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A good telescope will help you zoom in on other planets and stars in our solar system. When it comes to buying one, there's not only a lot to consider (cost, aperture, lens, distance, etc.), but also a lot of information to digest. And you want to ensure the telescope doesn't take up too much space in your home.
Here’s what you need to know to get started: Telescopes collect light from the night sky through a lens or mirror; the larger its diameter—or aperture—measured in millimeters, the more you can see.
Magnification really isn’t the primary measurement to consider in your first telescope; instead, look for a large, light gobbling aperture and long focal length—that's the distance measured in millimeters from the lens or mirror to the point where the telescope is in focus. Magnification and field of view is determined by the eyepiece, and your telescope will come with one or more interchangeable eyepieces adding power or increasing field of view.
Consider the age and abilities of your child and if they are primarily interested in stargazing, or observing planets and the moon. Computerized telescopes make night sky viewing easy for beginners while a telescope with smartphone capabilities that take great photos may make a perfect gift for a teen. Your child can always graduate to more high tech options after starting with a beginner-friendly or toy option.
Here are the best telescopes for kids.
Best Overall : Gskyer AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope
Dimensions: 24.8 x 4.92 x 8.46 inches | Weight: 5.64 pounds | Focal length: 15.74 inches | Aperture: 2.75 inches
Easy to assemble
Poor quality tripod
Gskyer's AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope has a cult-following on Amazon and is a bestseller for a reason. The 2.74 in-aperture glass lens collects a ton of light, and a 15.74 in focal length widens the field of view enough to enjoy lunar and planetary viewing. The kit includes two eyepieces, an aluminum alloy tripod, a convenient carry bag, and a phone attachment with a Bluetooth remote for taking beautiful photos while scanning the sky.
Best Budget: Emarth Double Eyepieces Refractor Telescope
Dimensions: 18.07 x 8.74 x 4.41 inches | Weight: 2.47 pounds | Focal length: 14.17 inches | Aperture: 2.76 inches
Great for observing the moon
Can be difficult to align lens
This kid-friendly telescope won't break the bank, but will still produce some beautiful images of celestial objects for viewing and learning for the whole family. The fully coated optical glass is perfect for crisp views of the moon and stars, but a higher aperture may be necessary for observing other planets or deep space objects.
The sturdy tripod, easy setup, and informational manual makes this a perfect budget-friendly beginner telescope. The adjustable tripod will grow with you, whether buying for a tween or adult amateur astronomer.
Best for Young Kids : Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope
Dimensions: 39 x 17 x 9 inches | Weight: 14.2 pounds | Focal length: 26 inches | Aperture: 4 inches
Easy to assemble
High quality optics
Families with children not yet tween or teen ages should opt for a telescope that prioritizes ease and simplicity. The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ is easy to mount and has a very sturdy tripod, perfect for little hands, and the high aperture ensures high quality views of the night sky.
The best part of this option is the included smartphone app which assists you in finding every visible object in the sky. Your iPhone or Android will give you a guided tour with arrows to locate different stars and planets for a great bonding experience for the whole family. Keep the telescope set up in your living space for a celestial touch to your decor.
Best Toy Telescope : Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Telescope Toy
Dimensions: 9 x 14.9 x 7 inches | Weight: 1.8 pounds | Focal length: Not Applicable | Aperture: Not Applicable
Suitable for young kids
Not a functional telescope
If your little one is not quite ready for a high-tech telescope that will cost more and take up more space in the living room, start with a toy telescope to get them interested in astronomy and learning about the world around them. Kids ages 4 and up look into the brightly colored telescope and see beautiful high-resolution images right from NASA with this science-based toy.
This interactive toy features the voice of Emily Calandrelli, the star of Netflix's show Emily's Wonder Lab, who shares over 200 fun facts about space in four different languages. With just three batteries, young ones can spends hour learning and observing beyond our atmosphere before they are ready for the real thing.
Best for Stargazing: Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ LT Refractor Telescope
Dimensions: 36 x 36 x 62.5 inches | Weight: 13.4 pounds | Focal length: Not Listed | Aperture: 2.75 inches
No tools needed for setup
Tripod can be hard to stabilize
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope is the perfect option for those looking to get into astronomy by observing planets and stars around them. With a 2.75 inch aperture and fully coated glass optics, this telescope produces clear, high-quality images of nearby stars, but may not be the best for observing deep space objects.
Still, this choice comes with a tripod for stabilizing, a pan handle control for smooth and accurate pointing, and an accessory tray for storing any small parts or tools. This portable and easy-to-set-up telescope will make a great gift for the person in your life wanting to explore the night sky for the first time before graduating to a higher aperture option.
Best for Photos: Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Smartphone Adapter Built-in Refracting Telescope
Dimensions: 38 x 33 x 52 inches | Weight: 20 pounds | Focal length: 25.98 inches | Aperture: 3.94 inches
Great for beginners
It took five years for Juno to reach Jupiter and tweet that incredible picture, but with Celestron’s Inspire 100AZ refractor telescope you can easily snap photos of the planet’s Great Red Spot from your own backyard and post them to social media. Just attach your smartphone to the telescope’s lens mount to take photos through an integrated imaging port.
The refractor telescope boasts a big 3.93 inch lens treated with advanced coatings to maximize light collection. The 26 in focal length produces bright images, and it ships with 0.8- and 0.4-inch Kellner eyepieces for up to 66 times magnification. Each scope in Celestron’s Inspire lineup includes their SkyPortal app that guides amateur astronomers through a database of thousands of celestial bodies, including Jupiter and its Galilean moons.
Best Computerized : Celestron 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope
Dimensions: 35 x 16 x 11 inches | Weight: 13.2 pounds | Focal length: 39 inches | Aperture: 4.49 inches
Good for deep sky objects
Clear image for size
Tripod can be flimsy
The great thing about computerized telescopes is they do all the hard work for you, making them perfect for kids and beginners. The Celestron 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope can automatically locate up to 4,000 celestial objects using technology found on much more expensive options.
If you don't know what to observe, press the Sky Tour button for a guided tour of the night sky viewing all of the best sites available at that moment. Explore more with the bonus starry night software or the free SkyPortal app with hundreds of audio descriptions of the items you can find with the easy-to-use high aperture telescope.
Best for Travel: Pentax 80mm ED Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope
Dimensions: 4.72 x 15.55 x 3.86 inches | Weight: 3.09 pounds | Focal length: 15.63 inches | Aperture: 3.15 inches
High quality images
Does not come with eyepiece
Fact: with their polished glass and exacting mirrors, telescopes don’t travel so well whether you’re checking in for a flight or hauling it for a family camping trip. Pentax’s PF80 ED packs an 3.15 inch aperture and 15.63 focal length in a rugged shock-, water-, and fog-proof package, making it a stellar travel telescope. Better yet, Pentax warranties the telescope life and will replace or repair it if you break it.
The scope uses the same low dispersion (ED) optics utilized in its camera lenses for optimum resolution, and it can achieve up to 60 times magnification. No eyepieces are included, but it’s compatible with standard 1 ¼ inch interchangeable telescope eyepieces, and you can mount it to your digital camera to transform it into a powerful astrophotography lens.
Best Aperture : Celestron NexStar 6SE Telescope
Dimensions: 32.01 x 26 x 12 inches | Weight: 21 pounds | Focal length: 59.06 inches | Aperture: 6 inches | Recommended Age: Not Listed
Bright and sharp images
Easy to transport
Quick battery life
Back in the 1970s Celestron designed a compact, user-friendly compound telescope credited for bringing astronomy to backyards across America. Their NexStar 6SE beefs up that legendary optical technology with an on-board star-tracking computer system. The 6SE’s 5.9 inch primary mirror captures light while the massive 59-inch focal length and 6-inch aperture creates bright images.
The GoTo computer locates and tracks some 40,000 celestial bodies, and SkyAlign tech will have your telescope ready for stargazing with just a few steps. The 6SE is expandable for easy software updates, and Celestron peripherals like GPS-powered SkySync, Skyris camera for astrophotography and SkyPortal WiFi module allow you to align and control the telescope with a smartphone or tablet loaded with Celestron’s SkyPortal app.
Best for Beginners : Celestron SkyProdigy 130 Telescope
Dimensions: 39 x 10 x 17 inches | Weight: 18 pounds | Focal length: 25.59 inches | Aperture: 5.12 inches
Great for beginners
Long battery life
Smart technology sometimes finicky
SkyProdigy employs electric motors, an on-board computer and a digital camera to automatically align the telescope and determine where it is pointing. When you turn on the telescope, an internal camera takes several pictures of the sky and then the computer analyzes the photos for known stars and uses that information to triangulate its position. The built-in camera doesn’t have an output for saving or viewing images, so add Celestron’s NexImage CMOS camera for high resolution lunar and planetary images.
What to Look for in a Telescope for Kids
Aperture refers to the diameter of a telescope’s light-gathering apparatus (either a lens or mirror). The bigger the aperture, the more light can be captured, allowing for more distant viewing.
The focal length is the distance measured in millimeters from the telescope’s mirror or lens to the focal point (the point where the telescope is in focus) of the optical tube. A longer focal length results in a larger image.
A higher magnification number results in a larger image. Magnification isn’t the most important measurement to consider for a child’s first telescope. Instead, look for a large aperture and long focal length.
Refractor or reflector
Reflector telescopes use a curved mirror to magnify and are best for viewing celestial objects like the moon, planets and stars. Refractor telescopes use a lens to magnify and are also good for looking at objects in the night sky, plus they can be used to look at mountains or birds. Refractor telescopes are more versatile, but reflector telescopes provide a better viewing experience for celestial objects. (A third type of telescope, called a compound telescope, provides the best of both a reflector and refractor telescope, but compound telescopes are expensive and generally too advanced for kids.)
At what age is it appropriate for kids to use a telescope?
Many entry-level telescopes are intended for kids ages 8 to 11. Some junior telescopes, which are a bit more like toys than real telescopes, are aimed at kids who are about 5 to 7 years old. Kids older than 11 can use more advanced telescopes. Younger kids and toddlers may enjoy a toy telescope before graduating to something more advanced.
Where can you find an affordable telescope for kids?
Telescopes vary in price depending on the performance of the telescope and its range of features and accessories. A kid's first telescope does not necessarily need to purchase the highest quality telescope with all the bells and whistles. Instead, look for a telescope that will provide an enjoyable viewing experience at an affordable cost. As your child grows, they may want to explore a more advanced telescope with crisper and clearer images, which will require a higher price tag.
Why Trust the Spruce?
This article was written by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product roundups, expert-focused articles, and more.