features to look for, we still have a couple options available depending on your budget, what the age and interests of your child are:
A pair of binocular that has been specifically designed with children in mind should have all of the features listed above. This however is sadly not always the case. Children's binoculars come in two guises, ones that are little more than toys and are really not suitable for anything other than pretending to look through them and then there are a few ones that are actually pretty decent binoculars and with the features that we are looking for. So now all we have to do is separate the chaff from the wheat!
Whilst the Bresser Junior 6x21 is very colorful, it is in no way a toy binocular! It is a fully functional roof prism compact binocular. The 6x magnification is ideal for children and they are very light and compact.
Manufactured by Bresser, they have Bk-7 prisms and has a fully coated optical system that delivers crisp, colorful images to the eyepieces. The body of the binocular is rubber armored to withstand plenty of punishment. Bresser are so confident that these optics can handle what you children can throw at them that they come with a five year guarantee! Also included is a neat carrying case and small wrist strap.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these binoculars.
These great little binoculars are available for between £20 and £30 in the UK. At the time of writing, I was not able to locate them in the US:
I think for slightly older children and those that are genuinely interested in nature, birding or even for use at things like sporting events, getting a standard pair of binoculars that is suitable (with all the features already mentioned above) is the way to go as this pair of binoculars should last them far longer and you can be more certain that the image quality would be as you expect it to be.
The Rainbow series consists of seven very colorful, low cost compact binoculars that whilst not specifically designed for kids, are perfect for them and make what I believe an ideal introduction into the world of optics. Indeed as you can see from the photo below, my 5 year old daughter has and uses a pair.
Optical features include the use of BaK-4 Roof Prisms and Multi-Coated Optics.
The chassis are completely sealed and filled with nitrogen gas making them water and fog proof. They also feature twist-up eyecups, something that is fairly rare at this price level on a compact.
However the biggest highlight for me is their double hinge design, which allows them to be folded up into a tiny package when not in use - these are true pocket binoculars and once again makes a big difference for those with small hands and pockets.
There are currently 7 models within the Rainbow series, all of which are identical apart from the colors. Colors available are White Snow, Red Berry, Orange, Lime, Lemon, Blue Wave and Amethyst.
Prices & Where to Buy
These cheap compact binoculars retail for about $60 in the US and £55 in the UK:
Below are some more examples of standard binoculars that I believe are most suitable for older children that I have fully reviewed:
They are either all lightweight, reasonably compact, have a magnification of 8x or less and are fairly inexpensive and where known I have limited their minimum IPD (Interpupillary Distance) to being 5.2cm or less and so should be able to adjust to fit their smaller faces: