In this guide we’ll look at the best telescopes for kids.
We’ve compared image quality, ease of use, portability and cost
to give you our top recommendations.
What Are The Best Beginner Telescopes for Kids?
More Detailed Kids Telescope Reviews
The Orion StarBlast is the best telescope for kids, as well as for anyone seeking a high-quality portable model. Weighing in at 13 pounds, it is relatively compact, easy to set up, and easy to transport.
This telescope for kids arrives pre-assembled, making it an extremely user-friendly option. Once it arrives, you won’t have to wait long to start seeing stars.
Even better, this reflecting telescope boasts a 4.5” (114mm) aperture. As I’ll explain down below, aperture is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to choosing a telescope. Just as a general guideline, you want an aperture of at least ~2.75” or so (70mm).
This is the best telescope for kids because it has a generous aperture and quality optics that lead to crisp images and plenty of detail. You can easily find the Moon and get a close-up view of its craters, and you’ll also be able to spot the rings of Saturn, as well as Jupiter and several of its moons.
If you take it to a dark, remote location (with minimal to no light pollution), you may even be able to find galaxies and nebulae.
In addition to the telescope itself, you’ll receive Starry Night astronomy software, a great way to further your kids’ interest in the night sky.
The Orion StarBlast telescope for kids also comes with two Explorer II 1.25” Kellner eyepieces (17mm and 6mm) to get you started. Once you’ve tried it out, you may want to enhance your experience with a couple of additional lenses. For instance, the Orion Shorty Barlow Lens adds 2x magnification and is a great supplement to this telescope.
Overall, the Orion StarBlast provides excellent value. Its high quality ensures that it will remain popular with your family for years, accompanying you on your journey from beginner to more experienced astronomers. It’s the best telescope for kids on the market.
- Excellent image detail and quality
- Best telescope for kids
- Comes with Starry Night astronomy software
- Relatively compact and portable
- Slightly higher price point
The Celestron AstroMaster is another solid choice for beginners and kids if you are looking for the best telescope for kids on the market. Combining quality optics and ease of use with affordability, this refractor telescope has an aperture of 2.76” (70mm).
This telescope for kids is another relatively portable option. Once you get the hang of it, you can pack this telescope in your car and head off to the wilderness with your family for some true dark-sky observations.
The Celestron AstroMaster comes with two 1.25” eyepieces (20mm and 10mm), a StarPointer red dot finderscope to help you get things in focus, a full-size adjustable tripod, and Starry Night astronomy software.
What can you expect to find? You will be able to see the Moon up close and personal, view the rings of Saturn, and observe Jupiter and its moons in high-quality, sharp images. In dark sky conditions, you may even have some luck spotting galaxies or nebulae.
Since this kids telescope features an erect image diagonal, you will also be able to use it for terrestrial observation as well.
When no diagonal is in place, a refractor telescope will generally produce an upside-down image. This isn’t really a problem for outer space viewing, though it is for terrestrial viewing. Thanks to the erect image diagonal, the Celestron AstroMaster produces images right-side-up. So there’s no reason you can’t get your kids into astronomy and birdwatching all at once!
As with the Orion, once you grow more experienced, you may want to buy supplemental lenses.
In sum, the Celestron AstroMaster is a versatile and high-quality telescope for kids that will give the whole family an excellent introduction to astronomy! It’s one of the best telescopes for kids around!
- Good image quality
- Relatively portable
- Can be used for terrestrial viewing
- Relatively affordable
- Comes with Starry Night astronomy software
- Some users dislike the tripod/mount
The Emarth is another refractor telescope with an aperture of 2.76” (70mm). Weighing under three pounds, this portable telescope for kids is impressively lightweight! It’s absolutely perfect if you want to take it along on family backpacking trips, as you can even carry it with you in your pack without too much difficulty.
This is one of the best telescopes for kids that works great for younger children and even toddlers, who will find that it’s just their size!
This kids telescope comes with a small aluminum tripod (note: the tripod is 40cm, not full-size), two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), a finderscope, and a map of the Moon and stars.
Though some assembly is required, this telescope for kids is quite easy to set up and also fairly simple to use. The finderscope will help you focus the telescope without too much trouble.
The Emarth also comes with an erect image diagonal so that images appear right-side-up, making this telescope, like the Celestron AstroMaster, appropriate for terrestrial viewing as well. Another great option if you are searching for the best telescope for kids!
- Lightweight and portable
- Good image quality
- Small size works well for kids
- Can be used for terrestrial viewing
- Comes with a 3x Barlow lens
- Some users prefer a full-size tripod
- Does not come with Starry Night astronomy software
Orion’s GoScope III is a quality refractor telescope with a 2.76” (70mm) aperture. It’ll give you and your family clear images of the Moon and various planetary bodies, and its compact design lets you take it camping and hiking.
The Orion GoScope kids telescope arrives in an all-in-one telescope kit that also includes a finderscope for easy focusing, two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces (20mm and 9mm), a retractable aluminum tripod, and several educational materials: The illustrated book Exploring the Cosmos, a Star Target planisphere, and a copy of the Orion MoonMap 260. Plus, everything packs up neatly into a compact backpack!
The included books make this kit an excellent gift for astronomy-loving kids. Packed with illustrations, Exploring the Cosmos is designed to spark curiosity about the farthest corners of the universe.
MoonMap 260 telescope for kids is an incredibly practical tool, as it points out various lunar craters, mountains, and other features that you can then spot in your scope!
The Star Target planisphere is a simple way of seeing which constellations are visible at any given time.
Finally, this kids telescope can be used for both terrestrial and astronomical observation. Feel free to use it to view far-of landscapes, whales, birds, anything you like in addition to celestial objects. If you are looking for the best telescope for kids this has to be near the the top of your list!
- Very compact and portable
- Good image quality
- Can be used for terrestrial viewing
- Comes with educational materials
- Some users dislike the tripod
The Celestron FirstScope is compact Dobsonian-style reflector kids telescope with 2.99” (76mm) aperture will make both a stylish and practical addition to your household. It provides clear and crisp images of the Moon and various planets, and can even be used to locate the Orion Nebula and the rings of Saturn.
This telescope for kids comes with two eyepieces (20mm and 4mm), enabling up to 75x magnification. However, as with many beginner telescopes, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to upgrade your eyepieces after getting acquainted with this telescope (for example, by purchasing a 2x Barlow lens).
This kids telescope features a lightweight, portable design makes it possible to transport this telescope on family stargazing expeditions. Moreover, this portability makes it that much more likely that you’ll be using this telescope on a regular basis. Enormous fancy telescopes are great, but they’re kind of a pain to haul out in the backyard. The Celestron FirstScope, however, like others on our list, is an excellent “grab-and-go” model.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight and portable
- Good image quality
- No finderscope
- Included eyepieces are adequate but views are better with upgraded eyepieces
Telescope for Kids Buying Guide
It can be quite easy for a new astronomer to assume that since telescopes seem to be the tool of professionals, that you need one too to begin even thinking about astronomy. This is far from the case.
After all, the very first astronomers had only their curiosity and their eyes. Even now with advanced telescopes like the Hubble, our curiosity and our eyes often remain our best instruments.
So find a clear spot from which to view the night sky. If possible, get away from light pollution. A quick Google search should be able to find you someplace within an hour or two of your home from which you can have a decent view of the stars, maybe even the Milky Way.
You can see so much of our night sky simply by looking up. So try that first, and see if it catches on and becomes something greater.
For thousands of years, people have attached stories with deep personal meaning to the things they saw in the sky, and you can do the same. It does not take a thousand-dollar telescope to do this.
There is a general perception that astronomy is only for people with money, and this could not be further from reality. The first astronomers had nothing other than their meager possessions and the people around them whom they cared for.
So like those long-dead wanderers, try to make this a group project. Get your family involved, and perhaps join a local astronomical society. Being able to share a hobby, whatever that hobby may be, with others makes it so much better and more fulfilling.
Night time is often quite cold. When I first saw the Milky Way, I was awake and out of my tent at about 11,000 feet above sea level. I was just north of Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming, and the purple gleam across the sky was and still is an awe-inspiring image in my mind.
Oh yeah, it was also below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Because nights are cold, especially nights at high elevations with low humidity, which also happens to be where star gazing is at its best.
So make a little camping expedition with your entire family. Pack parkas and gloves, hats and scarves, and head out into the night sky together. Look at the moon, and try to identify constellations. Even without a telescope, you can still get out into nature and learn more about the universe.
When should I buy a telescope?
That said, there comes a time when it absolutely makes sense to save up and buy a telescope. After all, as amazing as our eyes are, they don’t exactly have a zoom capability. We can look at faraway objects, but they remain just that, faraway.
There’s something undeniably cool about seeing the Moon up close in all its glory, complete with craters, pits, and ridges.
In addition, the best kids telescope is a fantastic way to pique children’s curiosity about the natural world. Telescopes for kids can ignite a sense of wonder and curiosity, supplement in-school science lessons, and provide hours of entertainment as they tinker around with their new scope and learn how to get the best views.
Before purchasing a telescope for kids, here are a few things you might want to try out first:
- Visit your local planetarium. Take in a show or sign up for a class. Some planetariums even run special programming for children on weekends or over the summer.
- Join your local astronomy club or group. These organizations often host stargazing events, lead trips to observatories, and offer access to telescopes (plus expert advice in how to use them). Do a quick search around your area to see what the options are.
- Try out binoculars. You can see an awful lot with a good pair of binoculars!
Now once you’ve tried some of those things, and you and your family have a definite interest in astronomy, then you’ll know it’s time to invest in a telescope.
Reflector vs. refractor vs. catadioptric telescopes
Most modern telescopes divide into three main categories: There are reflector telescopes, refractor telescopes, and catadioptric telescopes. There are plenty of sub-categories to be found within these, but let’s go over the basics of each and why you may want one or another type of telescope.
A refractor telescope uses a glass lens to gather and focus light. These were the first telescopes made and are quite durable given the fact that the tube is sealed from the elements. This means that you really shouldn’t have to adjust your refractor telescope too often.
However, this durability and simplicity comes at a cost. The problem here is called chromatic aberration, which means that you’ll see colors around the object in view. The cheaper the telescope, the more imperfections in the lenses, which will lead to worsening chromatic aberrations.
Telescope manufacturers can mitigate this effect by making telescopes with long focal lengths or including multiple compensatory lenses.
Chromatic aberration generally only affects refractor telescopes with an aperture of 4” (100mm) or more, so the three refractors on our list won’t have issues with this.
On the other hand, a large aperture is a good thing. However, it gets quite expensive to make a refractor with a large aperture, along with the necessary modifications to correct chromatic aberration. So although large, top-notch refractors make excellent telescopes, they’re too pricey to include on a list of kid-friendly, beginner-friendly telescopes.
The three refractors we recommend—the Celestron AstroMaster, the Emarth, and the Orion GoScope III—offer an excellent balance. They all have large enough apertures to yield nice, sharp images, but they don’t suffer from chromatic aberration, and they remain at accessible price points.
A reflector telescope is your next option. This kind of telescope has a mirror as its objective to gather and focus light to your eye.
When it comes to reflectors, the bigger the aperture, the better. A big reflector will gather in tons of light and produce incredibly detailed images, even of dim celestial objects deep in space.
Our top choice, the Orion StarBlast, is a reflector telescope with the largest aperture (4.5”) on our list. That large aperture is reflected (no pun intended) in the crisply detailed images it generates.
A refractor telescope with a similarly sized aperture would cost considerably more. Reflector telescopes like the Orion StarBlast are a fantastic choice if you’re looking to maximize value.
If you own a reflector telescope, you will have to periodically adjust (or collimate) the mirror to ensure proper alignment. This is especially true if you go out to distant places to view the skies. If your telescope receives a major bump—which it will in transport—you are going to have to reset it.
This shouldn’t be a major issue, but you certainly need to be aware of it. Read the instruction manual for your equipment before you use it and you’ll be fine.
The third type of telescope is a catadioptric or compound telescope. As the second name would suggest, this type of telescope uses a combination of lenses and mirrors to produce an image for you. Once of all the fancy science is done, the final result here is that you have yourself a fairly light and small telescope for the results you get.
However, these designs are also fairly expensive. So here we have a classic example of costs increasing with usefulness. These telescopes are amazing, assuming you have a quality model. Just be aware that the prices here can easily reach for the stars you plan on observing.
Unless you’ve got an astronomical budget, I’d recommend starting off with a reflector or refractor.
What is aperture and why is it so important?
Throughout this guide, I keep mentioning the word “aperture.” But what exactly does it mean?
Your telescope’s aperture is perhaps the most important piece of the entire thing. Without it, you only have an expensive but useless tube.
Aperture is simply the diameter of:
- A refractor telescope’s objective lens, or
- A reflecting telescope’s primary mirror.
In other words, it is the size of the telescope’s light-collecting area. A bigger aperture means more light collection. A larger aperture will increase cost, simply because precision machining required to make a larger lens is costly.
A good, high-quality, and large aperture will allow for excellent light transmission. You should especially be aware of this if you plan to view the sky from an urban area with considerable light pollution.
Ideally, you’ll be able to stargaze from the middle of nowhere under a totally dark sky, but realistically, many of us live in cities. A large aperture and good optics can help make up for the light pollution in your area.
Overall, you want to focus on lens quality and aperture size when you’re purchasing your telescope. Magnification should not be your primary consideration.
All of the scopes we’ve featured here have at least a 2.76” (70mm) aperture, which is enough to generate good, clear images. I strongly suggest not choosing a telescope with a smaller aperture than that.
Other things to consider
Your ultimate purchasing decision will likely be made based on an assessment of the following factors:
- Image clarity and detail
Remember that image quality is correlated with aperture and lens quality and choose accordingly. Personally, I’m a fan of the Orion StarBlast because I can’t get enough of the amazing, intricately detailed views it provides.
As I’ve noted up above, many of these telescopes for kids come with two included eyepieces. However, many people eventually upgrade or expand their lens collection as they get more and more into the hobby.
As for portability, all of these telescopes for kids are pretty portable, though some more than others. All of them are easy to move around your house and take out in the backyard. If you want ultimate portability though, take a close look at the Emarth and the Orion GoScope III.
User-friendliness encompasses a few different things. How easy is the kids telescope to set up? How clear are the instructions? How easy is it to focus? How well does the mount work?
I like the Orion’s tabletop base because of the stability it provides. Once I lock onto a view, I don’t lose it. The Celestron FirstScope has a similar set-up. But other people prefer tripods or other mounts. If possible, try out a few different telescopes at your local planetarium or astronomy group to get a sense of what you prefer.
Next up, versatility. Can the telescope be used for purposes other than astronomy? Can you watch birds or terrestrial wildlife, or take it whale watching? (I don’t recommend spying on people, regardless of your telescope’s abilities).
The Celestron AstroMaster, the Emarth, and the Orion GoScope III can all be used for terrestrial observation.
This is a pretty great feature to have if you and your family like to go on camping trips. You can watch the wildlife during the day, and turn your scope to the stars at night.
And finally, cost. In my opinion, all five of these telescopes offer good value for the money. They range a little bit, with the Orion StarBlast as the most expensive (around $200), and the Celestron FirstScope as the least expensive (around $50). The other three provide solid mid-range options.
If you’re interested in astronomy and you’re hoping to foster that interest in your children, now is a good time to start!
Getting into any new hobby can often seem intense and even confusing. Especially in a field like astronomy, where you can get all muddled up in fancy and expensive equipment.
So start out simple. Just go out for a weekend camping trip to look at the stars. Live in Seattle? Find one of those rare sunny days and head to the Cascades. Live in New England? The Adirondacks aren’t far!Find a good spot and head outside for a while. Maybe you’ll be like our ancient ancestors and fall in love with the sight of the stars and galaxies overhead.
You really don’t need to spend a ton of money as a beginner, but when you do decide to buy a telescope, please make sure you buy real quality. It’s worth a bit more for a mid-range optical device that will serve you well for years over a cheap telescope at a discount store. Buying bad gear at the start of anything can really sour the whole thing, so take your time and study the details of your equipment.
With a bit of practice your entire family will be out there observing the skies every weekend.