Microscope experiments you and your kids can enjoy
Microscope experiments are a great way to teach your children about the natural world. Investing in a microscope of reasonable quality now will pay off down the road as microscope experiments help your children learn to care about the environment, be kind to other living things, and appreciate science.
Microscope experiments are ideal for children of school age because they can understand simple scientific concepts and they can handle equipment properly. Younger siblings of at least preschool age can participate in microscope experiments as long as you supervise them closely. Share the preparation for all microscope experiments with your older children and let younger children look into the microscope only when the specimens are ready.
For most microscope experiments, you will need a microscope, glass slides and cover slips, distilled water, and a dropper. Specimens for microscope experiments can be found all around you. Be creative! To get you started, here are some simple microscope experiments you can try.
In the beginning: A microscope experiment with cork cells
Your children might be interested to learn that the cell was discovered in one of the earliest microscope experiments by Robert Hooke, who looked at a slice of cork under a microscope and called the holes in the cork “cells.” As you perform this microscope experiment, be sure to explain to your children that cells are not holes. The holes in cork are left after the cork cells have died. Let your children know that you will perform microscope experiments with living cells later.
For this microscope experiment, use a sharp razor to cut a thin slice off a very small piece of cork. Make the slice as thin as possible to ensure the best image for this microscope experiment. Put a drop of distilled water on a glass slide, then place the slice of cork on top of the drop of the water. Place the cover slip on top of the slice of cork. The water will secure the cover slip to the surface of the glass slide and enhance visualization in this microscope experiment. Blot off any excess water with a paper towel.
The slide is now ready for your microscope experiment. Whenever you perform a microscope experiment, start with the low power objective and switch to the high power objective for a more detailed view. Ask your children to describe what they see during each microscope experiment. Encourage them to ask questions.
Cheek to cheek: A microscope experiment with cheek cells
For this microscope experiment, you will need a clean toothpick to scrape cells from the inside of your cheek. Use a clean toothpick for each member of the family participating in this microscope experiment. Even younger children might find this microscope experiment interesting.
Scrape the inside of your cheek with your toothpick (gently), then wipe off the toothpick on the center of one glass slide. Slide the cover slip into place over the center of the glass slide. The slide is now ready for your microscope experiment. Let everyone take turns looking at everyone’s cheek cells.
It’s in the blood: A microscope experiment with blood cells
This microscope experiment is good for children with type 1 diabetes, who need to test their blood glucose several times a day. Showing them what blood cells look like in a microscope experiment can help them see blood testing as an interesting event rather than as something to dread. Children who do not have type 1 diabetes might still find this microscope experiment interesting because they know what blood is. Helping children learn about blood makes this microscope experiment useful for children of all ages.
For this microscope experiment, use a lancet made specifically for blood glucose testing because these lancets are sterile and will puncture the skin just deeply enough. If your child does not have type 1 diabetes, is not used to needle pricks, and refuses to give a blood sample, you can provide the blood sample for this microscope experiment yourself.
Place the drop of blood on a glass slide and place a cover slip on top of it. The slide is now ready for your microscope experiment. When you view the slide in this microscope experiment, you should see hundreds of blood cells. It is a good idea to discuss the functions of blood with your children as you perform this microscope experiment.
Get a microscope and conduct your own microscope experiments with your children today. You will enjoy the sense of closeness these microscope experiments create between you and your children, and they will enjoy gaining the knowledge about their bodies and the world around them that microscope experiments provide. Just be sure to have some good science books at hand whenever you perform a microscope experiment, and brace yourself for lots of questions!