Binoculars make a wonderful gift for children. The right binoculars can be fascinating, fun, and relatively easy for a child to use, and will certainly encourage an interest in nature and outdoor activities.
Important things to keep in mind when buying children's binoculars are the age and dexterity of the child, and the specific use he or she will put them to.
Though there are some binocular models specifically marketed for children, there are many general models that are well suited for children as well. Compact binoculars, especially, are perfect for small hands, and often feature folding designs.
Auto-focus binoculars are easy and fun to use. They are especially great for smaller children, whose dexterity and coordination are not yet finely-tuned, and who may lose interest or miss things if they have to try to focus their binoculars before use.
For older children with a serious interest in binoculars, a model with a simple center focus is ideal. It will give them an opportunity to learn how the focus works and how to adjust it themselves, as well as prepare them for more sophisticated models.
Different hobbies require different binocular styles. A child who likes bird-watching will need binoculars with a larger field of view and larger objective lenses, and a daytime sports enthusiast will need a model with smaller objective lenses and lower magnification.
A good magnification range on a general-use binocular for kids is 7-8X. Any lower and they may miss things; any higher and the field of view could be lost, or the image could be distorted.
Lower power binoculars are best for small children. The higher the power, the more difficult it is to control the image and steady the view.
Children's binoculars should be lightweight and streamlined, and fit their faces well. Binoculars that are too heavy, too unwieldy, or too large can cause unsteadiness, which will result in a poor view.
Children are hard on their things. Look for binocular models with a no-slip grip and rugged construction. Many binocular models, even compact ones, are shockproof and waterproof, and some can even withstand total submersion.