Inspiring supple minds with a love of the cosmos is easy, if you’re armed with one of our best telescopes for kids. Carl Sagan, Ms. Frizzle, and Bill Nye may have been good enough for us, but kids these days are too preoccupied with their Minecrafts, and their Roblox, and their ‘mons, both Digi and Poke. Luckily, even TikTok attention spans can’t stand up to the educational magic of space.
Some kids are so enamored with learning that they’re already dreaming of colonizing Mars. Other roustabouts can’t be bothered to even think about space unless it’s tied to a first-person shooter. No matter what your kid’s feelings are about the endless galaxy above us, the best telescopes for kids will get their eyes off screens, and on the stars.
— Best Overall: Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope
— Best Computerized: Celestron StarSense Explorer DX Telescope
— Best Portable: Orion StarBlast Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
— Best Budget: Emarth Telescope
— Best Telescope for Beginners: Celestron FirstScope Telescope
— Best Refractor: Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ
How We Picked The Best Telescopes for Kids
Like practicing good manners or eating vegetables, getting kids into the very idea of feeding their heads is easier if you get them young. Reading, while fundamental, can only go so far. Learning is best when it’s interactive. Anyone can sit a kid in front of a documentary about Saturn. How much more impactful would any science book or educational film be if a kid could peer through a telescope and catch a glimpse of Saturn’s rings? Here are some of the things we considered when selecting the best telescopes for kids.
Approachability: Sure, you could teach kids about refracting light and the science of scopes. But if they’re too young for a learner’s permit, there’s a good chance that getting them bogged down in the science of telescopes would deter them from learning about the cosmos. One thing at a time. Besides, learning about the inner workings of telescopes is enough to make full-grown adults’ heads spin. Telescopes for kids should be easy to use, whether they’re using it under adult supervision or on their own.
Setup: Setting up a telescope for kids shouldn’t require a manual. Yes, many of these devices come in pieces, but products aimed at kids should be able to be put together with little difficulty. Ideally, the telescope, once assembled, will be parked near a window where it can look up at stars, planets, and possibly even UFOs. Portability is also prized, but it’s not a definitive factor when picking out the best.
Durability: If a device is propped on a tripod, there’s a good chance it’s incredibly prone to breaking. Dropping a telescope in many cases is enough to break it into pieces, and even if it survives a spill with only a few minor scratches, the inner guts of it may be beyond repair. That’s to be expected of course, and extreme care should be taken when handling any telescope listed here. However, if slight nudges or bumps are enough to either break a device or require re-calibration, it’s likely not worthy of owning, let alone buying.
The Best Telescopes for Kids: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Telescope for Kids Overall: Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope
Why It Made The Cut: When you consider its price and power, Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope is a prudent splurge.
— Optical Tube Length: 23.66 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 3.54 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 5 pounds
— Design: Refractor
— Focal Length: 23.62 inches
— Max Magnification: 120x
— High quality, powerful optics
— Incredibly user-friendly
— Good quality tripod
— Flat aesthetics
If you want to split the difference between quality and price, Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope is a great starter microscope that could scratch you and your kid’s astronomy itch for years.
The build-quality is exactly what you want here, with safe mounting along the optic tube length. Three interchangeable eye-pieces cover all the bases, whether you want to look at the moon, or zoom in so close you can scope out the surface. Optical glass is coated with anti-reflection blue film, which makes the colors of the cosmos pop, but also protects your eyes from harmful light. The telescope’s tripod is almost as versatile, and stretches up to 56.7 inches in height, which allows for multiple viewing options. There’s a carrying case to keep these powerful optics safe should you want to take it with you when traveling. Even the tripod, which is an afterthought in many telescopes, is impressive, allowing users to shift angles quickly and easily. There’s plenty to love here, except for the actual look of the telescope. Gskyer makes a quality product, I just wish it gave a little more thought to the finish of its telescope, including that logo. But with a blank canvas, it may provide plenty of opportunities to personalize your telescope. Adults can find more options in our guide to the best telescopes.
Best Computerized Telescope: Celestron StarSense Explorer DX Telescope
Why It Made The Cut: Celestron StarSense Explorer DX isn’t simply a great telescope for adults and kids alike, it’s a concierge to the cosmos.
— Optical Tube Length: 25 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 6.49 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 8.8 pounds
— Design: Newtonian Reflector
— Focal Length: 25.59 inches
— Max Magnification: 307x
— StarSense app amplifies the learning experience
— Sturdy and powerful
— Assembles in minutes
On its surface, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX is a manual telescope. But pairing it with the StarSense Explorer app (available on iOS and Android) is like traveling the stars on auto-pilot. Dock your smartphone into the StarSense, pick a planetary body, and let the telescope do the rest.
Using satellites and patent-pending technology, StarSense takes the guesswork out of finding objects in the night sky. After an easy and quick setup, this telescope will help you scope out planets, constellations, and entire galaxies. StarSense helps you align your telescope just right to find just what you’re looking for with an easy drop down menu of what’s available on any given night. This procedure requires explorers to line up arrows until the desired object is found, game-ifying the learning experience. It’s like playing “Where’s Waldo?” with the entire universe. Once you do find the planets you’re looking for, the Newtonian Reflector will give you one of the best views possible, with an astounding amount of light. As powerful and as easy to use as the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX is, its tripod is equally easy to assemble and operate. Slip clutches and geared slow-motion controls make it easy to operate the telescope as smoothly as possible, giving it an extra edge when it comes to precision. All these fancy features will set you back a few, but for budding astronomers, it may be the last telescope they’ll ever need. For more celestial ideas, check out our guide to the best space gifts.
Best Portable Telescope: Orion StarBlast Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
Why It Made The Cut: For on-the-go astronomers, Orion StarBlast offers excellent optics for use during the day as well as the night.
— Optical Tube Length: 12.8 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 2.44 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 3.1 pounds
— Design: Refractor
— Focal Length: 20.47 inches
— Max Magnification: 124x
— Incredibly lightweight
— Doubles as binoculars alternative
— Vibrant optics
— Less optical power than similar telescopes
Depending on what city you live in, and how bad pollution is, there may never be night clear enough to see the stars. Luckily, there are telescopes made with portability in mind like Orion StarBlast Compact Travel Refractor Telescope.
This lightweight telescope comes with a sturdy deluxe foam-lined hard carrying case so it can come along on the next spur-of-the-moment camping trip. The skies, and indeed the stars are far clearer when you get away from the dim of the city. A portable telescope that packs easily is great for not simply scoping out planets, but birds, wildlife, and other outdoor objects of note, and the Orion StarBlast’s Crawford focuser captures cosmic bodies and just as good as daytime targets. Just make sure that you bring something to mount it on, as this microscope doesn’t come with a tripod. Serious stargazers may find fault with the Orion StarBlast, as it won’t offer nearly the same range as other telescopes in its class and price. If you’re looking to scope out anything past Mars, getting this telescope to focus just right may be troublesome. Trading in a little optic quality for portability may be just the ticket if you’re into the occasional outdoor adventure. You can explore more right on Earth with the best night vision goggles.
Best Budget Telescope: Emarth Telescope
Why It Made The Cut: For a mere pittance, the Emarth Telescope lets budding astronomers dip their toes into stargazing.
— Optical Tube Length: 14.17 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 2.75 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 2.47 pounds
— Design: Refractor
— Focal Length: 14.17 inches
— Max Magnification: 90x
— Easy setup
— Very kid-friendly
— Comes with informational manual about moon and stars
— Weak optics
Some telescopes that sell themselves as “starter telescopes,” still run a couple hundred dollars. For parents and kids looking to dip their toes in astronomy, Emarth Telescope is a fairly good value.
This telescope is so easy to set up a kid could do it (no offense to any kids reading this). The tripod is lightweight, but is more than strong enough to keep everything steady. The telescope is perfect for staring up at the moon on nights with light pollution, to help young minds get into the groove of the whole stargazing thing. Emarth Telescope also comes with an educational pamphlet detailing the natural satellite, to further amplify the educational experience. Sadly, the optics in this telescope aren’t strong enough for gazing too much further out. This is a bug or a feature depending on how you look at it. Can you find Jupiter using the Emarth? Sure. But it may take an hour or two getting the focus just right. You and your kid could treat astronomy like a treasure hunt, which may add stakes to the whole endeavor. Or convince you to upgrade to a better telescope.
Best Telescope for Beginners: Celestron FirstScope Telescope
Why It Made The Cut: The small but impressive Celestron FirstScope may require a little extra finangling when it comes to using it, but it makes for a great starter telescope.
— Optical Tube Length: 12 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 2.99 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 4.5 pounds
— Design: Reflector
— Focal Length: 12 inches
— Max Magnification: 180x
— Covered in homages to leading minds in astronomy
— Attractive and low-profile
— Great optics, for its size
— May require buying separate eyepieces for better image quality
Many telescopes, including the ones in this list, have a muted presentation. After all, busy aesthetics can make or break an expensive piece of tech. The Celestron FirstScope’s design, however, inspires as it awes.
If educating young minds is the goal, this FirstScope accomplishes this even before it’s used to look at its first star. The telescope is covered in names of the important minds who helped shape astronomy like Riccardo Giacconi, Jan Heweliusz, Tycho Brahe, Hans Lippershey, Johannes Kepler, and of course, the OG, Galileo. Looks aside, this makes a great starting point for anyone with an interest in astronomy. The Dobsonian mount makes maneuvering the telescope incredibly easy. A high-powered eyepiece is enough for casual stargazing, especially if you want to keep a close eye on the moon and nearby planets. For crisper image quality, you may need to invest in another, more powerful eyepiece, which will set you back a few. It may be more prudent to just buy a more powerful telescope right off the bat, but if you have limited space, this is a great upgradeable starter.
Best Refractor Telescope: Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ
Why It Made The Cut: Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ isn’t just one of the best telescopes, it’s one of the sleekest.
— Optical Tube Length: 14.17 inches
— Optical Tube Diameter: 3.54 inches
— Optical Tube Weight: 16.5 pounds
— Design: Refractor
— Focal Length: 14.17 inches
— Max Magnification: 213x
— Sets up in minutes
— Rough and ready refractor design
— Powerful optics in day or night settings
— Less-than-stellar tripod
If you want to see celestial bodies up close, you need a powerful refractor just like the one found in the Celestron Astromaster 90AZ. The amount of detail provided in this telescope is almost unmatched in any telescope in its price range. Astromaster offers sharp detail of the moon, planets in our solar system, and beyond. Even far away nebulas and galaxies come in a little crisper than on weaker starter telescopes. This telescope also comes with a complementary download of Starry Night, one of the best astronomy programs available. It helps curious minds search out and catalog planets, stars, and other objects in the cosmos, while also providing scientific context, making this complete package one of the most educational offerings in this compilation. Sadly, the tripod, while looking just as stellar as the telescope, is weak and wobbly. Some may even say totally unstable. Still, with caution in mind (or a better tripod), this is still an excellent telescope.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Telescope for Kids
Types of Telescopes
In general, telescopes sold commercially fall into three categories which includes reflector, refractor, and catadioptric.
— Reflector Telescopes: Reflector telescopes gather light through spherical mirrors which reflect the light onto smaller mirrors and into the eyepiece. This provides bright images even in low-light conditions like, say, the cold and empty vacuum of space. A common style of these telescopes is the “Newtonian Reflector,” which are known for providing panoramic views of everything from comets to star clusters.
— Refractor Telescopes: These telescopes use specially designed lenses to point light directly into an image. This telescope technology was invented in the 17th century, and one of the earliest kinds of optical telescopes. They are known for their reliability and a fairly simple difficulty curve when it comes to steady use. High contrast, color, and image quality are also synonymous with refractor telescopes. This convenience comes at a cost, as they are typically a little more expensive than both reflector and catadioptric telescopes because they are difficult to manufacture.
— Catadioptrics Telescopes: This type of telescope utilizes both curved mirrors and lenses, more or less combining the two previous styles. These telescopes typically have large apertures and field of view, and are usually smaller in size than other telescopes. Because of this, they are favored mostly by amateurs.
Of course, these are very simplistic categorizations. Most of the telescopes offered here are refractors, with the outlier being the Newtonian Reflector Celestron StarSense Explorer DX Telescope, which is coincidentally also the priciest telescope offered. All telescope types have their place, but reflectors have a slight edge in picking up far, far away objects with great detail.
Have a Conversation With Kids Before Dropping the Cash
Communication is key anytime you decide you’re going to surprise a kid with an expensive gift. Kids are savvier and savvier these days, with some tots as young as five already establishing brand preferences when it comes to everything from gaming consoles to smartphones. Still, there’s a good chance that getting your kid into an educational device may be a hard sell. Before spending hundreds of dollars you should sit them down, look them in the eye and say, “I’m thinking about getting us a telescope to see the wonders of the stars from the comfort of our home.” You can copy edit that line at will, but the idea should remain the same. If their eyes glaze over, you can try a hard sell. Leading with the educational aspects could work, or you can throw pathos at the wall and sell it as a bonding experience. Their reaction can help you in deciding how much to invest in the astronomic endeavor. If they’re lukewarm on the idea, stick with Emarth, our budget pick. In the case that the very idea of stargazing gets them giddy, maybe investing in the Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope makes sense.
Adult Supervision is Advised
A telescope can really tie a room together much better than a bookshelf or even a crummy globe. And while these telescopes are kid-friendly, another conversation concerning safety should be had before mounting one in a kid’s room. After all, using a telescope is potentially dangerous. Aiming it directly at the sun and peering through the lens can cause permanent eye damage. Like magnifying glasses, telescopes can also be used to reflect the sun onto another surface, to start fires, burn ants, and otherwise lead to all sorts of mischief. This includes using the telescope to spy on neighbors through any open windows. Nobody wants to carry the shame of having raised a peeper. Many of these problems can be averted with a simple heartfelt conversation. However, if your kid is sneakier than the average bear, you may want to consider storing the telescope when it’s not in use.
Supplemental Educational Material
As stated many times before in this compilation of the best telescopes for kids, ideally, getting a youngster into astronomy will help spark a love of learning. Nothing ruins a buzz into a learning experience like introducing homework, but there are some very approachable supplemental materials to sneakily slide into the mix while your kid is enamored with the stars.
— ”Space Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond”: “National Geographic” is known for its deep dives into everything from anthropology to the insect kingdom. This 208-page, full-color tome provides plenty of information about planets in our own solar system, newly discovered planetary bodies, and even touches on the possibilities of space travel.
— “Secrets of the Universe”: Kids are already staring at screens for hours on end, you might as well plop them down in front of something that’s not going to turn their brain into goo. Available free with every Prime Video subscription, “Secrets of the Universe” covers everything from alien planets with toxic atmospheres to how a moon is born. Not only does this series pose answers, it also poses questions like, “Where is the end of the universe?” to further inspire scientific curiosity.
Q: What can you see through a kids' telescope?
You can see everything from planets to nebulas in a kids telescope, which is often just as powerful as telescopes aimed at adults.
Q: How much does a telescope for kids cost?
Telescopes for kids run anywhere from just under a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars.
Q: At what age is it appropriate for kids to use a telescope?
In general, kids as young as five years old can operate a telescope as long as they do so with adult supervision.
Q: Which telescope is best to see planets?
The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX Telescope comes with an app which allows you to perfectly pinpoint planets and see them in your telescope.
Q: Where can you find an affordable telescope for kids?
You can find an affordable telescope on Amazon, where the Emarth Telescope is available for purchase.
Final Thoughts on Telescopes for Kids
Space is the final frontier, but exploring the stars can be done from the comfort of an upstairs bedroom wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. All you need is a curious mind, a little patience, and perhaps most importantly, a solid telescope for kids. Most of these telescopes require an investment of at least a couple hundred dollars, save for the Emarth Telescope, which is an affordable offering. For aspiring Michio Kakus, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX Telescope comes packed with space-age tech and a smartphone app that acts as a guide to finding everything from planets to nebulas. Our best overall pick, Gskyer Astronomical Refractor Telescope, splits the difference, and is a solid starter telescope for kids and adults alike.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.