Our round up of the best portable telescopes for kids to foster children curiosity about the universe at home and while traveling.
Stargazing is one of our favourite activities as a family. No matter where we are, may it be our backyard or the emotional landscapes of the Grand Canyon, we always take the time to look up at the night sky and let our mind wander along the infinite distances of the universe.
The kids love stargazing too: when they were tiny, they loved the moon, its phases and moody appearance, and now that they are a little older they are starting to get curious about constellations, nebulas and more widely the functioning and mysteries of outer space.
To foster their curiosity and add a layer of knowledge to out amateur way of looking for constellations, we decided to get them a kids telescope that they could use both at home and while away.
After a lot more research that I ever thought needed, we learnt what makes a good telescope for kids, what types of kids telescope exists and what some of the best telescopes for kids exist out there and at what price point.
This is the result of our searches!
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
What is the best type of telescope for kids?
There are 3 types of telescopes: refractor, reflector and compound
What is a refractor telescope
This is the most common type of telescope. It has a big lens at the front and a second lens at the back and the light travels from one to the other before getting to the eye pieces. These telescopes are great for kids since they have a simple design, require little or no maintenance and can be used to see objects on earth as well as in the sky. The downside of refractor telescopes is that they are not great with faint objects and not great value for money (if compared with a reflector)
What is a reflector telescope
Reflector telescopes are different from refractors as they use mirrors. The mirror makes a huge difference in terms of quality of image and makes seeing faint object a lo easier, something that definitely sets them apart form refractor models. The downside to reflector telescopes is that the tube may collect dust so some maintenance is required and they cannot be used for earth objects, so they are very much for space lovers only.
What is a compound telescope
Compound telescopes are bigger and of bulkier appearance than the other two and use 2 mirrors plus a lense to deliver images of space object both bright and faint. They are good for objects both in the sky and on earth and are great if you want to tip your toes into astrophotography. The main downsides of compound telescopes are the price, usually higher than the cost of the other two types, and the fact that they are bulkier and therefore less portable than others.
So the best type of telescope for kids is….
After this premise, it is clear that the best telescope for kids depends on the use the child in question will make of it, but overall this is our guide.
Best kids telescope for beginners: refractor or reflector
Best telescope for kids who want to observe both stars and birds: refractor or compound
The best children telescope for faint, faraway objects: Reflector or compound
Best children telescope for image quality: reflector or compound
Best value for money: reflector
For astrophotography: Compound
What to look for when choosing a telescope for kids
Telescopes are a marvel of engineering and optics and if you wanted to fully understand how they work and what to look for you would need way more than this article. However, for parents interested in knowing some of the basic specs to look for when picking a telescope for kids (and for parents who want to impress kids with some knowledge, since the children are sure to know all this already!) these are some things to look out for.
Like in photography, aperture is the diameter of your telescope’s mirror or lens. It determines how much light comes into the telescope and therefore, at a very elementary level, how much your child will be able to see. For children, the bigger aperture you can get for your budget, the better.
Slightly less important than aperture, the focal length is the distance between the focal point of your telescope and the telescope mirror or lens. Like for aperture, for buying purposes bigger focal length means bigger objects so in doubt, look for a high number.
We talked about magnification in our buying guide to kids binoculars and the same concept applies to children telescopes. Magnification measures how many times bigger an object will appear through your instruments vs real life. The bigger the magnification, the bigger the visual satisfaction. In case of children telescopes or telescopes in general, magnification is determined by the focal length and the eye piece. For children starting our stargazing or for their first telescope, get one with long focal length and a started eye piece. Should they then decide they want more, you can upgrade to a higher magnification eye piece at a later date.
Many telescopes nowadays work in conjunction with computers. These telescopes are highly attractive for kids as they mix the old style observation of the night sky with modern tech and make it a lot easier to track objects in the sky and name them.
They can be great for children age 6 and up but they do take away, in my opinion, a good bit of the satisfaction of scouting the sky for what you are looking for and then bask in the satisfaction of having found your way through the stars!
Computer control telescopes have the great advantage of making tracking objects a lot easier and may be a great hook for kids who are attracted to tech.
The best telescopes for kids under 8: buying guide 2019
Telescopes are a present suitable also to very young kids but if you are buying for a child under 6 it is worth buying a telescope that is designed specifically for children.
This usually means they are easy to use for this age range, manageable in terms of size and have tripods that can adjusted to their height.
Some of the best telescopes for kids under 8 are.
Educational Insights Moonscope and star gazer journal
I discover this brand when looking for binoculars and it is a great one for kids. This refractor telescope for children has a kid friendly design that make it look a little like a toy more than gear but delivers in terms of quality of view.
Small enough to be a rather unobtrusive object, it has a moon filter, two eyepieces and a built in, pre-aligned finder scope with glow-in-the-dark ring to make it easy to use.
The Moonscope also comes with a 22-Page Sky Gazers Journal includes stories about the moon plus fun observation activities. Manufactrers recommend it for age 8 and up. They also have a model for younger kids
TwinStar AstroMark refractor travel telescope for kids
The TwinStar AstroMark telescope for kids has a very different look from the one above and is perfect for older kids or kids who want to feel they have a serious piece of gear in their hands. This is an easy to use, refractor telescope for children, which requires no assembly or set up and still delivers good quality images. Overall, this is an excellent entry level telescope for children who are starting to love and be interested in space and star gazing. The set includes the tripod.
Celestron 50 portable kids telescope (travelscope)
Celestron is a well known brand for telescopes and this telescope for kids is a great buy as an entry level piece of gear that delivers in terms of look and quality of the image. This is a refractor telescope and is easy to assemble and lightweight: it comes with a short tripod that makes it possible to sit it on a table next to a window and observe from there. The telescope and tripod come in a custom backpack that is perfect for traveling and storage. This is a good kids’ telescope for beginners but Celestron also does a more elaborate model older kids may enjoy in the PowerSeeker 70AZ.
TwinStar 60mm Refractor Telescope (several colours available)
Another excellent telescope for kids is the TwinStar 60mm, the bigger lens version of the TwinStar model mentioned above. This version of the telescope as, as the name suggests, a wider lens, has a handy viewfinder on its side and comes with an adjustable tripod. As an extra plus, this kids telescope comes in several colours including a traditional black and a pink one.
Best telescopes for kids 8 and up
If you are buying a telescope for older children you may want to make sure this is an object that grows with them and can keep up with the higher expectation of an older kid, pre-teens or teenagers.
Celestron 21035 Kids travelscope
An excellent refractor telescopes for beginners and intermediate star gazer, the Celestron 21035 is not just good quality but also portable, which means you can easily carry it on vacation with you. It comes pre assembled and ready to use as well as lightweight and it comes with two eyepieces (20 mm and 10 mm), 45° erect image diagonal, and 5×24 finderscope.
Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm
If you are looking at getting a Reflector telescope, this Orion model is an excellent choice in terms of cost and usability and is is also a good travel option because of its light weight. This kids telescope comes with tripod and mount and it also is accompanied by a Orion Telescope Observer’s Guide book with suggestions on over sixty interesting objects to look for.
Celestron Next Star portable computerised kids telescope
If budget is no issue, you may want to go all out and get your children a compound, computerised telescope such as the Celestron next star.
The only computerised telescope in this list, this Celestron model is an excellent kids telescope if you are looking for a compound telescope you can move with ease and bring on your adventure. This telescope is great for young kids but also gives great satisfaction to teenagers and grown ups because of the quality of the image delivered. The Celestron telescope uses technology to allow you to identify over 40.000 objects in the sky: this is how many are stored in its impressive database!
Other cool gifts for space loving kids
A telescope is a wonderful gift for a space loving kids but if you are looking for something smaller or something to complement this purchase, here are some more ideas on space gifts kids may love.
Smithsonian Planetarium projector
A cool planetarium projector brings the night sky into your room! This small object projects HD space images onto your walls surrounding you with planets, nebulae, moons, asteroids and even space crafts!
Nat Geo space enciclopedia
The perfect gift for the fact hungry child who loves learning amazing facts and trivia about space
Space inspired Lego sets
Lovers of space and Lego are spoilt for choice when it comes to options available. They are an excellent choice for kids of all ages and they stimulate building skills, focus and creativity. We are particularly attracted by space crafts such as this one:
Space floor puzzle
Puzzles are always a great gifts and they come in so many levels of difficulty you are sure to find one to suit the kid you are buying for.
Astronaut helmet for kids
What to foster love for space, ambition and role play all at the same time? Then make your little astronaut look the part with an astronaut helmet. Who knows, many out of the many kids who dream of becoming an astronaut, this one actually will?
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites