12 of the best telescopes for children and families

Get kids and the whole family into astronomy with a simple telescope that's easy to set up and provides great results.

Meade ETX 90 Observer telescope

What’s the best telescope to buy for children interesting in getting into astronomy? This may be something you’ve asked yourself before, but have never been able to confidently settle on a telescope suitable for both kids and the whole family to enjoy.

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Ultimately, you’ll need a telescope that’s easy to set up, yet which provides instant, quality results – so the kids don’t get bored – perhaps with a bit of WiFi connection to get the family iPad in on the action.

We’ve selected some of the best telescopes for young astronomers that should set the family up for nights huddled round the telescope – rather than round the television – for years to come.

1

National Geographic 90mm Automatic Telescope (£357)

National Geographic 90mm Automatic Telescope

This relatively basic model is perfect for astronomy beginners. It comes with 2 eyepieces, an instruction manual, a Moon filter and a CD containing the planetarium software Stellarium. Assembly is straightforward, making this a great ‘set up and go’ system, and you can be observing sooner than you might expect, while the automated ‘GoTo’ system makes finding specific targets a doddle.

Read our full review of the National Geographic 90mm here.

2

Celestron 114 LCM Computerised Telescope (£269)

Celestron 114LCM computerised telescope

Reasonable optics and a computerised mount in this telescope give beginners a tantalising taste of what there is to see in the cosmos. And with just three components – telescope, base and tripod – setup is relatively easy too. The 114LCM comes with a hand controller featuring a database of 4,000 deep-sky objects as well as planets and stars. Weighing just 5kg, it’s ideal for young beginners to set up themselves (with guidance from an adult).

Read our full review of the Celestron 114 LCM here

3

Sky-Watcher STARTRAVEL-102 (AZ-GTe) (£349)

Sky-Watcher Startravel-102 AZ-GTe

Once powered, the STARTRAVEL-102’s mount produces its own Wi-Fi network, which kids can connect to using their mobile device or tablet. A free SynScan app for iOS or Android enables young astronomers to control the system from their device and pick out which target they want to see. Its database contains up to 10,000 objects covering a wide range of the most popular targets.

Read our full review of the Sky-Watcher STARTRAVEL-102 here.

4

Meade ETX 90 Observer telescope (£445)

Meade ETX 90 Observer telescope

The Meade ETZ 90 Observer comes with an AudioStar controller that has a built-in speaker: as well as the 30,000 objects in its database, there are four hours of audio describing astronomical objects, making it a great telescope for parents and kids to huddle around. Plus, it’s easy to set up and no tools are required to do so.

Read our full review of the Meade ETX 90 here.

5

Sky-Watcher Star Discovery 150P (£389)

Sky-Watcher Star Discovery 150P Go-To reflector

This is an ideal telescope for young people to get started with under the guidance of adults, and comes with a tripod, 2 eyepieces and a threaded lens that enables a camera to be attached. The scope offers a rich variety of targets, with nearly 43,000 objects in its database.

Read our full review of the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery 150P here.

6

Celestron Astro FI 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain (£549)

Celestron Astro Fi 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain Wi-Fi system

Celestron’s Astro Fi 5 is a Wi-Fi-controlled system for modern times. It has a focal length of 1,250mm and is best suited to observing planets, lunar and bright deep-sky targets. Wi-Fi/smartphone control of the Astro Fi 5 system works well, while the SkyPortal app is available for iOS or Android. Installation is fast: power up the mount and it automatically sets up a Wi-Fi spot that you can connect to.

Read our full review of the Celestron Astro FI 5 here.

7

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 (£1,980)

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8

A built-in Wi-Fi network enables kids to connect wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet to control this scope, although 
a hand controller is supplied. Assembly is quick and easy and it’s easy to find targets in the night sky. The eye-watering price tag may put you off if you are looking for something less pricey, but if you have a higher budget and are looking for a telescope the whole family will really enjoy, this may be the one.

Read our full review of the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 here.

8

Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian (£184)

Mead LightBridge Mini 130 Dobsonian. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Tabletop telescopes are great for families who may find observing time limited, as they can be quickly set up on a sturdy garden table or wheeled trolley – any flat surface – and you’re ready to go! It could also be taken on a camping trip, making it a good option if your family enjoys observing in the great outdoors.

Read our full review of the Mead Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian

9

Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian (£99)

Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian

Another tabletop telescope, this too would make a great purchase for families who want to be able to get observing in the garden as soon as the clouds clear. Installation is easy: attach the finder, pop in an eyepiece, and you can be viewing the heavens in moments. Weighing just 2.8kg, it’s also a good option if young astronomers want to get more hands-on with the family scope.

Read our full review of the Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian

10

Sky-Watcher Heritage-90 Virtuoso Auto-Track Maksutov (£182)

Sky-Watcher Heritage-90 Virtuoso

If you’re considering getting a scope for your kids or the family to enjoy, you might be worried about the hassle of setting it up. The Sky-Watcher Heritage-90 Virtuoso is all about simplicity and portability. Its maintenance-free telescope is complemented by a minimalistic altaz table-top mount. All you need to get going is a power supply and a suitable table to put it on.

Read our full review of the Sky-Watcher Heritage-90 here.

11

Sky-Watcher SKYMAX-127 (AZ-GTi) WiFi controlled Alt Az mount (£445)

Sky-Watcher SkyMax-127 with AZ-GTi Wi-Fi mount

This is another wirelessly-operated scope that can be controlled with a smartphone, so is an ideal choice for young astronomers who enjoy a bit of tech. The mount provides its own Wi-Fi network, which you connect to via an app. The app will also ask for permission to access your location, which it uses to determine basic details.

Read our full review of the SKYMAX-127 here.

12

Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P SynScan altaz Go-To Newtonian (£279)

Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P SynScan altaz Go-To Newtonian

This telescope’s mount is lightweight, making transporting it fully assembled very easy. We were very pleasantly surprised at how accurately the Go-To functioned, with each object appearing near the centre of the 25mm eyepiece’s field of view. The SkyHawk certainly puts the fun into astronomy with its quick setup, accurate Go-To fucntion and no-nonsense optics.

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Read our full review of the Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P here.