Spring is the perfect season for teaching kids the fine art of binoculars. Why? Because there are actually things to see! The songbirds are back, baby ducks are swimming around, the mosquitoes haven’t hatched yet and just about every form of wildlife seems to be more active (they must get spring fever too).
Binoculars can be fun for kids (works best with ages 4 and up) to use, but can also be tricky. Having taken hundreds, if not thousands of kids on binocular walks while working at the Ogden Nature Center I picked up a few tips. Here are some ways you can help your child learn the mechanics of binoculars and have a successful outing:
- Pick a spot that actually has wildlife. Places with water tend to have more wildlife, so find a wetland or riparian zone. Even a zoo could serve as a good spot for beginners to hone their skills; it’s kinda hard to miss and elephant 20 feet in front of your face.
- Make sure your child keeps the strap around their neck at all times! This rule has saved the life of many a binocular. Unless of course they don’t obey tip #7 and end up in the water (yes, this has actually happened).
- Binocular Use #1 – Fit the binoculars to their eyes. Start with the binoculars rolled out to a place you know is slightly too big for their eye width. Ask your child how many circles they see, if they’re looking through the binoculars they should indicate that they see two circles. Slowly roll the binoculars smaller and smaller, ask your child to tell you as soon as those two circles turn into one.
- Binocular Use #2 – Zero in on a specific object: Have your child stare at a relatively close object (maybe 20 feet away) before putting the binoculars up to their eyes. Tell them to continue staring really hard at that object, they need to keep their eyes right on it! Have your child bring the binoculars up to their eyes without looking away from the object. Do they still see it? Yes!
- Binocular Use #3 – Adjust the focus. While they are staring at the object put their finger on the focus wheel (the rolling knob on the top), explain that this is the wheel that focuses the picture. Ask them if the object they are looking at looks blurry, likely it will (if not unfocus the binoculars so they can practice). Have your child roll the wheel until the object they are looking at becomes clear.
- Repeat Steps 1-3 until they have it down.
- Don’t walk with binos up to your eyes. You have no idea how tempting/dangerous this is, for EVERY kid!
- Don’t just look, listen too. If your child is having a hard time finding anything tell them to sit down still for a few minutes and listen. Wait until they hear something, then sneak up on the sound.