Does your child dream of one day being an astronaut? Maybe they began learning about the solar system and are now fascinated with the moon, planets, and stars.
Their exploration of the solar system doesn’t need to begin and end at the planetarium. You can buy a telescope for your home to help guide them on their journey through the universe.
Today, you can buy telescopes with kids in mind, and they aren’t the simple devices of the past. Many of these telescopes grow with your children as they become more confident in their skills.
Are you on the hunt for the best telescopes for kids? We created a complete roundup of our favorite products (including one for toddlers) below.
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The best telescopes for kids aren’t necessarily glorified viewfinders, and we think it's important to find a device that kids can grow and learn with.We listed telescopes that range from simple viewfinder toys right up to the kind of telescope that will grow with them through elementary school. We made our choices mostly according to usability and quality and then according to the manufacturer specs like aperture.When possible, we combined the manufacturer details with customer reviews to provide a helpful look at what it’s like to use the telescope over time.
Struggling to sort through the long list of toy and functional telescopes? Our list includes the best of both worlds—in no particular order.
The Celestron 21035 telescope is a refractor telescope with a 70 mm aperture, which makes it perfect for beginners and those improving their astronomy skills.The package includes the telescope, two eyepieces, a finderscope, an erect image diagonal, a tripod, and a backpack designed to fit each piece inside carefully and neatly. You can use it in your house, in the backyard, and take it away on vacation with you without a problem.We love the Celestron 21035 because it is very portable, which makes it ideal for city or suburban living. If you need to take a drive or move the telescope to find the right conditions for viewing, it’s easy to pack up, travel with, and set up again in your new location. It also comes with a carry case for both the main telescope and the added accessories.We also like it because it offers better value than the Travel Scope 50, which has less impressive specs despite being physically lighter.
The iOptron iExplore is perfect for kids who like the idea of astronomy and want to become better acquainted with the night sky, but whose interests are known to be somewhat changeable. The telescope is as basic as it gets without simply being a paper towel tube, but it will still inspire kids getting to grips with science.iOptron’s telescope is a refractor telescope with a 50mm aperture, which means it’s one of the least powerful telescopes on the list. However, it’s still suitable for searching for the moon, but it’s not powerful enough to identify planets or any but the brightest stars.The telescope comes with the most basic features including:
The bottom line is that the iExplore 50AZ is a suitable beginner telescope. Customers say that assembly is simple, and kids will find it easy to find large objects and practice focusing with their parent's help. However, it won’t stand up to much use or abuse. So, if you intend to move it around or you have several young astronomers who might fight over it, then you might find the lifespan of the telescope is disappointing. At the same time, you can’t expect much more at this budget.
The Orion StarBlast Altazimuth telescope is the first telescope on the list that’s suited to children who graduated from their basic telescope and are ready for a more advanced model.Those who use the StarBlast will enjoy a refractor telescope with 90mm aperture, which is significantly more powerful than the standard 70mm aperture found on telescopes geared for this age-range and market. Note that you will pay a slight premium for the extra features, but it does have the optical power to accommodate intermediate users.One of the most significant upgrades beyond the higher aperture is the eyepieces. The Orion Altazimuth model includes two Kellner eyepieces, which are superior to aftermarket products or those eyepieces that appear to be more of an afterthought. You’ll get two Kellner eyepieces, including 20x and 56x magnification options.We also like the upgraded tripod. Some of the budget telescopes feature a tripod that claims to be adjustable but is flimsy in reality. The Altazimuth’s tripod benefits from a stainless-steel construction and includes six slides for adjusting the height on the scope.Finally, it comes with helpful accessories that go beyond basic astronomy. Kids love the moon map included, which helps them identify 260 lunar features and brings the moon to life for them.We like the Orion Altazimuth telescope because while it offers more features, it is still simple enough for those who are only just ready for a more advanced telescope.
Is your future astronaut not yet school age? That doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for their first telescope. The GeoSafari Jr. Talking Telescope caters to the under-six crowd who are eager to learn but need some extra help and eye protection.Kids can use the Talking Telescope without closing their eyes, which promotes eye safety and improves accessibility.The telescope is a mix of what you know as a telescope and a slide viewer with slide images from NASA. It teaches children as they go using an audio guide. The audio guides kids through the slides by asking them questions and offering up kid-friendly facts to help them both name and respond to what they see.Kids between three and five will appreciate the slide viewer and audio guide, but the telescope grows with kids between five and eight years old. As they become more confident in their skills, kids can use the 4x telescope—with adult supervision.The eyepiece and the base of the telescope are wide, so kids will have few problems adjusting it. But as always, you need to supervise to help avoid eye injuries.The only downside to the telescope is that GeoSafari only offers 24 slides. As your little one masters the slides given, there’s no option to buy more audio slides.Overall, the telescope boasts positive reviews from users and toy industry experts. It was a Toy of the Year 2019 finalist, and the narration isn’t a computerized-voice but Emily Dawn Calandrelli, the host of the television Program Xploration Outer Space.
The Orion 10034 GoScope II is another ideal travel telescope. Like the Celestron model, it is a refractor telescope with a 70mm aperture, and it’s highly portable thanks to its aluminum alloy construction.It differs from other telescopes on this list because it features not only includes eyepieces but an eyepiece adaptor for your smartphone. The adaptor attaches directly to the eyepiece by gripping your phone, and it allows you to take photos of the visuals. We like that it is lightweight, and it comes with the essential beginner accessories. We particularly love that it fits inside of a backpack that comes with the telescope. There’s no need to stuff it into a flimsy travel bag.
The Celestron NexStar 90SLT is easily the most expensive telescope on our list, but it is perfect for adults and for kids who want to use a telescope as part of their educational experience.Why is such a high-spec telescope suitable for beginners? Because it is the only telescope on our list that is fully computerized.SLT stands for Star Locating Telescope. It takes the guesswork out of operating the device and instead uses a computer database of 4,000 stars, nebulae, and galaxies to automatically direct the viewer to the exact location and track the target.The design is slim and lightweight, which means you can take it apart and bring it with you as you travel. Celestron recommends bringing this telescope to dark sky sites, where users will make the most of the experience.Getting set up again is easy because the telescope features the manufacturer’s proprietary Sky Align software. All you need to do is find three bright objects, and the telescope finishes the set-up automatically. A significant part of the budget category derives from the computer-assist programs. However, it also has some of the best optics you can find in a beginner telescope. Although the aperture is 90 mm, it uses Maksutov-Cassegrain Optics, which you won’t see in many other beginner telescopes.Other specs include 50x and 139x magnification and a focal length of 1250mm. The focal ratio is f/14.What do you get in the package? You’ll find a:
Are you new to telescopes yourself? Our buyer’s guide will help you make sense of all the new-to-you terms like aperture, refractor, and magnification.Here’s what these terms mean and what to look for when hunting down the best telescope for kids.
Consumers can buy three types of telescopes: refractor, reflector, and compounds.Refractor telescopes are the most common devices found in the child market. A refractor telescope is more extended, thinner, and perfect for gazing at the moon as well as hunting down planets and celestial bodies.Reflector telescopes are smaller than refractor telescopes, but they are also cheaper.Compound telescopes feature both a reflector and refractor mirror, which means these telescopes are usually more powerful than a refractor or reflector telescope on its own. If your child is increasing their skills and they—or you—have an interest in astrophotography, then a compound telescope is a good idea. However, we didn’t add any to our list.
Although we listed ‘type’ first, it is the aperture that you should concern yourself with most.Aperture on a telescope works the same way as it does on your camera. The aperture size controls the amount of light captured by the telescope. Larger apertures let in more light and therefore offer clearer images, which is essential for finding stars and planets.A larger aperture naturally requires a more substantial telescope body, so you’ll need to strike a balance between size (and portability) with the size of the aperture.Most children’s telescopes sit at 70 mm aperture, which is perfectly suitable for looking at the moon and hyper-visible planets. A 50 mm aperture is also helpful for looking at the moon, but it’s better suited to younger children who also like to spot near-field objects here on earth.
The eyepiece of the telescope is where the magnification of the image occurs.An eyepiece with a high magnification level is valuable, but only when it’s matched with a meaningful aperture. You can’t use 40x magnification to make up for an aperture that falls below 50 mm.We recommend looking out for telescopes that come with multiple eyepieces. Typically, one eyepiece offers low magnification and the other provides a higher one. We also find the best telescopes for kids who are not yet school age are those that include a binocular-style eyepiece in addition to the one-eye viewfinder.