Things to look at under a microscope – 20 nature ideas

For kids with a new microscope to play with or just parents who want to encourage some more scientific play you might be wondering about some ideas on what to look at with it.  So with that in mind I have compiled a list of 20 nature inspired things that you can collect and spend some time discovering up close and personal!

Rainy day activity!  My tip for you is to collect as many of these as you can and store them ready for a rainy day – it’s a great way to do some nature study even when it’s really wet or cold outside or you just can’t face it.



20 nature things to look at under a microscope



Feathers are great to look at up close and with a microscope because you can really see the way that it’s designed to trap air – it’s tricky to see how the feather looks with just your eyes only!  If you can try and find feathers from different birds and also flight feathers and down feathers to see the differences.


Leaves are always a great one to look at under a microscope – spot the veins in them and you can talk about how the plants use them to transport substances.  Great for older kids who might also be taking biology at school.


Sand is so cool to look at up close so if you can save some from a trip to the beach then definitely add it to your nature study area!  Does it look like tiny shells or something different?

Dead insects

Any dead insects are great for looking at up close – if you’re feeling happy about it you could try and detach any wings to lay them flat and get a better look on some slides


There are loads of different parts to a flower and you can have fun just dissecting them and learning about the different parts.  A good thing to look at with your microscope would be the pollen if you can get to it.


A dandelion clock seed is the first thing that I thought of looking at up close but any kinds of seeds would be interesting.


Try and get some grass from different areas of your garden and see if it all looks the same.

Tree bark

The texture of the tree is always so interesting – what is it like when you get really close though?


Soil contains so many microorganisms – perhaps you’ll be able to spot some?

Pond water

Pond water or maybe even water from a water butt or similar is great to look at close up because there’s always so much life in it.  You might find mosquito nymphs that are super tiny!  Less likely to bite you at this stage too!


If you spot any hair caught on fences when you’re out on a nature walk that would be a perfect candidate for the microscope.  It could be just from a dog or you may have found some from a badger, fox or sheep.  Can you work it out?


Moss can sometimes feel soft to touch – what is it that gives it that feeling?  Maybe you can look at it close up and see if it helps you work it out!


If you can’t find any outdoors (or if you’d feel better handling certified safe ones) then think about getting some from the supermarket to see the gills under the cap up close!


After a trip to the beach why not bring back some seaweed to see how that looks under the microscope – how does it compare to the other plants you might have looked at?


The best place to look for this is on some tree trunks – there are loads of different kinds of lichen so you should be able to find something!

Old spiders webs

Get looking in sheds or even in dusty corners of your house to see if you have any unused spiders webs that you can collect, perhaps using a cotton bud or something similar, to put on a slide.

Snail trails

A good one to use a pocket microscope on (see below) out in the field!


You might be able to see hairs on the roots of plants when looked at with a microscope – again this is a design which allows them to take more water in

A snowflake

Ok this might be tricky, but if you have a pocket microscope then I challenge you get outside, find one and look at them up close next time it snows!

Small rocks or crystals

Small rocks or maybe even crystals are great fun to look at up close.  Maybe you can see crystalline structures in some or different lines?



What kind of microscope should you get?

While I think it’s a great idea to get a good microscope to start learning how to use them properly, I really love the little handheld pocket microscopes like this one from the Natural History Museum.  What I like about those, especially for nature study, is that you can bring it outdoors and be really independent with it so it doesn’t even need to be a rainy day activity.  If your child shows a real interest in it then it’s great, can be popped in your nature study bag and brought out and about too.


Child microscopes can vary in their sturdyness and what they can do.  I always like to buy as good quality as I can especially after being dissappointed by some very cheap and flimsy microscopes my kids got as gifts.  Bresser, Learning Resources and the Discovery Channel are some good makes that I’ve seen in the flesh and thought were worth paying out for.  We bought the My First Lab DuoScope a few years back and that one was definitely also a good buy.  Look for something sturdy and definitely check the reviews out.


I’d also think about the age of your child and the likelihood of you getting the moneys worth – no point in spending a lot of money for kids who might not love it.  If you’re unsure definitely go for a pocket microscope as they can be bought fairly cheaply and most kids really love them


Pin for later


Ideas for nature items you can look up close with children. From using a regular or pocket microscope add a new layer of fun to your nature studies to learn more about biology and the natural world. All kids love nature and love seeing new details. Kids in nature | Kids science ideas | nature activities for children | microscope activities for kids