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How to Choose a Telescope for a Child

Posted by Ryan DeLange on

Apart from the romantic aspects of owning a telescope (the mysteries of the universe and our place in it), there are practical benefits for children too: increased scientific curiosity, hands-on experience with the principles of physics, a sense of reward for patience, study, and action.

What a great gift that a child can experience - all without leaving the backyard!

This guide will help you choose the right telescope for a child. Let’s explore what type of telescope is the best gift for your situation.

You might first want to read this in-depth article about the types of telescopes.

Telescope Recommendations for Different Age Groups

Telescopes for young children - Aged 4-5

Children this young are not up late at night, especially not out in the yard under the stars. They are developing dexterity and they enjoy sensory and tactile stimulation. These children require a light-weight, simple design that can also be used for seeing during the daytime. They need a small refractor telescope, specially built for little ones, that doesn’t need a lot of assembly each time it is used.

Telescopes for Children in the Early Grades - Aged 6-8

These children are interested in discovery and exploration of the outdoors. They have an increased ability to concentrate and are driven to learn skills. They are beginning to use logic and will appreciate some choice in their telescope set-up.

A complete telescope kit is best. It is important to buy a refractor telescope so that the child does not have to adjust or clean the optics. 50 to 70 mm of aperture will be enough to explore the moon and some planets. An equatorial mount is probably not a good idea in this age range, so choose an altazimuth mount.

Some simple astronomy exploration materials, such as a planisphere or star chart may be well-received.

Telescopes for Older Children - Aged 9-12

Children of this age are looking for ways to use their more complex thinking skills and are developing an interest in the technical and abstract. A bit higher quality instrument with a wider aperture is in order. Higher quality telescopes also allow the flexibility to upgrade or add on accessories later.

Refractor telescopes with 70-90mm apertures are a good bet, but you may opt for a Newtonian reflector to get some additional aperture for a similar price. Consider an equatorial mount to allow tracking of objects across the sky. Remember Newtonian designs and equatorial mounts require a bit of fuss, so these would only make a good gift for a child who has already shown interest in astronomy or technical pursuits.

Telescopes for Teenagers

If the teen in question has no experience and has shown no interest in astronomy, opt for one of the recommendations in the Aged 9-12 category. If the teenager has shown eagerness to have a telescope, then he or she may want to be part of the decision. Together, you could read this guide to choosing a telescope.

Remember, whatever telescope you choose, there is a much higher likelihood that the child will be successful and feel a sense of gratification if an adult takes a helpful role in using the telescope. Also, young children definitely need supervision at all times when using a telescope.

If you would like some further help, don't hesitate to contact us.

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48 reviews
Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope - 11069

Been cloudy since I got it. Have not been able to use it

I hope you have clear skies soon! When you do, I sure look forward to hearing about your experience. Thanks for your review. I'm glad you're happy.
Sky-Watcher Classic 200P 8" Dobsonian Telescope

This is a really great telescope at a really great price. The weather has been a bit so-so since we put this together, and we only had a couple of nights to use it so far, but have had some good viewing sessions.

Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope - 11069
Does the job well for the price

I also have a Dobsonian, which is a great telescope to start with. But I wanted something that I could store easily and set up in more places. I also really wanted a Goto system. It doesn’t track as well as some really top-end mounts I've used, but I would buy this again. It's a great all-arounder.

Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope - 11069
My son enjoys it

My son is studying astronomy at school, so we hauled out an older telescope we bought him when he was younger. We could never figure out how to see anything with it and this time we didn't have any better luck. So, I decided to buy this because I heard it was beginner friendly. I don't know much about lenses and we're pretty new to this, so I can't be too technical. But we've been impressed. We were able to use the Sky Align to get oriented, and we saw quite a lot. We first looked at some serious detail on the moon, and my son was able to locate Saturn and even see its rings! Needless to say we are really happy about it. I hooked my cellphone up to the eyepiece and took some nice photos. I know its not as good as a DSLR, but still fun. We're enjoying it and can't wait to discover more.

This shroud covers it all.

This shroud blocks out all of the light trespass in my area. It has two slots for the eyepiece and the finder scope. A must have item for this instrument.