Are you on the hunt for that first telescope for a young astronomer? Getting kids started in astronomy shouldn't be a chore. For a child you'll want a good telescope that's simple to set up and even simpler to use. But most importantly, a kid's first telescope should provide glorious views of the night sky without too much fuss.

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Read our advice on getting children started in astronomy or our guide to astronomy for beginners, and if you feel they're ready for their first scope, see below for our pick of the best kids' telescopes. It might also be worth having a look at our guide to the best beginners' telescopes.

Visit our main reviews section for more of our telescope reviews. Or if you feel they would be better off starting with a pair of binoculars, read our guide to the best binoculars for astronomy.

If imaging the night sky is a potential point of interest, read our guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography.

Using a telescope with kids

Using a telescope with kids and young astronomers

Children and young astronomers need to be comfortable and have their interest piqued when using a telescope for the first time, or they may quickly get bored!

As you'll be observing outdoors, and potentially away from your home, bring mats, chairs and perhaps even sleeping bags and cushions so they can remain warm and comfortable both during and in between observing.

Before you begin, you could get them to experiment closing one eye; perhaps even use a toilet tube to help them practise. That way, the task of looking through the eyepiece won't seem as daunting.

Even then, closing one eye for long periods of time can cause young muscles to ache, so it might worth getting them to cover one eye with their hand while observing.

Do they have a favourite dolly or stuffed toy? Perhaps their cuddly friend could have a go first.

The Pleiades can be found by tracing the three stars of Orion's belt and following the line they create to find what appears as a 'smudge' in the night sky. Credit: Tommy Nawratil / CCDGuide.com
The Pleiades can be found by tracing the three stars of Orion's belt and following the line they create to find what appears as a 'smudge' in the night sky. Credit: Tommy Nawratil / CCDGuide.com

What can you see looking through the telescope? Pick a planet at opposition or a good star cluster like the Pleiades, as these are immediately interesting and bright objects that will attract their attention.

Older kids might benefit from a few amazing facts about the size or distance of the object they're looking at.

Choose a telescope with an adjustable tripod and mount that will suit their height, or else bring a portable step so you don't have to hold them up to the eyepiece.

A good tip is also to hold the child's hand while observing. This will help them ease into it, and will also make them less likely to knock the telescope away from your chosen target!

20 of the best telescopes for kids

1

Sky-Watcher Infinity-76P

Sky-Watcher Infinity-76P

The Infinity-76P is designed for the youngest astronomers and has a distinctive shape that resembles a spaceship. It comes with stickers for decoration and the cardboard box can be folded up to use as a carry case. This is a low-power telescope that can be assembled in minutes; pop the scope onto the curved base, insert the eyepiece and away you go.

The motion of the Infinity-76P is impressively smooth on its mount although it can’t be locked in position, which could pose an issue when small hands make a grab for the eyepiece and move the field of view. Viewing quality is what you’d expect for such a small system, however, we had pleasing sights of the Moon with enough crater detail to keep young minds interested.

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2

Bresser Junior 60/700 AZ1 refractor

Bresser Junior 60/700 AZ1 refractor

The fact that this Bresser telescope, tripod and mount all fit neatly into a carry case is a definite bonus and gives it a level of portability. But once this 60mm refractor is assembled, we doubt it’ll be taken down again. The reason being it’s constructed from about 20 parts that require assembly, making this more of a ‘Meccano mission’ than other kits.

Assembling the scope took 20 minutes, which isn’t unreasonable, given the number of screws and bolts that comprise the build, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to pack it away again any time soon.

The Andromeda Galaxy looked fairly good through this scope but the eyepieces gave a very narrow field of view. We did like the compass and planisphere, which are undervalued tools in an often technology-focused hobby.

3

Orion FunScope 76mm tabletop reflector

Orion FunScope 76mm tabletop reflector

The FunScope comes with a Moon map, which invokes a sense of exploration and helps young astronomers to navigate around lunar craters and seas. It’s almost identical to the Heritage-76 in design, but introduces a slot-in EZ Finder II Reflex Sight instead of a finderscope, which we think is a better addition.

Once there’s an eyepiece attached, however, the setup becomes top-heavy and doesn’t balance. But this issue is not overly important since the telescope has a locking mount. We swung this scope over to the Pleiades and while the stars were sharp at the centre of the field of view, there was distortion at the edges. Nevertheless, it proved good at lunar observation and the Moon map will ensure children want to use this again.

4

Sky-Watcher Heritage-76

Sky-Watcher Heritage-76

The Heritage’s overall finish is excellent and looks attractive. For instance, rather than a plastic base (commonly found on toy telescopes), this one is wooden and gives stability to the setup without making it cumbersome. Movement of the scope in all directions is fluid, meaning that you can swing from one object to the next with minimal effort.

The 300mm focal length allows a decent field of view for popular objects such as the Moon, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades. The Heritage-76 comes supplied with functional, uncomplicated accessories suitable for beginners – a finderscope and two eyepieces.

While the finderscope is plastic and perhaps a little cheap, the eyepieces are fair quality. In use the focuser allows a decent level of control and is easy to manage for slight adjustments.

5

Meade LightBridge Mini 82mm

Meade LightBridge Mini 82mm

Much like the Heritage-76 and Orion FunScope, the LightBridge is a tabletop telescope, though it has a bit more aperture at 82mm. This increases light sensitivity and allows it to show more detail from the objects you want to observe while still remaining compact.

This time, we found a 2x Barlow lens and red-dot finder (battery supplied) accompanying the eyepieces. The kit also comes with a planetarium app you can install on a computer. The red-dot finder has a nice wide screen, which increases its ease of use. While stars could be sharper, the eyepieces are of fair quality.

The instructions are not child-friendly at first glance, with a large booklet and some intimidating-looking text accompanying the kit. But further investigation revealed that many of these instructions don’t apply to this model so can be disregarded.

6

Celestron AstroMaster LT 60AZ refractor

Celestron AstroMaster LT 60AZ refractor

The AstroMaster is a refractor and the first of the six scopes on test group that looks like ‘a proper telescope’. By that we mean it’s the traditional telescope-on-a-tripod setup. The kit is robust but lightweight and only comes in two main parts, allowing for quick and straightforward assembly. We needed a screwdriver, which is a slight minus, but it is still ready in minutes.

The eyepieces each provide sharp views of stars and great lunar detail with minimal distortion at the edges. The tripod is light and while the equipment tray provides stability, care is needed not to nudge and move the setup when it’s in use.

The supplied smartphone adapter really grabbed our attention, as it allows users to delve into astrophotography as well as dabble with astronomy. This will enhance the experience for young users, especially once they have provided an image that proud parents can share on social media.

7

Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Maksutov-Cassegrain

Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Maksutov-Cassegrain

The Orion StarMax 90 tabletop telescope is great for young astronomers who want to view the Moon and planets as well as galaxies and nebulae.

It's compact and light and simple to use. It works well on a flat surface but can also be attached to a tripod.

The StarMax 90 comes with 25mm and 10mm eyepieces and a diagonal.

8

National Geographic 90mm Automatic Telescope

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 National Geographic 90mm review

9

Celestron 114 LCM Computerised Telescope

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 Celestron 114 LCM review

10

Sky-Watcher STARTRAVEL-102 (AZ-GTe)

BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Will Gater reveals what to look for when buying your first telescope.

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 Sky-Watcher STARTRAVEL-102 review

11

Meade ETX 90 Observer telescope

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 Meade ETX 90 review

12

Sky-Watcher Star Discovery 150P

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 Sky-Watcher Star Discovery 150P review

13

Celestron Astro FI 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain

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 Celestron Astro FI 5 review

14

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8

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 Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 review

15

Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian

Meade 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 Mead Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian review

16

Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian

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 Sky-Watcher Heritage-90 review

17

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

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 SKYMAX-127 review

18

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

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 function and no-nonsense optics.

Read our full Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P review

19

Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor

Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

The attractive design and affordability of the Celestron Inspire 100AZ make it a great option for kids and young astronomers. It offers good aperture and 660mm focal length at a reasonable cost, and is pretty much a complete observing telescope package.

The tripod has a robust pan and tilt head with 32mm-diameter, stainless-steel and, importantly for kids, adjustable-height legs.

20mm and 10mm Kellner eyepieces are supplied, and there’s also a 90° erect image diagonal included. Completing the package is a red light LED torch, accessory tray/leg spreader and a dual-purpose dust cap.

The whole setup is light and easy to carry around even when it’s fully assembled, allowing children and young astronomers to get on with observing as quickly as possible.

What's more, it comes with its own smartphone telescope adapter, allowing youngsters to photograph what they see on their smartphones and share on social media.

Read our full Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor review

20

Starbase 80 refractor and mount package

starbase 80 refractor telescope

This is a great entry-level, grab-and-go telescope that comes on a portable, sturdy and durable altaz mount.

Assembly is straightforward, with the mount and tripod in one section, so you just need to attach tube and rings before adding the slow-motion controls and altitude clamp.

Operation is smooth and we got great views of the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy and double stars: all exciting and accessible deep-sky objects perfect for young astronomers.

Read our full Starbase 80 telescope review

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Do you know a young astronomer who loves their telescope? Is it on our list? If not, let us know and we'll look into reviewing it! Get in touch via contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com.

Authors

Charlotte DanielsAstrophotographer

Charlotte Daniels is an astronomy journalist and an experienced astrophotographer and image processor.