What's the Best Telescope for Kids?
The love of astronomy can be a lifetime passion.
When kids learn about the wonders of the night sky at a young age, it can foster a love of science and learning in them that will last the rest of their lives. Going out beyond the glowing light pollution of the city and seeing a meteor shower or the rings of Saturn through the lens of a telescope is a thrill any child interested in science, or science fiction for that matter, will enjoy.
Astronomy is a great way to make learning fun for kids, but they don't have to have all the fun. While you're teaching your little ones about the things they're seeing in the sky, you experience of the joy of stargazing, all the while getting to spend time with some of your favorite people in the world.
A lot of people ask us: what is the best kids telescope? Sure the stargazing is fun, but finding the right telescope to share that experience with your kids can be a tricky decision. The same telescope that might be right for you and your level of experience might not be the same one that's right for beginning astronomers with smaller hands.
But finding a kids telescope that is a good fit for children doesn’t have to be a chore.
What Should I Look For When I'm Buying A Telescope For Kids?
Buying a telescope for kids isn't the same as buying a telescope for an adult. Most adults have completed their mental development (except my brother!), whereas kids are still changing. Kids present certain challenges to any technology, but especially one that tends to use finely-calibrated pieces of glass to look across the universe.
Kids are really hard on things. If you buy a telescope that's too delicate or apt to break for your little one, you're just wasting money. There are lots of great options for littler kids who need more robust equipment.
It goes without saying that all kids are different. Some little kids couldn't enjoy the same telescope that a teenager or more mature tween could take advantage of. Ultimately, like parenting, it's a matter of thinking about what's right for this particular kid. Are they still developing a basic understanding of what stars and planets are? Or are they advanced enough that they could enjoy seeing in real detail the things they've been hearing about for a long time? Only you know, but it bears some thinking before you set out to make a purchase.
One thing to consider when buying a telescope for the little ones is that what they need today may not be what is best for them tomorrow. Lots of little kids don't need a fully-working, high-powered telescope. They need something they can get used to looking through and that will engage them enough to entice them to continue in astronomy for a long time to come. On the other hand, a super-simple piece of colored plastic that worked when junior was in elementary school isn't going to get the job done when he's in middle school. Keep that in mind.
Simplicity and ease of use are important. Some telescopes that come with tons of great features can be a real pain to set up. For most kids, the telescope you want is one that can easily be set up and taken down. Kids can exhibit the attention spans of small rodents, so it's best to get them to the good stuff (the stars!) as fast as you can.
Kids are also less well-positioned to make fine adjustments and maintain technical equipment. Specifically speaking about telescopes, you should be aware of what amount of collimation a telescope requires. You're better off finding a telescope that won't need a ton of collimation. Lots of telescopes come with lenses that stay firmly fixed in the tube. To the extent these sorts of telescopes need less adjusting to view to the best of their capacity, you're probably better off buying one like that.
Whatever the age you want to buy a telescope for, we've got some great ideas for you.
What follows is a list of telescopes that help children from kindergarten all the way up through middle and high school to learn about the observable night sky and help them expand their understanding of the universe around them.
The Best Telescopes for Little Kids
Telescopes for kids, especially very little kids, must be sturdy enough for enthusiastic play and yet still serve as functional tools. Smaller hands and developing eyes have specific needs when it comes to telescopes.
Kids will be kids, so it’s best not to start off with a high end telescope meant for adults.
Best Telescope for Toddlers: The GeoSafari Talking Telescope
A good, rugged starter telescope for the youngest future scientist is the Talking Telescope made by GeoSafari. This is the scope for really little kids for several reasons, the first of which is its fun appearance. The bright colors invite little eyes and hands to dive in.
It’s a tabletop design meant for being carried around and knocked about. While it may not be an indestructible telescope, it is as close to one as you are likely to get. The tabletop design also makes it highly stable, so it's perfect for little-kid reflexes.
Its solid construction and solid base support a real 4x magnification telescope with a fairly wide eyepiece that little kids will find easy to use. It is powered by 4 AA batteries, (not included) and has slides and audio that teach kids about the things they see in the night skies.
The GeoSafari Talking Telescope lets you and your kids view colorful images on slides, and accompanies them with 200 facts, all the while building their knowledge and analytical skills by posing challenging questions about the slides. The images include ones from NASA, and also feature animals and space-age technology and phenomena.
When they're ready, kids can take quizzes about the things they've learned. But the fun is always present while they're learning, because the GeoSafari Jr. has real animal sounds and space sound effects.
GeoSafari Jr. My First Telescope
Another good choice is the GeoSafari Jr. My First Telescope by Educational Insights. Rather than centering on slides with images, the My First Telescope has the design of an actual adult telescope. Kids just have to lock the mount, pop off the cover and look at the sky.
It has a 10x magnification, focus free telescope that will let them see the moon up close without having to focus the lens. Its tripod is super simple to assemble, so your kids will be stargazing in no time.
This is a real scientific tool made just for kids. You can start your kids on the path to lifetime scientific learning from a young age.
It also comes with 2 large sized eyepieces so they can see through the lenses binocular style, perfect for kids who would otherwise have trouble closing one eye. Another table top model, this one comes with a folding tripod for an authentic look.
Telescopes for Bigger Kids
Kids who are old enough not to want to be called a little kid anymore are old enough to handle telescopes that take a little more finesse to operate. While they're not quite ready for full complexity, these developing brains and their improved dexterity are capable of handling more telescope than are really little kids.
The focus here is still on a guided interaction with the stars that won't leave your bigger kid feeling like they're on their own.
Best Telescope for Elementary Kids: Nancy B Science Club Moonscope
A good first step up is the Nancy B Science Club Moonscope. A tabletop, tripod mounted telescope, it is a good transition between telescopes made for little ones and those meant for the 10 years old and up crowd.
It has 18x and 90x magnifications, 4 mm and 20 mm eyepieces, a finder scope, moon filter, a 22 page journal and a batteries not included AAA battery powered red LED light. The winner of the prestigious Parents' Choice Silver Award, the journal will help guide your child in their scientific exploration and learning with this scientific tool. It’s just right for curious minds who want to learn more about space.
Telescopes for Older Kids and Teens
Once you get past the need to compensate for the developmental needs of little kids, you can start thinking about actual beginner telescopes. For kids 10 years old and up who want a more powerful telescope, there are a couple of good options.
At this point, we move beyond the bright colors and guided notebooks to some more serious tools. That being said, the telescopes below are still very simple to use and affordable, so you won't feel like you're overspending on a beginner telescope.
Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ Telescope
We've got more info in our PowerSeeker 70 Review.
First up is the Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ. A quality made telescope, it is a good tool for seeing your older kids through from the beginning stages of star gazing to the more intermediate stages. You can check out our full review of the similar PowerSeeker 70eq click here.
On a fully collapsible tripod with an altazimuth mount, the 70AZ has a 3x Barlow lens with an aperture of 70 mm and a focal length of 700mm. It will let them observe astronomical details like lunar craters or even the rings of Saturn. It also includes SkyX Planetarium software that will teach them about 10,000 observable objects in the night sky.
Best Portable Telescope: Orion FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector Telescope
Check out our full FunScope review here.
The FunScope is a great beginner scope at a great price. Its 76mm aperture is significantly larger than a lot of telescopes at a similar price, and Orion tends to focus on optical quality in these lower-priced scopes, so you know you're paying for the ability to see more, rather than spending all your money on extra gadgets that you don't need.
The FunScope is also mounted on a table-top mount, which means it's stable, and that you can take it anywhere.
Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor Telescope
Another good choice is the Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor Telescope. The Infinity offers a fair-sized 50mm aperture and rack-and-pinion focusing for ample light and easy focus.
Its altazimuth mount makes pointing and movement easy in two planes of motion, altitude and azimuth. The simplicity of the altazimuth mount has made it a favorite of amateur astronomers for generations.
It has a 5x24 optical viewfinder so your child can point the scope at the things they want to see. Even the slight magnification of this viewfinder makes it an improvement over some of the red-dot finders you see on telescopes in the same price range.
Its full tripod offers good stability, and comes with an accessory tray to keep everything simple and well-organized. The tripod is light enough to make travel easy, and it's easy to set up, so you can get right to the stargazing without having to spend an eternity setting up.
The Meade Infinity also comes with a low (20mm), medium (12mm) and high (4mm) magnification eyepieces, as well as a 2x Barlow lens that doubles the magnification of the eyepieces. This optical variety allows your child to choose the best configuration for whatever it is they specifically want to observe, which is really useful once older kids start to have a clear idea of what's out there.
Celestron COSMOS 90gt Wifi Telescope
Next up is the Cosmos 90GT WiFi Telescope by Celestron. On a fully functioning tripod, the Cosmos 90GT is a telescope any kid or adult would love to have.
When you download the Cosmos app on your device and point it at the night sky, a star map comes up and tells you the names of what you are looking at. Then simply tap the screen on whatever you want to focus on and the robotic arm of the telescope moves it to point in that direction and focus on the celestial object. If you can spare the money for this scope, it'll make finding whatever object you're looking for a snap.
The Cosmos 90GT is battery powered and generates its own Wi-Fi signal, so it operates even when far out in the countryside. It has a 90 mm refactor with 2 eyepieces, 36x and 91x respectively, and its highest magnification that retains a useful clarity is 213x.
It comes with the "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," eye-nebula graphic in the side, a Cosmic Calendar and online tips for stargazing.
Looking at the stars can introduce kids to the wonders of the universe and lead them on a lifelong journey of exploration and discovery.
Sharing a love of space with the next generation is a great way to pass your love of science to them and create many happy memories you will share. Whether it’s gazing at the moon through a telescope on the back deck or taking your telescope out with you as you go camping with family out in the countryside to see the Perseid meteor shower, a love of astronomy is a joy that can be passed from generation to generation.