Astronomy For Kids: 11 Best Telescopes For Beginners

I’ve been staring into the night skies for years – first with just my naked eye, but later with a range of telescopes. Over the decades, I’ve had the joy of seeing the next generation pick up the hobby.

But as time has marched on, there are more choices and features available at lower prices. While this is great for us parents, it’s hard to decide just what telescope is the right one for our kids.

Don’t worry! You’ll find my picks below, along with a list of the items to watch out for when you are buying a telescope for kids. Along with my personal experience, I’ve spent over 30 hours researching different models and looking through other expert reviews to help narrow down the list to the choices you’ll see below.

When choosing telescopes for beginning explorers, there are some important considerations to take into account.

What I Look For When Shopping For The Best Telescope For Children

Aperture is the telescope’s most important feature. A telescope’s aperture size controls the amount of light – which determines the amount of light the telescope captures. Larger aperture means brighter, clearer images. But, the larger the aperture, the larger the telescope, so it’s necessary to find a balance.

What Type of Telescope: reflector, refractor or compound: We go into more detail below about the various pros and cons of the different styles of telescopes, but here’s the quick version. Reflector telescopes only allow for celestial viewing while refractor and compound telescopes can view both land and the night sky. Reflector scopes tend to take up less space and will often give a bit more bang for your buck if your child is only interested in astronomical pursuits – but they require some maintenance as well. Refractor telescopes tend to be longer and thinner but are great for kids who are interested in using their scope for more than just looking at planets and stars – and won’t likely remember to seal up their telescope. Compound telescopes have two mirrors, which gives them more power but makes for dimmer images than the other two styles. They are great for astrophotography.

The focal length primarily depends on the length of the kids telescope. A longer focal length comes with a tradeoff – less field of view. Smaller focal length telescopes have less magnification but allow you to see a wider view in the telescope. They make for great terrestrial viewing.

Telescopes with longer focal length can pull in objects from farther away – say the rings of Saturn – but won’t give you much field of view. They generally work better as celestial telescopes.

Finding the right balance for focal length is what makes a good general terrestrial and celestial telescope.

Magnification is determined by the telescope’s eyepiece. High magnification is important, but its value is dependent on the aperture and focal length. A high magnification eyepiece will do little good with a low aperture telescope. Many telescopes come with two eyepieces, for lower and higher magnification viewing.

Many telescopes include accessories such as a tripod, carry case, accessory tray and astronomy software, cutting down the size of the initial investment. An adjustable tripod is a nice feature to have – telescopes for kids really should have this feature standard.

Choosing a telescope for a child should take all of the above aspects into consideration. However, there are a few more items to keep in mind before your teen starts exploring the solar system:

  •  A child’s telescope should be easy and uncomplicated to use. An overly complicated telescope just won’t be as much fun. The best telescopes for kids are easier to get up and running with quickly.
  • Compact size is important. A smaller child is not going to enjoy using an enormous telescope. A kid’s telescope should be easy for a smaller person to use.
  • Durability is a necessity for kids’ telescopes; lots of small, fragile pieces can easily get lost or broken. Fortunately, there are plenty of telescopes perfect for young astronomers.

Our Choices For The Best Telescope For Kids – Compared

Individual Reviews of Telescopes For Children

1. Best Overall Beginner Telescope: Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope

Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope- our best telescope for beginners

The Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope is the perfect telescope for those looking to try out astronomy. Very reasonably priced, it’s a great portable telescope that offers high quality viewing with a 20x magnification, for observing the Moon and planet. The scope includes a tripod and carry case for the telescope and accessories. There’s also a handy finder scope to help you locate the general region of the star or other celestial objects you want to see. The Celestron also comes with astronomy software with a 10,000 object database, printable sky maps, and enhanced images.

The portable refractor telescope is lightweight (weighs 1.5 pounds) and can be mounted on the tripod. The tripod is versatile enough where a child could use it on the ground or assemble it as a tabletop telescope. The adjustable tripod adjusts to the viewer’s desired height. It comes with a custom backpack to carry all the gear and accessories to your desired star-gazing location, whether that is in your backyard, out on a camping or hiking trip, or across the country.

Accessories include two eyepieces, a 10 mm, and 20 mm and a 45-degree erect image diagonal for image correction. The 10 mm helps to view details, and the 20 mm eyepiece provides sharp image resolution with maximum magnification at 140x and wider viewing. Easy to set up and use, this budget portable telescope is ideal for terrestrial and astronomical viewing.

Beginners can use the night-time scope and panhandle for viewing celestial objects and navigating the skies. Attaching the lens cap and removing its center part helps to view a bright star or open cluster. The Travel Scope 70 is a first-rate daytime scope for observing terrestrial objects like amateur birdwatching, detecting wildlife movement, or groupings at the shooting range.

The Celestron 70mm Travel Scope is the best telescope for kids and amateur astronomers with its magnification settings, powerful eyepieces for close-up viewing, a large 70 mm aperture objective lens for enhanced bright views, adjustable height tripod, and Starry Night software.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 70mm

Best for: Portability, accessories, value for money

2.Best Reflector Telescope For Kids: Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

best telescope - refractor telescope- celestron-127eq-powerseeker-telescope

The Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope is a great value piece of kit and one of the best reflector telescopes for beginners. With a 127 mm aperture you will be able to see craters on the moon, Jupiter and its moons, Saturn and its rings and much much more. Being a reflector scope it will only be usable for astronomical purposes but with the specialization comes spectacular celestial nighttime viewing.

Everything you need to get started is in the package, including a Starry Night astronomy software program with over 10,000 celestial phenomena. The beginner-friendly telescope doesn’t even require tools for assembly. With the telescopic long tube attached to the preassembled tripod and equatorial mount, you’re ready to view the night’s mysteries within minutes.

The 127 mm aperture is one of the largest apertures available on beginner telescope lenses allowing for a variety of viewing including the Moon, planets, nebulae, and star clusters. Expect clarity and brightness with the optical components; the glass is coated with high transmission aluminum. With the 5-inch mirror and 4 mm eyepiece, the magnification is as high as x250, which means beginners can effortlessly view details on distant objects. At low magnification levels, beginners can observe the Orion nebula or the Lagoon nebula. Under the darkest of skies, you will see the shading of Mars and Martian ice caps, all of Mercury’s phases, Jupiter with its largest cloud belts and moons, and the more distant planets, like Neptune and Uranus, aren’t just light spots but appear as discs.

At the fantastic price point, it is the best budget telescope for young astronomers and intermediate astronomers on a budget will also appreciate the Celestron PowerSeeker refracting telescope features. The collapsible tripod makes easy storage, and the telescope is light enough for comfortable travel.

Aperture: 127 mm

Best for: Astronomy, value for money

Type: Reflector

3. For Kids Testing-The-Waters: Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars

Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars

Not a telescope per se, the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars are worth real consideration as an alternative to a telescope. While many go straight for a scope when it comes to stargazing, there are some real advantages to using a good set of binoculars, especially for kids. These SkyMaster binocs are designed specifically for celestial viewing and offer as good, if not better, aperture than many of the telescopes. They are easy to carry, transport and hold, and offer quick and easy viewing for moving lunar objects. In fact, many astronomers agree that for many aspects of skywatching they are the best tool for the job.

Using both eyes, you see in 3D, giving you a better image with binoculars. Young children may find binoculars easier to use than telescopes; if they aren’t strong enough to hold the binoculars, you could mount it on the adaptable tripod. The ability to magnify objects 15x brings Saturn’s rings, Venus’ phases, Jupiter’s moons, and the Moon’s craters into view.

If caught in the rain, the water-resistant exterior offers protection, and the secure gripping surface makes it easy to hold without fear of slipping out of your hands. The soft rubber eyecups block stray light and are comfortable against the eyes. By folding down the eyecups, eyeglass wearers can keep the glasses on while using the binoculars.

The SkyMaster Giant Binoculars is an excellent gift for those who enjoy stargazing and long-distance viewing. The entire family benefits from a pair of good binoculars even if your child’s interest changes to other things. The binoculars feature BaK-4 prism, and full multi-coatings make the affordable price more appealing.  

Type: Binocular (explore more kids binoculars)

Aperture: 70mm

Best for: Simplicity, portability, exceptional telescope alternative, younger children

4. Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope

Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope Moon Kit- telescopes for beginners

The Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope Moon Kit is a great telescope for your budding astronomer. This reasonably priced, lightweight, night and day refractor telescope comes with a tripod, Orion Moon Map, and a rugged backpack that fits the telescope and accessories.

If your family enjoys road trips, then the Orion Go Scope is one of the best celestial and terrestrial telescopes. It comes with a custom backpack and doesn’t require much storage space; the lightweight portability features make it a great telescope for kids. The grab-and-go refractor telescope is ready for any adventure, from bird watching, scenic long-distance viewing, nature study for school projects, or stargazing at night.

Kids learn about magnification settings by using multiple eyepieces, the low-power eyepiece searches the sky and magnifying the high-power eyepiece up to x40, they have a closer view of the Moon. The moon maps teach them the names of craters and mountains they are viewing through the telescope.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 70mm

Best for: Portability, accessories, Moon Map software, value for money

5. Meade Instruments Infinity 60 AZ Refractor Telescope

Meade Instruments 209002 Infinity 60 AZ Refractor Telescope- telescopes for beginners

The Meade Instruments 209002 Infinity 60 AZ Refractor Telescope includes two eyepieces that provide low and high powered magnification for viewing objects on land and in space. This beginner telescope has an Altazimuth mount with slow motion control rod for tracking celestial objects as they move across the night sky. It comes with and Autostar Suite Astronomy DVD.

Intended for beginners, the Meade Instruments telescope offers a complete setup for viewing planets, the Moon, and meteor showers. The altazimuth refractor mount features slow-motion tracking and an altitude lock to assist beginners in tracking objects. With the horizontal and vertical correction of the diagonal’s prism, viewers can use the telescope also for viewing earth objects. Two eyepieces and a 2x Barlow doubles the magnification of each eyepiece when viewing a wide range of things.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 60mm

Best for: Entry level, low cost

6. Celestron COSMOS 60AZ Telescope

Celestron COSMOS 60AZ Telescope- telescopes for beginners

An entry-level telescope with a cool design, the Celestron COSMOS 60AZ Telescope is a refractor telescope, so it can be used for both land and space viewing. It boasts clear optics and includes a red dot finder-scope, 2 Kellner eyepieces, mirror star diagonal, free planetarium app, and Cosmic Calendar poster. As a little added bonus, a portion of the proceeds from this telescope benefits the International Dark-Sky Association to minimize light pollution.

A young astronomer interested in the Moon will enjoy this durable telescope. At the low price point, the optics offer an excellent lunar view and reasonable planetary views. This regular telescope is not designed, nor does it compete with an expensive high-tech telescope with high-quality eyepieces made for outer space observation and details like the Great Red Spot or the phases of Venus.

With the slow-motion control for the altazimuth mount’s vertical axis and the correct diagonal image rotation, the telescope works well for terrestrial viewing. The tripod is sturdy on flat surface is perfect for use at home or in the backyard. Although the finder piece is made from plastic, it works well enough.

The Celestron 60AZ telescope is the right telescope for kids looking for more than just a toy telescope. Beginners will appreciate the SkyX First Light Edition software containing helpful information to get them started. The 10,000 objects database includes fun, printable sky charts and educational insights stargazers will enjoy.  

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 60mm

Best for: Entry level, novelty, accessories

7. Great Telescope For Teens: Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope

Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope- telescopes for beginners

The Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope is a step up from some of the more basic starter telescopes for beginners, but still reasonably priced. This telescope provides clear and bright images of the moon and planets and it includes a rugged tripod and planetarium software.

Amateurs and beginners will enjoy the simplicity of the telescope, which is ideal for recreational use. It is quick to set up, and the telescope mount is the perfect size for children. The 70 mm aperture ensures good lunar observation, and magnification up to x165 will bring planets into view. It is a good telescope for long-distance viewing of nature, wildlife, and birdwatching by day and stars and bright planets at night; you may even see the rings of Saturn on a clear night.  

The built-in star pointer helps younger kids and beginners to track moving objects. Children can learn more about our solar system and outer space by downloading the Starry Night software package with 36,000 object database, sky maps to print, and enhanced images.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 70mm

Best for: Simple setup, midrange

8. iOptron iExplore 50AZ Refractor Telescope

iOptron 6004 iExplore 50AZ Refractor Telescope- telescopes for beginners

The iOptron 6004 iExplore 50AZ Refractor Telescope is a very inexpensive and simple entry-level telescope, offering value and quality for the price. It’s not the most powerful on the list but is a perfect option for the youngest astronomers. If you are looking for a telescope to view the moon but not as worried about trying to see other planets, this is a decent choice.

If your child wonders what is inside the bird’s nest, this telescope makes it possible with the 600 mm focal length refractor tube magnification feature. On a camping trip or in the backyard, your child can optimize daylight hours with earth viewing and enjoy a stargazing experience at night.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 50mm

Best for: Basic, low cost

9. Gskyer 600x90mm AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope

Great kids telescope - Image Of Gskyer 600x90mm Az Astronomical Refractor Telescope

Whether your child is interested in observing the Moon and planets or the details of a pet in the distance, the Gskyer 600x90mm AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope may satisfy their curiosity.

The fully antireflection coated optics glass lens with high transmission protects your child’s eyes while bringing breathtaking images clearly into view. A 3x Barlow lens magnifies the power of the three replaceable eyepieces. Beginners will find the telescope easy to focus without needing additional tools. The aluminum tripod adjusts from 31.5 inches to 49 inches allowing for various viewing positions.

With over 20 years of experience and German technology, Gskyer offers a various telescopes for astronomy, science, tourism, and exploration. This astronomical refractor telescope is not a professional telescope but a powerful telescope at its price point and competes with telescopes in much higher price ranges.

The telescope is a great value for the price; it is well made, easy to set up, mounted on a sturdy tripod with adjustable tripod legs, easily portable, and has a relatively high aperture. It is an excellent birthday gift for fun STEM learning and allowing kids to see the full moon, bright planets, and objects in the sky displayed on star charts.

Type: Refractor

Aperture: 90mm

Best for: Intermediate, higher end

10. Celestron Cometron FirstScope

Celestron 21023 Cometron FirstScope

The Celestron 21023 Cometron FirstScope is an inexpensive option in telescopes for beginners. It’s lightweight, takes up very little space, and is simple to use. Many users find this style of telescope, which sits on a table top or base rather than a tripod, to be steadier and less shaky, especially for children. It includes two Kellner eyepieces and a finderscope.

A few things make this an excellent telescope for kids and beginners. The main telescope comes pre-assembled; it only requires fixing the telescope tube. Kids can start viewing in no time. The simple design and user-friendly features won’t hinder novices from experiencing what they’ve previously only seen on star maps and pictures in books. The telescope gives clear images, and the finder scope helps find images like lunar craters, deep-sky objects, and comets; with the wide field of view, you won’t miss the brighter image of the comet’s tail.

The Dobsonian-style tabletop telescope will look great on a desk or a bookshelf in your kid’s bedroom. It is an excellent buy as an entry-level telescope; if your child shows an ongoing interest, it won’t break the bank to upgrade to upgrade at this low price. The complete package also includes a free download of the Starry Night Astronomy software.  

Type: Reflector

Aperture: 76mm

Best for: Simple, low cost

11. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

If your child is looking to get serious about astronomy then the Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope is the hot ticket. With a large aperture of 130mm, the scope gives sharp and bright views of planets, the Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters. If you think astronomy is a hobby worth investing in, this is the scope for your little stargazer.

The short 24-inch-long optical tube offers a wider field of view, ideal for deep space observations of nebulae, clusters, and galaxies. You can easily carry the telescope with its short tube (ST), which makes it ideal for camping trips, backyard adventures, or stargazing indoors. Slow-motion tracking allows tracking as objects in the sky migrate.

A solid choice, the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is one of the popular telescopes for intermediate and serious beginner stargazers, the perfect gift for a stargazing hobbyist. The complete package includes two 1.25” Sirius Plossl eyepieces 10 mm and 25 mm, a finder scope, 1.25 inches rack and pinion focuser, tripod accessory tray, and a Starry Night software program.

Type: Reflector

Aperture: 130mm

Best for: Intermediate/Advanced, value for money

Educational Information About The Three Types of Telescopes: Refractors, Reflectors and Compound Telescopes

As mentioned earlier, there are three types of telescopes. While all are built to isolate light from stars billions of miles away, they capture this light in different ways. That gives them different strengths and weaknesses versus one another. There’s no one “best” type of telescope – only one that’s best for the situation at hand.

Refractor Telescopes:

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The refractor telescope is the most common build type. It’s probably the kind you first had as a kid – partially because of the ease-of-use, partially because it can take a little bit of abuse and still work. It’s made up of a large lens near the front of the telescope tube (called the objective lens) which directly sends light to the eyepiece. The eyepiece is the focal point of the lens. The objective lens can gather much more light than the human eye alone. This makes distant objects appear crisper and magnified.

Refractor Telescope Strengths:

  • Very easy to use design.
  • Most resistant to damage of all telescope styles.
  • No real maintenance needed to keep the telescope operational. No need to realign or recoat.
  • Bright images with high contrast versus other types.
  • Eyepiece location means you see in the direction the eye looks – more intuitive for beginners to find items to look at in the sky.

Refractor Telescope Weaknesses:

  • Longer size means they are more prone to vibration and shaking – makes it harder to stay on a celestial target.
  • These can be longer, heavier and bulkier for the same size aperture versus other telescope models.
  • Cheaper models suffer from chromatic aberration – the color won’t remain true around the fringes of the image.
  • In general, you get a smaller size aperture for the same money versus reflector-style scopes.

Reflector Telescopes:

A reflector telescope is a top contender for a best kid's telescope only if the child is good at using best telescopes.  Unlike a refractor, there is maintence before using.  The eyepiece is easy to use.  Children want telescopes for kids to be easy to use. Not for beginners, more for young experts.  These portable telescopes are educational, great experience while camping.

A reflector telescope uses mirrors to reflect light to the eyepiece. The eyepiece is usually (but not always) near the front of the telescope. These telescopes usually have larger apertures – 114mm to 150mm are common on starter models.

Reflector Telescope Strengths:

  • You will get larger mirror sizes (apertures) for the money on this type of telescope. All else equal, that leads to more magnification and better image quality.
  • Having the eyepiece on top of the tube makes it more accessible depending on the setup.
  • Better at drawing in fainter objects.
  • Most models are among the lighter and more compact type of telescopes.

Reflector Telescope Weaknesses:

  • Reliance on mirrors means less robust than reflector models.
  • Mirrors also require maintenance – you need to periodically re-align the mirrors. Eventually, you will be required to recoat the mirror to keep up performance.
  • Can’t use these to view objects on earth – at least, not well.

Compound (aka SCT or Maksutov) Telescopes:

Unlike binoculars, compound telescopes use optics and mirrors to help you view planets.  To use the telescope, teens and kids look through the eyepiece to experience clear, simple views at night.  The best telescope is designed for safety and to be sturdy and friendly.  Check the review for aperture and focal length information.

These telescopes use a combination of mirrors and lenses in a sealed tube to make the heavens appears closer to the viewer. Like the refractor, this type of telescope usually has the eyepiece at the back of the telescope.

Compound Telescope Strengths:

  • A wide field of view that allows for good brightness and contrast.
  • The best style if you want to take pictures through your telescope.
  • Compound telescopes have a shorter scope tube for any given aperture – making them more portable and often lighter as well.
  • Intuitive use – just aim the scope and look through the eyepiece.
  • Sealed tube means less maintenance responsibilities.

Compound Telescope Weaknesses:

  • This model type is generally more expensive for each unit of aperture vs the other type of scopes.
  • While not necessarily heavier, they have a more bulky appearance.
  • Images aren’t as bright as with the other types.

Telescopes for beginners can introduce children to the wonders of the night sky and foster a love of astronomy. Does your child enjoy using a telescope? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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