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Best telescope for kids 2023: Dazzle them with a view of the night sky

Jo Plumridge
23 Mar 2023

Investing in one the best telescopes for children will spark an interest in exploring the stars that could last a lifetime

The night sky is endlessly fascinating and an area that is well worth encouraging your kids to have an interest in. The best telescopes will allow your children to take their first few steps into all things astronomical, with some of our recommendations allowing you to start exploring the craters of the moon or other stars and planets in the sky.

We’ve picked a selection of telescopes, with prices ranging from around £20 to over £200. Some options are toy telescopes, designed to introduce younger kids to the mechanics of magnification, while others will allow for proper astronomical exploration. 

Our buying guide should answer any questions you have on how to choose the right telescope for your children and their age bracket; but if you already know all about telescopes, then you can skip down to our selection and choose the best telescope for your kids. 

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Best telescopes for kids: At a glance

How to choose the best telescope for your kid

Before you buy a telescope, you should understand a few basics. And it’s also a good idea to have a rough figure in mind in terms of how much you want to spend – as with most products, there are some very expensive options out there! 

Telescope types

Telescopes can usually be broken down into three categories:

Refractor telescopes – These are the most common type of telescopes on the market, and are essentially a long tube attached to a lens. They’re usually pretty affordable and easy to use, but they’re not strong enough for super-distant space objects. However, you can use them for both space and Earth objects.

Reflector telescopes – These use a mirror instead of a lens and offer high quality and clarity, meaning they’re ideal for viewing distant objects but not so good for viewing Earth objects. You can also expect to pay more for this type of telescope.

Compound (catadioptric) telescopes – These offer the best of both worlds, comprising a combination of lenses and mirrors within the tubes. They’re very pricey – and probably not the best choice for young children.

Telescope parts

These are the most common parts to find on amateur telescopes:

Optical tube – This is the long tube that makes up the main part of a telescope. It will either have a lens (refractor), mirror (reflector) or both (compound).

Eyepiece – This is the part of the telescope you’ll use for viewing, with different eyepieces offering different levels of magnification. More expensive telescopes will include multiple eyepieces that you can swap around.

Finderscope – A mini-telescope attached to the main unit that allows users to line up their angles and eye lines correctly.

Tripod – A tripod holds your telescope in place. It’s worth looking for one with adjustable legs so that the kids don’t “outgrow” it!

Telescope glossary

Aperture – This is the diameter of the mirror or lens and allows your telescope to collect light. Larger apertures will let in more light, which in turn allows you to see objects that are further away in the night sky. 

Field of view – The area of sky that’s visible through the eyepiece of your telescope.

Focal length – This is the length of the telescope’s tube. The shorter the tube, the wider the field of view, and the smaller objects will appear in your eyepiece.

Magnification – The relationship between the telescope’s optical system and its eyepiece. You’ll usually see this in units such as 10x, 20x and 30x. 

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The best telescopes for kids in 2023

1. Science Mad SM52 Astronomical Telescope: Best for budding astronomers

Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon

The Science Mad telescope is great if you already have a budding astronomer in the house. Suitable for kids aged 6 and up, this telescope has an impressive 90x magnification with a 50mm objective lens. 

Both the body and tripod are made from aluminium, and the overall kit is lightweight and easy to carry around since it’s pretty compact. We loved that there’s a choice of both 20mm and 4mm eyepieces, to allow both 18x and 90x magnification. However, the included tripod is a table-top unit that’s fixed rather than extendable. 

In use the telescope offers a great clear view of the moon and larger star clusters, and is also suitable to use for earth-based objects. It takes a bit of time to put together, and we’d suggest it’s a good option for slightly older children who are developing an interest in astronomy due to the fact that a little patience is required to get the best results.

Key details – Size: 21 x 10  x 45.5cm; Magnification: 90x; Lens: 50mm; Mount: Altazimuth; Weight: 980g

2. Hape Adjustable Telescope: Best telescope for toddlers

Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon

Suitable for kids aged three years and up, this toy telescope is an ideal way to get your toddlers interested in how lenses and telescopes work. Made from sustainable bamboo, this small and lightweight telescope is easy for little ones to use on their own.

We loved the soft eyepiece of this telescope, which is kind on toddlers’ eyes, plus it’s easy to turn and adjust the focus. There’s a handy wrist strap to prevent the telescope from accidentally hitting the ground, plus a carry case offers protection when it’s taken out and about. 

Offering a magnification of 8x, this isn’t really a telescope for the night sky. Nevertheless, it’s brilliant for practising magnification while trying to spot animals and birds in the daylight. We think that this is a great way to engage toddlers and encourage outdoor play. Plus, when they’re a little older, they’ll have great skills to transfer to a proper telescope for the night sky. 

Key details – Size: 15 x 5.1 x 15cm; Magnification: 8x; Lens: 21mm; Mount: N/A; Weight: 100g

3. Brainstorm Toys My First Telescope: Best first telescope

Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon

Brainstorm’s telescope is a great choice for kids looking for their first easy-to-use telescope for getting a great view of the night sky. With 20x to 40x magnification, this telescope allows users to start exploring the stars and the moon, as well as being ideal for viewing scenery and wildlife back on Earth.

Weight-wise, this telescope is pretty light, making it easy to use handheld. A table-top tripod is included in the box, but it isn’t adjustable, so you’re stuck with the height of the tripod and whatever table you use it on. Note that while the telescope was simple to use, there weren’t any instructions included in the box – we had to look online to find out precisely how to use it. 

Overall, though, this is a fantastic little telescope and great value for money.

Key details – Size: 25.4 x 15.2 x 45.7cm; Magnification: 20-40x; Lens: 42mm; Mount: N/A; Weight: 920g

4. GeoSafari Jr Talking Telescope: Best telescope for learning

Price: £54 | Buy now from Learning Resources

While it may look like a normal telescope, the GeoSafari is actually an interactive talking telescope designed to teach young children all about space without leaving the house. It offers two different modes: a Fact mode to learn about space, and a Quiz mode to test kids’ scientific knowledge.

There are 24 different images featuring planets, the stars and space, with each image containing five facts and five questions. There’s a child-friendly dual eyepiece that looks more like a pair of binoculars, and the audio can be set to a variety of different languages.

We weren’t initially sure about whether this telescope would appeal to children, but it was extremely popular with our testers (aged 4, 6 and 8), who loved looking at the different images and learning about what they were viewing. And it definitely raised interest in the night sky and learning more about it. The telescope does take a little time to put together, but it’s definitely worth it. 

Key details – Size: 37.9 x 22.9 x 17.8cm; Magnification: N/A; Lens: N/A; Mount: N/A; Weight: 816g

5. Build Your Own Working Telescope: Best for practical kids

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’ve got a crafty kid in the family who enjoys building things, this could be the ideal telescope in which to invest. Suitable for children aged 8 and upwards, with a little help from an adult, the box contains all the parts you need to put together your own working telescope.

Made from sustainable cardboard, all the pieces for the telescope were cut out well and our 8-year-old tester loved the little tool to help pop out each piece from the cardboard sheets. The sections come in two thicknesses of cardboard, and we did think that the thinner one could have done with being a little more substantial. Nevertheless, the instructions proved clear, although we do think that it would take a much older teenager to build this without any adult help.

Once constructed the telescope offers 16x magnification, a sliding focus tube, glass optic lens and a built-in spotting sight and angle finder. It does take a little patience to focus; but, once constructed, it forms an impressive-looking telescope – and kids will feel proud of what they’ve achieved by making it.  

Key details – Size: N/A; Magnification: 16x; Lens: N/A; Mount: N/A; Weight: 540g

6. NASA NASATLSCP Telescope: Best telescope for design

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The NASA telescope for kids is a beautifully designed piece of kit. It sports a sleek look and it’s easy for children to use. 

There’s some basic construction required with this telescope – you’ll need to attach the lens, mirror and finderscope to the telescope, before attaching it to the tripod – but none of it is particularly complicated. The adjustable tripod means you’ll get more use out of the telescope as your child grows, plus it comes with two different eyepieces to allow for both 50x and 100x magnification. 

The NASA telescope offers a fantastically clear and sharp image and the magnification is excellent. However, the tripod is a little flimsy, so do make sure younger children are supervised when using it. Overall, though, this is a well-designed telescope that offers excellent magnification for its price tag.

Key details – Size: 69.5 x 13 x 6cm; Magnification: 50x, 100x; Lens: 50mm; Mount: N/A; Weight: 1kg

7. Celestron 22402 Inspire 80AZ Telescope: Best for serious astronomy kids

Price: £210 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’ve got a kid that’s seriously interested in astronomy, the Celestron telescope offers the next step up with its more advanced features. It isn’t overly technical and does reward patience, but youngsters will be very pleased with the results.

The telescope is easy to assemble, offers excellent build quality and is even portable and easy to move around. It comes with two eyepieces offering magnifications of 45x and 90x, a red LED flashlight to preserve night vision, StarPointer Pro red-dot finderscope and Celestron’s Starry Night basic edition software, which will help users get to grips with the telescope’s operations. Older kids will also love the smartphone adapter, meaning they can share their images with friends. 

In addition, the telescope has a panning handle, but it can prove a little tricky with which to track targets – younger children will probably need a little bit of help. We did also notice a little bit of chromatic aberration around a few targets, but planets and stars look bright and the detail is excellent. 

Key details – Size: 96.5 x 83.8 x 132.1cm; Magnification: 45x, 90x; Lens: 80mm; Mount: Altazimuth; Weight: 9.39kg

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