Guide to choosing a telescope for children
Our guide to picking the best telescope for kids
Choosing a telescope for yourself or someone else can be a tricky task, especially when it’s for a child. In this buying guide we’ll highlight the key factors that you’ll need to consider when buying a telescope for your kids, and help you choose the best telescope for their age and ability. Whether your child is a budding astronomer who has expressed an interest in getting a telescope, or you want to share your passion of exploring the night sky with them, take a moment to consider the key points below before making your purchase.
Don’t buy toy telescopes
Lets get things straight; most telescopes that are specifically targeted at children will only be suitable for those under the age of six. Indeed, most kids telescopes available in toy shops and such like will be of a low quality, will be pretty hard to use successfully, and won’t stand up to use. They may be a fun ‘toy’ for younger children, but if your kids want to actually see something in the night sky rather than a load of fuzzy lights, then we’d strongly advise opting for a telescope from an optical brand that’s known for producing good quality optics. You don’t have to spend the earth, but a low to mid cost model from the likes of Sky-Watcher, Nova, Meade, or Carson will undoubtably perform better than a toy telescope and will further pique any kids interest in outer space.
Don’t spend the earth, choose a telescope that will grow with your child and can be upgraded
If your child has expressed a keen interest in learning more about the night sky, but you’re not sure whether it’ll just be a fad, or whether they’ll become keen astronomers, then it’s wise to get them a mid priced telescope that won’t break the bank. For children who are six and over, we’d recommend getting them a fully functional telescope that will perform to a good enough standard for them to enjoy their first star gazing experiences, and won’t leave them frustrated and cause them to loose interest due to poor performance.
The great thing about most mid priced scopes is that they’re designed to be compatible with higher quality telescope accessories such as eyepieces and mounts, should you wish to make some equipment upgrades at a later date.
Always take into account the features offered by the telescope
Don’t forget to take into account the basics when it comes to buying your child's telescope. Decide whether they’d be best suited to a refractor or a reflector telescope, what sized aperture you can afford, and what type of mount and tripod the telescope comes with. If you’re not too familiar with these factors, then be sure to read our general buyer’s guide for telescopes next. Remember, magnification is not is not a useful measure of a telescopes quality or viewing capability!
Refractor or reflector?
You can find out more about the difference between refractor and reflector telescopes in our buyer’s guide and FAQ’s, but ultimately, if you child only wants to view celestial objects such as moon and stars, then a reflector telescope will be the easiest option to maintain, and you’ll get more bang for your buck, but if you’re also going to want to view day time scenes, then a refractor telescope is the option for your family.
AZ or EQ mount?
When it comes to choosing the mount for your child’s telescope, you’ll need to decide whether you want to opt for an AZ mount that is the easiest to use, or the more complex EQ mount which will present more of a learning curve at the beginning but will ultimately make it easier to track objects in the night sky. Find out more about the difference between the two types of mounts on our FAQ page.
Choose a scope that your child will be able to use with a bit of initial guidance
Choose a scope that will challenge your child’s skill, patience and intellect, and help them learn, but won’t be so hard to use that they’ll require constant help from you, or give up on their new hobby. You know your child best and will have a good idea of the level of complexity that they’ll be able to cope with.
Be prepared to offer a hand
Regardless of your child’s age and ability, you’ll need to be on hand to help set up their telescope and teach them how to use it. If you’ve not used a telescope before yourself, then we’d recommend taking some time on your own to get used to using the telescope before trying to teach them. You want your child’s first experience of their telescope to be a rewarding, fascinating and enjoyable experience, and watching Mum or Dad struggle to focus the telescope won’t install them with confidence in their new equipment! Give your child the star gazing support they need to fully enjoy their hobby by purchasing a beginners guide book to astronomy, joining a local astronomy club, and teaching them about the science of the solar system. Once you’ve shown them the ropes, most ten year olds should be able operate their scope on their own.
Now you’ve had some time to consider what makes a good telescope for kids, it’s time to choose the best telescope for your child. Browse our full collection of telescopes, or opt for one of our recommended telescopes below, and open up a whole new world of astronomy for your family.