Don’t tell the kids, but binoculars aren’t just toys. Whether you’re walking around your neighborhood or adventuring through a national park, binoculars are wonderful tools for engagement and discovery.
However, like any other tool in your family’s nature explorer toolkit, it helps to pick a pair that fits your child developmentally and physically. In this post, we aim to make binocular shopping for kids simple so that you can get on to the fun part: watching your excited kiddos discover the close-up details on birds, butterflies, and wildflowers!
We’ll share our top picks for every age, and break down what all of those specs mean so that it’s easy to pick the right pair for your child.
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IN THIS POST:
TOP PICK: LIVING SQUAD KIDS BINOCULARS
LIVING SQUAD KIDS BINOCULARS (8X21)
Recommended by wildlife naturalists and birders, the Living Squad Kids Binoculars look fun, come with an explorer kit, and have great optics for children’s binoculars. They have an 8X magnification with a 21mm objective lens and a 366 feet field of view. They also use BAK-4 roof prisms for clear and colorful high-resolution images.
WHAT WE LOVE
- The eyepieces are large so that they fit around children’s eyes. This is for both safety and comfort, as falls are not uncommon with children starting to use binoculars. The eyepieces fold to accommodate glasses.
- These binoculars have an adjustable interpupillary distance (IPD), so they can expand from 2 to 2.6 inches to match the distance between your child’s eyes.
- Living Squad binoculars were designed with anti-friction plastic and shock-proof rubber coating to survive inevitable drops. The brand offers a lifetime free replacement warranty on their products should your kids find a way around their kid-proof design.
- Designed with safety in mind, the neck strap has a quick release buckle to avoid injury during falls.
- These come in 6 fun color combinations kids will love.
- They arrive as part of an explorer kit with a plastic carabiner, belted carrying case, breakaway neck strap, cleaning cloth, and access to Living Squad’s birding eCalendar.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN SHOPPING FOR BINOCULARS?
When you start binocular shopping, you’re likely to come across more numbers in the specs than you might expect. The following is your handy dandy cheat sheet to understanding the specifications that will be most helpful in trying to figure out the best binoculars for your child.
The first thing you’ll see when binoculars shopping is a number like 8 x 21. The first part of this description refers to the magnification level. An 8x magnification means the object you are viewing will be magnified up to 8 times its original size.
Magnification over 10x, even for adults, tends to provide so much magnification that the image appears shaky because it’s tricky to hold them still long enough to focus.
The younger your child, the lower the magnification they’ll need to have fun using their binoculars to explore their backyard or the trails. Magnification between 2X and 8X is most commonly recommended for children.
OBJECTIVE LENS DIAMETER
The number listed after the magnification is the diameter of the objective lens. This number is measured in millimeters (mm). So the 8X21 Living Squad set above has an 8X magnification and an objective lens diameter of 21mm.
Objective lenses are the lenses that are the furthest away from your eyes and closest to the object you are viewing. The larger your objective lenses are, the more light flows into the binocular. More light means that you see brighter images with better color.
Before you run out to find the largest objective lens possible, remember that the larger the lens, the heavier the binoculars. Common ranges for performance and size in adult binoculars are 30mm – 42mm. In general, the smaller your child, the smaller the objective lens diameter you should choose.
FIELD OF VIEW
After magnification, the next most important spec you’ll want to consider is the binocular’s Field of View (FOV). For kids, this quality might be even more important than magnification. And, generally, FOV decreases as magnification increases.
FOV is the width of an image that you can see through the binoculars’ optics. Binoculars with a small FOV can be frustrating because it becomes harder to follow moving animals. The wider your FOV, the easier it is to spot and follow the object or animal that you’re trying to see. For young children, this is a big factor in making sure that binoculars are a fun tool for getting a closer look at birds and other wildlife.
FOV is measured per 1,000 yards. So when you see a FOV of 444 feet, that means you can see 444 feet per 1,000 yards. Sometimes this measure will be given in degrees and called a viewing angle. One angular degree is equal to 52.5 feet. If you want to convert the angular field of view to the linear field of view described here, simply multiply that figure by 52.5.
In addition to how much you can magnify an image of your subject, you might want to consider how close you can get to the subject and still get a clear picture. Think kids leaning in to take a closer look at a wildflower or a butterfly.
My boys often use binoculars interchangeably with their magnifying glasses. The smaller the close focus, the more one can see details not visible to the naked eye from a close distance.
SIZE, SHAPE, AND WEIGHT
Some kid-friendly binoculars are obviously made for kids. In addition to the bright happy colors, you’ll see that they are lightweight, easy for small hands to hold, and have features like padded eyepieces that make them more user-friendly for little adventurers.
These features become a little less obvious as we get into binoculars for older kids, with many of them looking like, or even doubling as, compact binoculars for adults. Because these binoculars have less obvious design features for kids, you’ll want to keep an eye out to make sure your pick will fit comfortably in your child’s hands and are lightweight and user-friendly.
Weight is a key feature in binoculars, especially those used by children. If they’re too heavy, kids will tire of using them … and you know what comes next. You’ll either hold them for the rest of your walk, or they disappear into the daypack! Heavier binoculars that hang from a lanyard can likewise become a burden on a young child’s neck. Look for lightweight pocket-friendly models that kids will want to bring with them wherever they go.
If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’re already well aware of the importance of durability! Will the lenses break when dropped? Are they weatherproof? Waterproof? Make sure you know the difference between these. Companies often rate binoculars as waterproof depending on how long they can be submerged in water before the function is affected. Hopefully, the binoculars you choose will be durable enough to grow with your child for quite some time.
When is it a good idea to splurge on a pair of kids’ binoculars? This depends on your child and their interests.
For younger children, you can find a good pair that is a big step up from toy quality around the $30 price point. This will be enough to keep them engaged and curious about the wildlife that surrounds them in the backyard, at the campground, and on the trails. Most of the binoculars you’ll find on this list are in this range or under.
As children grow, they might appreciate a more premium pair with higher magnification, but this also depends on the child and their prior experience using binoculars in the field. Budding birders will have different needs than casual campers.
HOW MATERIALS, QUALITY, AND BRAND IMPACT THE PRICE OF BINOCULARS
The materials used and the engineering quality of the binoculars will impact their price point. Some features you might notice are:
- FOG PROOF: These are filled with dry nitrogen gas instead of oxygen. The description might also say “nitrogen purged” or “nitrogen filled.”
- PRISM TYPE:Quality varies among even higher quality prisms, but in general BAK-4 prisms are going to have higher optical quality than BK – 7 prisms.
- COATING: More coating brings more light to your eye. There are four levels of coating: Coated Binoculars have one coating on the lens surface, Fully Coated Binoculars hae one coating on all air to glass surfaces, Multi-Coated have multiple coatings on at least one of the lens surfaces, and Fully Multi-Coated have multi-coated all of the lenses and internal air-to-glass surfaces.
- BRAND: Premium brands like Leica and Swarovski are going to be in a very different budget category than Bushnell and Celestron, even when the specs for a pair of binoculars might look the same. Premium brands have history in the binocular world and a strong reputation for top quality design and engineering. Given that we’re talking about binoculars for kids though, unless you’re the type of parent who would buy a Porsche for a new teen driver, you probably don’t need to worry about paying a premium price for an iconic brand of binoculars.
5 MORE GREAT BINOCULAR OPTIONS FOR ELEMENTARY AGE KIDS
How to choose the best binoculars? The general rule of thumb is that you want enough quality optics to work better than a toy set and actually help kids get a closer look at the things they’re curious about. But you also want them to be simple enough to use that kids don’t get overly frustrated and can learn to use them on their own.
In addition to the Living Squad Binoculars described at the top of this post, the following 5 pairs of binoculars are all great options for elementary school-aged kids. They are easy and fun to use, designed for small hands and faces, and come with specs that are age-appropriate.
The hard part? Choosing between them!
VANSTARRY KIDS BINOCULARS (8X21)
Vanstarry’s Kids Binoculars have an 8X magnification with a 21mm objective lens and a 384 feet field of view.
WHAT WE LOVE
- You can also purchase Vanstarry Kids Binoculars in a 5X30 model for kids who have trouble getting a steady an 8X image.
- Vanstarry’s Kids Binoculars are weatherproof (they can get rained on) and fogproof.
Vanstarry binoculars come with a camo blue carrying case, neck lanyard, and cleaning cloth.
PROMORA KIDS BINOCULARS (8X21)
With an 8X magnification and a 400 feet field of view, the Promora Binoculars are a big step up from toys. They have earned high marks for their crisp view, lightweight, durability, and good value.
WHAT WE LOVE
- These are small binoculars, meant to fit comfortably in children’s hands and lightweight enough that they won’t tire of holding them.
- The rubber coating helps with grip and also protects the binoculars from scratches and drops. Soft rubber eyecup is for greater comfort against little faces.
- Though they are tiny, the higher magnification, focusing wheel, and diopter adjustment are more appropriate for a 5-7 year old who will be able to learn how to use the tools to ensure high-resolution image sharpness. Diopters are a feature that allow the owner to adjust for differences in their eyes. These can be difficult for adults to help adjust, as they won’t fit adults properly.
These binoculars come in an adventure kit with a compass, magnifying glass, neck strap, carrying bag, and microfiber cloth. This makes for a fun gift for any little explorer.
KIDWINZ KIDS BINOCULARS (8X21)
These Kidwinz Kids Binoculars offer 8X magnification with a 21mm objective lens and 400 feet field of view. They also include BAK4 prisms for sharp imaging.
WHAT WE LOVE
- These are designed for comfort, with padded eyepieces and eyecups that can be rolled down to accommodate glasses.
- They are lightweight and designed to withstand drops and falls. The extra coating around the eyepieces provides cushion and protects lenses during falls.
- They’ve earned high marks for their easy to use focus knob.
- They fold so that they can adapt to fit a child’s face and grow with them.
- Buyers appreciate the company’s great customer service and lifetime warranty.
The Kidwinz binoculars come in a kit that includes a carrying case, neck strap, and cleaning cloth.
OBUBY REAL OPTICS (8X21)
Obuby Real Optics Kids Binoculars have an 8X magnification with a 21mm objective lens and 378 feet field of view. They use coated BAK-4 prisms for crisp and colorful images.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Objective lenses are coated so that 100% of the reflected light can offer a true color reproduction and minimal color distortion.
- Grip designed with non-slip scratch to fit kids’ hands.
- The small and lightweight design can be easily thrown into backpacks for everyday trail explorations.
- Obuby binoculars come in 13 color options, so kids can find the ones that best fit their style.
- Adjustable interpupillary distance ranges from 1.38 inches to 2.95 inches to accommodate children as they grow.
The Obuby binoculars come with a cleaning cloth and two cases, one soft velvet bag and another more standard carrying case.
BESPIN BINOCULARS FOR KIDS (8X21)
BESPIN Binoculars have an 8X magnification with a 21mm objective lens and a 384 feet field of view. They also use a BAK-4 prism for crisp and colorful images.
WHAT WE LOVE
- These binoculars were designed with an ergonomic grip to fit little hands.
- The binoculars are coated in shock proof rubber armor meant to protect them from damage if they are dropped. If they do break, reviewers give the company high marks for responsiveness and speed in sending replacements.
Bespin kids’ binoculars were clearly designed with budding birders in mind. The set comes with a bird map of 583 North American birds to help ID what you find!
FUN BINOCULAR OPTIONS FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
You immediately know that the following binoculars were made for little kids. Lower magnification means that your toddler or preschooler can get a closer look without being frustrated by shaky images. These are great options for little kids learning to use binoculars for the first time while still being a step up from most binocular toys.
EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS GEOSAFARI JR. KIDNOCULARS EXTREME
The focus-free Kidnoculars Extreme has a 3X magnification, enough to zoom in a bit closer, but not enough to cause frustration. Another version of Geosafari Jr Kidnoculars has 2X magnification and no audio for even younger explorers.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Extra-large, focus-free eyepieces are about 3 times larger than the average binocular eyepieces.
- Lower magnification may be a little less exciting for grown ups, but is developmentally appropriate for this age.
- A breakaway strap is included for added safety.
Kidnoculars Extreme also includes built-in speakers for headset-free amplified sound in addition to visual images. This is a cool feature that adds multisensory perspectives to children’s experiences.
LITTLE EXPERIMENTER NIGHT VISION BINOCULARS
Little Experimenter’s frustration-free binoculars have a simple 2X magnification and focus-free lenses.
WHAT WE LOVE
- You can see that these were made to be comfortable and easy to use for tiny hands and faces.
- Fitted with a night vision flashlight, they offer kids the chance to explore after dark, putting a fun spin on night hikes and backyard camping.
BINOCULARS FOR TEENS AND TWEENS
As kids get older, they may want a pair of binoculars that are a bit more sophisticated with more options. The following are actually compact and budget-friendly pairs that are suitable for older kids all the way through to adults.
OPTICRON SAVANNA WP BINOCULARS (6X30)
Opticron Savanna binoculars come in 6X or 8X magnifications with a 420 feet Field of View. It can be hard to find lower magnification on quality binoculars because of the common assumption that more magnification is better. As kids grow into tweens and teens, it’s really a matter of preference and how they’re going to use the binoculars. Lower magnification can still be helpful in getting steadier images.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Wide field eyepieces and an expansive depth of field make for easier location and tracking of wildlife.
- The most popular objective lens size on an adult binocular is 42mm. With 30mm lenses, these retain the more lightweight feel of junior level binoculars.
- They are waterproof and fogproof with a fully multi-coated optical system.
- With a minimum IPD of 50mm, these can be used by kids without fear of eye strain.
Neoprene carrying case included.
CELESTRON OUTLAND X (8X25)
Celestron Outland X are adult binoculars that can work well for older kids, tweens, and teens. They have an 8X magnification but 25mm objective lenses, which are a similar size to many of the kids’ binoculars listed above. This keeps them lightweight enough to be comfortable for kids. In fact, this pair is only 0.66 pounds!
WHAT WE LOVE
- For a set of adult binoculars, the Outland X is compact and easy to hold.
- Multi-coated optics help with high resolution and high contrast views. The BAK-4 glass prisms enhance the color. Together, the optics should be crisp, colorful, and detailed.
- The Outland X are filled with dry nitrogen gas so the lenses won’t fog no matter the weather.
- Though not designed for kids, Celestron recognizes that adults drop things too, and have armored the exterior for greater durability. The exterior ensures protection while also providing an anti-slip grip.
Celestron Outland X binoculars come with a neck strap, carrying case, and cleaning cloth.