There’s something magical about holding binoculars to your eyes and seeing a faraway object appear within reach—especially for children. Many bins marketed toward kids, though, are more like toys than tools.
In general, youngsters past preschool age are old enough to use actual binoculars, according to an informal survey of Audubon parents and educators. (For toddlers, tape two toilet paper rolls together—there’s zero investment and it’s good training.) Bins for budding birders should be small and lightweight; provide a large field of view; and have low magnification, which is more forgiving in unsteady hands.
We had a dozen children, ages 3 to 14, put several pairs to the test, including some designed for adults that work well for the smaller set. They reviewed the optics for comfort and feel, ease of focus, and how clearly they could see a bird picture 25 yards away. These kid-approved options offer something for every fledgling birder.
Bold color options, small size, and textured barrels attracted the youngest testers to the THINKPEAK Binoculars for Kids 8x21 ($40). Folding and keeping down the flexible eyecups was a challenge, as was turning the focus wheel. Still, these bins provide an affordable on-ramp to birding, and all testers could see well.
A Step Up
The Celestron Outland X 8x25 ($65) made an impression on many testers with their wide field of view. They also earned good marks for their pleasing feel—including comfortable straps and eyecups—and easy focus. “When you look up with them, you feel like you could just touch a leaf,” says Miles Kozlowski, 9.
Tweens and Beyond
Clear and bright, the Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 ($189) was far and away the most popular pair with all but the youngest kids. They’re the priciest and heaviest bins we tested, but they fit easily in hand, and the padded strap is silky and soft. Smaller kids may have trouble squeezing the barrels together.
Points for Style
Younger kids liked the ridged body and teal color (one of nine hues) of the Nocs Standard Issue 8x25 ($95). They offer the smallest field of view in our test and were a bit hard to focus, but that didn’t deter Reid Olson, 3: “I see the trees really close. I can see with the binoculars and my eyes!”
Points for Comfort
At just over a pound, the all-ages Nikon PROSTAFF P3 8x30 ($130) are on the heavier side for kids but have the widest field of view of those reviewed. Testers said the easy-to-twist eyecups were the most comfortable, and preferred the thick strap over other pairs’ thinner ones.
This piece originally ran in the Fall 2023 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.