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When I was a kid, I was obsessed with space and reading all the books about astronomy. I was the only one in my elementary school interested in that kind of hobby, attending all significant astronomy competitions in the country and I was dreaming of having a big telescope one day. If your child is same or you want to introduce him or her to astronomy, it is a great idea to buy a telescope so he can start to discover the beauty of the universe as soon as possible.
Kids these days love space because of all sci-fi movies and recent influential activities in space exploration. I think that we are in the second era of space exploration, the first one was of course when we landed on the moon. In that time the interest about the space was booming, and it is starting again.
It is not an easy task to buy the first telescope for your child especially when there are so many different options. Moreover, if you don’t know much about telescopes or astronomy and you want your kid to be happy with his first scope. Believe me; it is a magical moment to own it for the first time and see everything that you read about in the books through the eyepiece of the telescope.
There isn’t one universally best telescope for the kids. It all depends on your kid’s age and how big is his interest in astronomy. So let me help you to choose the best one for your child by starting with some basic questions you have to ask yourself. I will also give you my specific telescope recommendations based on your child’s age.
What You Should Know Before You Buy The Telescope For Your Kid
First of all, if you plan to buy the telescope for a toddler, you can forget it. It is not a good idea, and anyway, a kid can’t comprehend images in the eyepiece even in the small telescope till a certain age. Usually, it’s around five years old. But if you want to start earlier than that, I will give you some tips later in the article because there are pretty cool telescope toys available which can spark astronomy interest in your kids.
Another thing to think about is, of course, your budget. It usually is a good practice not to spend too much money on the first telescope. You have to distinguish if your kid has just overnight interest because he saw some space movie or if he is genuinely interested in astronomy and is reading books and watching some documentaries on the internet or TV.
So when kids are showing genuine interest, you can opt for something better and higher quality. I can tell you kids will enjoy better telescope more than just some toy and probably stay with that hobby much longer, and their scope is not going to collect the dust after one week of use.
Many parents buying the telescope for kids will also use it, and sometimes they use it more often than kids. If you suspect this will be your case, you can afford to invest in a better instrument, but you will need to keep the telescope out of reach for the kids. This depends on how old are your kids, how hyperactive or well behaved they are and also how much you invested in the telescope.
You know, do the educated parenting guess what would be a better thing to do. So, for younger children, it is a good idea to keep the telescope in your bedroom or locked room/closet so they will have access to it only with your supervision. If you want to do it this way, the telescope can be more expensive and higher quality because you will always have eyes on it when being used.
In another case when you have older kids, or you don’t have an issue to leave a scope in their room, you still have to explain them to take care of it and that it is very fragile and expensive instrument. However, if you need a peace of mind while leaving telescope in a kids room and you want something a bit more childproof, there also are pretty cheap sturdy telescopes available.
What Price Range To Look For
Telescope prices start as low as $20 for toys, going up to professional scopes for $4000+ in different shapes and setups. Choosing from so many options can be overwhelming. But don’t be scared because you don’t have to spend too much on it. Based on your child’s age including teenagers I recommend to prepare a budget between $50 to $350. Obviously, the older the kid, the more you can spend on the telescope.
The next price related thing is the type of the telescope. One model, using only lenses in the tube of the telescope, called refractor and the second one using mirrors called reflector. Rule of thumb is that mirror telescopes are cheaper than telescopes with lenses, but I will recommend refractor if it is for a younger kid. It needs almost no maintenance. Reflectors must have their mirrors aligned from time to time, so this can be a problem for small kids. However, if you also want to be involved in using the telescope, don’t worry it won’t be a hard task for you. If that’s the case, feel free to buy one. If you want to know more about the difference between these two types, you can read my article Refractors vs. Reflectors.
Before I start with the list of telescopes for kids I have to say something important. Always supervise your kid with a telescope during the day and explain them very carefully to never ever look into the sun through the telescope. This rule, of course, applies to everyone and it is a crucial safety issue with telescopes, so make sure they know about that. It can damage your eye forever, in some cases you can lose the eyesight. However, observing the sun is also a breathtaking experience, but you can do it only with a solar filter attached to the telescope.
Telescope Toy For Kids Under 5 Years Old
Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Telescope
This really is a toy in the world of telescopes, but it is a perfect starting point if you have kids around 4 years old. It is a very simple scope with 10x magnification, so it is not a high power but perfect for kids. It is also a focus free scope. The main, most important feature is that it has two large eyepieces with quite a large field of view. This is good because for kids at that age it’s hard to observe something with one eye closed while with two eyes open it is more natural for them.
Another useful feature is that they can also observe objects on earth during the day like birds, trees, etc. because the image is not upside down like in a proper telescope. The build is sturdy with small easy to operate tripod. They will be amazed to see the moon even with this toy.
Telescope For 5-10 Years Old Kids
Emarth Telescope, Travel Scope, 70mm Astronomical Refractor Telescope
Unlike the previous category, for kids age of 5-10 years, you have many more options. If I have to choose, I would go with this small refractor because it requires almost no maintenance, just to clean the lens from the dust from time to time. It is a doorway to astronomy with a lens diameter of 70mm and focal length of 360mm. Two eyepieces in the box are providing 14x and 36x magnification, and with included Barlow lens it can be 3x more.
Anyhow, you should know that the magnification is not so important in telescopes. The important thing is how much light can the scope collect, and it depends on the aperture(diameter) of the scope. In this case, 70mm is sufficient for beginners. The image will be crystal clear with amazing views of the moon and the planets.
This telescope also has small finderscope with smaller magnification which helps to locate and point the telescope at the object on the sky. Before using finderscope, you have to align it with the main telescope, which is very easy and you’ll have included instructions for it. Nice little bonus in the package is detailed moon map so kids can learn the names of the craters and areas on the moon.
One more thing, don’t be scared if you see the image upside down through telescope; this is how a telescope works and if you want to use it during the day to see some terrestrial object you can use Erecting Image Diagonal included in the box. I was dreaming about telescope like this one when I was a kid.
Telescope For 10-15 Years Old Teenagers
Celestron 31036 AstroMaster LT 76AZ
This is the age when you can really tell if your kid is serious with astronomy and telescopes. If the answer is yes, don’t be afraid to spend little more money on it. As with everything, you get what you pay for, and telescopes are no exception. If you own a telescope similar like the one that I mentioned above it would be a good time to upgrade it for children age 10-15 years old.
It will provide a more detailed and clear image for your kids and an opportunity to see more and learn more. I said little more money and I mean it. This telescope is a mirror based reflector, and we already know that reflectors are cheaper than refractors with lenses.
That’s why you can buy a bigger scope with only a little more money. It is incredibly light, mobile and complete piece of cake to put together. Very easy to operate altazimuth mount with a small panhandle to point the telescope in the right direction. And you can see more stuff not only moon and planets; it can provide a clear image of brighter nebulas and star clusters.
I personally had this scope, and I loved it. Celestron is a big and respected brand in the world of telescopes so you can’t go wrong with the purchase.
Telescope For 15+ Years Old Kids
Here, I give you two excellent options and whatever you choose your kid will be happy. This is the category of scopes which will be sufficient for many years of observing the sky. There are two differences between them. The first one is the size and the second one is the mount on which they work.
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
I was using this telescope on a day to day basis for many years. It’s 130/650 reflecting telescope. It’s smaller than the next one. However, it has a motorized mount.
My only struggle with past telescopes was that if you point the telescope to some object, it will move out of the frame in a few seconds. And motorized mount is solving this issue not only by following the object in the eyepiece but also to find the object automatically with the hand controller, where you can set what you want to see. Its called a GoTo system with thousands of object in the database. So finding and keeping the object in the scope is very easy.
You only need to align the telescope first, and you are ready to go. It comes with the power adapter, or you can use batteries if you are outdoor far away from an electric outlet. The tripod is sturdy and height adjustable. The aperture (tube diameter) is big enough to collect lots of light and provide breathtaking images of almost any object on the night sky.
This is an excellent telescope if you know that your kid has a heart among the stars. And because I owned one I highly recommend it even for older teenagers and young adults.
Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
This is a great package you can buy for your kid. It is a big telescope with an amazing price. Even if its big it is very mobile because of the Dobsonian mount. No tripod, only solid base on the ground with a mounted telescope. Very popular among beginners and amateur astronomers. This mount can handle bigger and heavier scopes.
That’s why Dobsonian telescopes are affordable. Having that big telescope on the tripod will be much more expensive. Anyway, what you will see with this instrument will blow your mind. Kids will enjoy crystal clear images with high details.
They will feel like they are on the orbit above the moon. The craters will be big and very close. It will show them another galaxies and nebulas with high details.
Professional Telescope For Teenager 18+ Years Old
Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope
All telescopes mentioned above are sufficient for any child or teenager interested in the astronomy and stargazing. This is just a bonus recommendation if you have no problem with the money and you have an astronomy enthusiast at home who would also like to start video astronomy.
This 8-inch beast would be an excellent gift for the 18th birthday. It’s very famous Maksutov type telescope and the most favorite among amateur astronomers. It has a GoTo motorized mount, high-end optics and it is easily portable. Maybe it seems small but the Maksutov design allows to have a physically smaller tube, but in reality, the focal length is much longer.
It is because of the Maksutov design, which is catadioptric- combines a spherical mirror with a weakly negative meniscus lens. It’s a future-proof instrument that can stay in your family forever.
I hope you found the best telescope for your kid here. No matter how old is your kid, buying the telescope is a good idea. It will introduce kids to science, and they learn a rewarding hobby. I can tell you from my own experience that any telescope I had, I was never disappointed and I’m glad to have a hobby which is teaching me every day something new.
Nowadays, kids are mostly behind the computer or on the mobile phone all day long. With this scientific “toy” it can help you teach them something new and exciting and spend many unforgettable times under the stars. And you never know, maybe you have a future famous astronomer at home waiting for his first telescope.