If you want to get a child interested in the sciences, just let them loose with a microscope. Proper stage microscopes can be pricey, however, and are somewhat tricky for youngsters to use. Fortunately, there are options like the Zoomy Handheld Digital Microscope – it's a simple device that plugs into the USB port of a PC or Mac, then feeds through illuminated, magnified images of whatever it's placed over.

The egg-shaped Zoomy magnifies items by 35 to 53x, and captures 640 x 480 images via a VGA CMOS sensor. Four LED lights provide illumination, and a hand-twistable section on top of the device controls the focus. Power is delivered through its USB cable from the user's computer, so no batteries are necessary.

GET 30% OFF NEW ATLAS PLUS

Read the site and newsletter without ads. Use the coupon code EOFY before June 30 for 30% off the usual price.

BUY NOW

Two interchangeable head adapters are included in the package, which keep the Zoomy a set distance above its target – the adapters are different lengths, and are used for different-sized objects. Should budding scientists wish to snap a picture or shoot a video of the leaf, bug or what-have-you that they're looking at, they can do so by pressing a button on top of the microscope.

The Zoomy Handheld Digital Microscope is made by Learning Resources, and is available for US$59.99 through the company website.

Consumers do have some choices in the microscopes-for-kids department, however. One notable contender that has been around for a few years is the EyeClops Bionicam. Unlike the Zoomy, it operates untethered from a computer, running on five AA batteries and recording stills and videos on an onboard memory stick. Images can then be downloaded to a computer or viewed on a TV. It magnifies by 100x, 200x or 400x, but costs a little more than the Zoomy – expect to pay around US$118.

... and yes, in the case of either product, adults are allowed to use them too.

View gallery - 5 images