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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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