Just For Funsies

LeapFrog's Magic Adventures Microscope really works, and your kids (probably) won’t break it

It's a fantastic toy for science-minded kids.
By SaVanna Shoemaker  on 
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child playing with plastic microscope with screen
The toy microscope features a screen and built-in educational content. Credit: Shutterstock, RaShawn Dixon, Mashable Composite
LeapFrog Magic Adventures Microscope
The Bottom Line
This microscope toy is functional, durable, educational, and a blast to play with. For any science-minded kid, it will make a great gift.
Buying Options
Mashable Score 4.8
Wow Factor 5
User Friendliness 5
Performance 4.5
Bang for the Buck 5
The Good
  • Fully-functional microscope with 200x magnification
  • Games and videos to keep your kid entertained while they learn
  • Smart slides feature actual microscopic slide images for them to explore
The Bad
  • No built-in storage for the smart slides, so it’s easy to lose them
  • Smart slides lose their novelty quickly

Sail into summer with our tech and activity recs to help your family imagine, explore, and play more. This tech? It’s seriously fun.

With two young kids, I feel like toys are slowly taking over my home and will, eventually, consume it — so it takes a lot for a children’s toy to impress me…but the LeapFrog Magic Adventures Microscope managed to do it.

Retailing for $89.99, the toy is a fully-functioning microscope that features a camera with a 2.4-inch screen to view your samples on, rather than a lens (like the microscopes you used in biology class). It offers up to 200-times magnification, and comes with a reusable slide and a reusable tray for your child’s scientific pursuits. But surprisingly, “it’s a real, working microscope” isn’t the main draw of the toy.

Using the microscope’s buttons as a simple controller, your kids can play educational games and watch tons of preloaded science content from the BBC. Additionally, the microscope comes with eight double-sided “smart slides” that allow kids to inspect several different microscopic samples (minerals, plant material, human cells, etc.) and watch videos related to them. 

To be clear, the slides don’t contain actual samples — instead, they’re more like memory cards. Placing a smart slide on the microscope allows you to access that themed content.

Overall, my son and I were both very impressed with the toy.

But is it worth buying? Let’s put it under the microscope to find out. (Sorry, I had to.)

plastic toy microscope in box
LeapFrog created a microscope you can feel comfortable letting your kids play with without supervision. Credit: SaVanna Shoemaker / Mashable

What kids will like

This toy is just straight-up fun. For my science-obsessed first grader, it was awe-inspiring. 

He loves the adventure games, and the slides were a perfect match for his interests, with titles like Flying Insects, Parts of an Animal, Crawlers, Micro-Animals, and Human Cells. 

He’s also a big Minecraft fan, so he’s intensely interested in minerals right now. When he discovered one of the smart slides featured gold, he screamed, “GOOOLD! Mom, they have GOLD!”

close up of gold on toy microscope screen
Calling all "Minecraft" fans. Credit: SaVanna Shoemaker / Mashable

What’s really cool, however, is that it actually works. And for a sub-$100 toy microscope, it works surprisingly well. It comes with two empty slides — one that’s completely flat (for flat/liquid samples) and one tray-style slide that’s about a quarter-inch tall (for small objects like beads). In microscope mode, you can also forgo the slides completely and just hold things over the illuminator if you want to look at, say, the pad of your finger, a french fry, or a teddy bear’s leg.

We’ve had this toy for a few weeks now, and it’s still a regular in the toy rotation — which speaks volumes. 

What parents will like

The microscope is packed with educational content. Each smart slide comes preloaded with images that your child can explore using the microscope. As they zoom in and out and pan across the image, they’ll find prompts that give them more information about each slide. The slides come with videos, too.

toy microscope with insect onscreen
Your kids can watch informational videos directly on the microscope. Credit: SaVanna Shoemaker / Mashable

Not to mention, it gives your child tons of learning opportunities from simply inspecting samples that they collect. We homeschool, and I definitely intend to incorporate this microscope into our science lessons.

I also greatly appreciate how durable it is. My 7- and 2-year-old have already put it through the wringer, but it’s built to survive the natural urge kids have to break things they enjoy.

Would I ever let them play with a real microscope — or even be near one — unsupervised? Absolutely not. But this? It’s a no-brainer. It’s a toy first, and a microscope second.

A few cons

My main gripe about this microscope is that there is no built-in storage for the slides. Now that we’ve had the toy for a few weeks, several of the slides are missing.

I’m also hoping that more slides with different themes will be available in the future. The themed slides are fun to look at once, but after my son looked through all the photos and videos he didn’t really return to them.

And, now when I tell my kids no screen-time I have to remember to confiscate the microscope, too. What a world. 

Add to cart?

The LeapFrog Magic Adventures Microscope is solidly educational, but also really fun to play with (and durable). It’s an excellent gift for any elementary-aged kid who loves science.

How we tested

We tested the LeapFrog Magic Adventures Microscope because it was one of 2022's hottest toys. A 7-year-old and 2-year-old played with the microscope for a couple weeks to test it out.

We based the scores on the following factors:

  • Unique factor: Whether the toy has shelf appeal

  • Long-term appeal: If this is something my kids will continually choose to play with

  • Educational value: Whether the toy is just for play or if it has some learning features

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