How To Choose Binoculars For Children (Best UK Kids Guide)

How To Choose Binoculars For Children (Best UK Kids Guide)

If you are at your happiest in the great outdoors, and you want to introduce your children to the natural world, what better way than buying them their very own pair of binoculars. In all honesty, you’ll be happier too because you won’t have to keep sharing yours with them. The problem is getting them a pair that’s decent enough to keep them interested without breaking the bank for something with a relatively short lifespan.

What Features And Specifications Are Needed For Childrens Binoculars?

The first piece of advice we will offer you is, avoid toy sized binoculars and also steer clear of adult size binoculars too. You need to choose a pair that fits their eyes properly, are easy to hold, lightweight, easy to focus, and above all else, are durable. Rubber coated is a good idea too, to prevent too many bumps and scrapes. 

How Much Can You Expect To Pay For Decent Quality Childrens Binoculars?

This is where the fun (or problems) begin – you don’t want a childs toy, but you also don’t want to pay a fortune for what some kids will inevitably treat as a toy. Even if you do find some child size binoculars, there are so many cheap imports that are frankly useless that it can be extremely confusing. 

You could buy a “cheap” pair online from one of the auction sites for less than £4.00 which tells you pretty much all you need to know about them. Cheap they might be, but we doubt if they’re cheerful or useful for that matter. So where do you start? 

There’s the issue of fitting their eyes comfortably, they also need to be high powered enough to spark an interest, the list goes on. In fact let’s make a list and see if that helps at all.

A Decent Pair Of Binoculars For Children Need To Be

  • Fairly Lightweight
  • Decent Magnification (8x is best for children)
  • Fit Their Eyes (Interpupillary Distance, also known as IPD)
  • Easy To Hold (And Grip)
  • Easy To Focus
  • Robust (Strong Enough) 
  • Waterproof
  • “Proper” Binoculars
  • Wide Field Of View
  • Shock Proof

So now we have a checklist, we can look into the best binoculars for your child and see what features are important. So first things first, let’s look at what age is classified as a child.

What Age Is Classed As A Child For Binoculars?

For buying binoculars, we can split children into two groups;

  • Toddlers
    Toddlers and pre-teens will probably get bored before they’ve had their binoculars for too long. So you might be better off finding a good quality pair of toy binoculars which won’t be too expensive. But they probably won’t have too many features either. So probably low magnification, a narrow field of view, but they will probably be easy to grip, lightweight but not very robust.

    If after a few weeks their interest hasn’t waned, you can always upgrade them to a “real” pair of binoculars.
  • Teenagers
    If they are fairly responsible and sound eager, then you will probably be better off getting them a proper set of binoculars. It’s probably not worth going for a top of the range pair, as they might discover other interests and soon get bored with spending family time bird watching (or whatever else you have planned for the binoculars).

    Even though they won’t be top of the range, they will still have a reasonably high price tag. So they will need to be treated with respect and for the first little while at least, it’ll probably be best if they only use them under your supervision.

What Activities Will The Binoculars Be Used For?

Depending on the features and functions they have, there are a few purposes in which children can use their binoculars. There are opportunities for playing and learning with binoculars. From bird watching to stargazing there are plenty of learning opportunities for toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers too.

Role-Playing With The Younger Children

Most young kids like to do what they see their parents doing.If you take binoculars out on walks in the country, then your youngsters will want to take a pair too. Just get them a kid sized pair of toy binoculars so they can copy you when you’re out on your walks.

Exploring In The Woods

There’s nothing young children like more than going on exploration missions. Especially with mum and dad. Most kids are interested in nature, it’s even part of the curriculum in most schools. They enjoy looking at insects, birds, just nature in general. For these sorts of activities you’ll need to get some sort of magnification but once again with youngsters it’s not worth spending too much money as they probably won’t use them for too long.

Taking The Kids Bird Watching

Allowing the kids to take an interest in wild birds could introduce them to a lifetime hobby. They will also pick up some useful life skills. Bird watching takes patience, the ability to remain quiet for long periods of time, they’ll learn how standing still and remaining quiet can reward them with some amazing wildlife they probably have never seen before.

Taking Children Fishing With Binoculars

This might seem a bit weird, but while you sit quietly waiting for the fish to bite, encouraging the kids to search the river bank with their binoculars or even look into the woods, will keep them quiet for a while. Plus they might actually see a few birds or animals that they’ve only seen in books or on TV before.

Just For Having Fun

As we said earlier most kids like to copy what their parents do. It’s far better for them to be having fun playing with their own cheap pair of binoculars than to be bashing your expensive pair about.

Some of the cheap and cheerful kids’ binoculars come with some of the features that we are used to using on our binoculars. Some have zoom lens, which although not necessarily giving the clearest image, do actually work to some degree.

What Are IPDs?

Interpupillary Distance (IPD) is the distance between the pupils of your eyes measured from centre to centre, when your eyes are looking straight ahead. IPD varies from person to person and is smaller in young children.

Pretty much all “real” binoculars have adjustable IPDs. As a general rule, the lower powered binoculars with smaller objective lens diameters can be set at smaller IPDs.

It’s important to get the IPD set correctly. If not, the beams of light coming through the binoculars will partially miss your pupils meaning you’ll only see part of the image you’re trying to see. To adjust the IPD you simply move the binocular tubes in or out (towards each other or away from each other), some binoculars have a scale on the centerpiece of the binoculars to adjust them with more accuracy.

How Much Should You Spend On Childrens Binoculars?

This depends on the age of your children and what they’re going to use them for. Young children of 3 to 5 years of age will just be happy with a toy pair costing around £2.00. But teenagers will need a pair that actually work. With decent magnification and a fair field of view along with a rubber protective coating to prevent too much wear and tear, and possibly a waterproof pair too.

Whatever you get your teenager, don’t go for the ones that are currently available on auction sites online. You’ve probably seen them, they claim to be waterproof, fog proof, with coated lens and all of the other features that are usually only available on expensive binoculars, but these are available for less than £15.00.

In all honesty you might just as well throw that £15.00 straight into the bin for how good they actually are. If you’re buying your teenager their first ever pair of binoculars, £50 to £75 is a likely figure you can expect to get a decent pair of lightweight, easy to handle binoculars.

What Do The Numbers On Binoculars Mean?

Stamped onto the casing of binoculars you will find two sets of numbers with an X in the middle. Something like 7×25, 8×32 or 10×42, the X means times and the numbers before the X tells us the magnification so 8x means 8 times magnification. The numbers following the X are the size of the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. 8 times magnification means the image you see through the lens is 8 times closer than it actually is.

What Is The Objective Lens?

The objective lens is the lens closest to the object. The size of the objective lens determines a few things. Firstly the larger the diameter of the objective lens means a brighter image as seen through the binoculars. This is because the more light that enters the binoculars, the brighter the image is.

Secondly the size of the objective lens determines the overall size of the binoculars. The sizes for binoculars run as follows;

  • Compact
    Compact binoculars have an objective lens diameter of less than 30 mm
  • Mid-Size
    Mid-Size binoculars have an objective lens diameter of between 30 to 40 mm
  • Full Size
    Full size binoculars have an objective lens diameter of more than 42mm

When buying binoculars for children it’s best to keep the magnification at 10x or below because anything higher than 10x will appear as shaky because we all have a natural shake which is of course magnified by 10x or whatever magnification the binoculars are. The best size for childrens binoculars to use for bird watching will be 8×32 or 10x 42.

The objective lens diameter will affect the way you see objects through the binoculars. Greater than 25mm is recommended for serious binocular use.

How To Choose The Correct Binoculars For Children

There are many features to consider when buying binoculars for children, some are more obvious than others. But we’ll talk you through them so you can get it right first go.

The Size Of The Binoculars

Size is going to be the most important thing to get right. Younger children have small hands and are more likely to drop a heavy object that’s held out in front of their face for long periods of time. So large binoculars are definitely not a good idea for children.  

We would recommend anything up to and including 8×21 for young children and pre-teens. For teenagers 10×32 will be a good starting point and if they get hooked, they could upgrade to 10×42 which will allow more light in and be good for dull days.

The Weight Of The Binoculars

The larger sized lenses are heavier than the smaller sized lenses. Which is not ideal for small children but teenagers will have the strength to hold onto larger binoculars. Most binoculars will have the weight in the description. A typical 10×21 pair of binoculars weighs around 6 ounces(0.19kg) which children will have no problem holding.

A typical 10×50 pair of binoculars weighs around 2 pounds (0.865kg) which is too heavy for youngsters but teenagers shouldn’t have any problem with this sort of weight. These larger binoculars usually have more features than the lighter ones. Which will also be better for the older children too.

The Durability Of The Binoculars

How durable the binoculars are is going to be of vital importance especially for the younger children. Some like Porro prism binoculars can easily get knocked out of alignment due to the way the prisms are set up. So for younger children you will probably be better off buying roof prism binoculars as these are far more robust than Porro prisms. The only drawback is roof prisms are more expensive than Porro prisms if you want a decent quality. But some of the cheaper roof prisms are not that good quality.


This is definitely worth considering for older children because they are likely to use their binoculars come rain or shine. Many reasonably priced binoculars will have been waterproofed to some level. The industry standard is slightly confusing but IPX 6 or above have enough waterproofing protection for UK weather.

As for the youngsters, it’s not so important and on child’s toy binoculars pretty much impossible.

Field Of View

You’ll hear this term quite often in relation to binoculars, it’s all about how much you can see in front of you through the binoculars from left to right. It is expressed either as an angle or as so many feet per 1000 yards. For instance 6 degrees and 315 feet per 1000 yards are the same thing expressed in different ways. To work out feet per 1000 yards if the FoV of the binoculars are quoted in degrees, 1 degree equals 52.5 feet so just multiply the number in degrees by 52.5 to determine the feet per 1000 yards.

Looking After Their Binoculars

You should encourage children of any age to take care of their binoculars. After every use you should encourage them to;

  • Wipe Them Dry (if they get wet)
  • Avoid Leaving Them In Direct Sunlight
  • Clean The Lens Gently With A Soft Lens Cloth
  • Store Them Away Safely When Not In Use (in a case if they come with one)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good magnification for kids’ binoculars?

A good magnification for kids’ binoculars is between 2x to 8x for kids 10 and under. 

What should I look for in kids binoculars?

The first thing you should look for in kids’ binoculars is how strong they are. A robust pair of binoculars will be able to take the punishing treatment most kids will give them. Remember also that the larger the objective lens diameter, the more the binoculars will weigh.