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Choosing a telescope for a child involves walking a fine line between a toy and an entry-level tool that your child can use to prepare for more expensive professional telescopes. Naturally, you don’t want to spend a lot of money until you’re sure it’s something your child will value, but buying something that doesn’t work may turn your child off of something that might have become a cherished pastime.
We have chosen 10 relatively inexpensive entry-level telescopes that are popular among first-timers. We will review each brand for you so you can get a better idea of what qualities you are looking for as well as what to avoid. We have also included a buyer’s guide, where we will take a close look at the telescope to see what the difference is between a toy and a tool.
Keep reading for our detailed reviews of each brand of telescopes for kids, where we compare objective lenses, ease of use, eye relief, and durability to help you make an educated purchase.
|Best Overall||Celestron Portable Refractor Telescope||
|Best Value||MaxUSee Kids Telescope||
|Premium Choice||Gskyer AZ 70400 Telescope||
|ECOOPRO Refractor Telescope||
|Merkmak F36050 Telescope||
These are the ten entry-level telescopes for children that we have decided to review for you.
The Celestron 21035 Portable Refractor Telescope is our choice for the best overall telescope for kids. This telescope is lightweight, easily carried, and it comes with a carrying bag and a tripod. It also comes with free software to help you find objects in the night sky, which is an excellent tool for children and anyone new to astronomy. A large 70-mm lens will help gather any available light, and it features 20X and 40X interchangeable magnifying eyepieces to help you get a perfect view of the night sky. The included finder scope enables you to locate objects quickly.
The only thing we found to complain about concerning this brand is flimsy tripod causes you to worry about the telescope falling over while in use.
The MaxUSee Kids Telescope is a smaller sized telescope that we believe is the best telescope for kids for the money. This low-cost telescope has everything a child needs to get started with astronomy. It weighs less than five pounds and is easy to carry. It features a 40-mm objective lens and two eyepiece magnifying lenses. One lens provides 20X magnification, while the other is a 32X magnifying lens. It also has a finder scope on the side that makes it easier to point your telescope in the direction of the object you want to see, and this brand includes a moon-mirror that helps reduce glare when looking at a full moon.
The only problem we had with this model was that the focus mechanism is extremely sensitive and jumpy, so it was hard to get a clear focus on many objects.
The Gskyer AZ 70400 Telescope is our premium choice telescope for kids. This telescope features a large 70-mm objective lens for capturing available light, and it comes with three extra eyepiece lense. Two of the extra lenses are eyepieces and can magnify an object 16X or 40X. The third lens is a Barlow lens that will magnify either eyepiece an additional 3X, allowing you to achieve 48X and 120X magnification. This brand also comes with a smartphone adapter for taking pictures and movies and includes a wireless camera remote control for hands-free photography. It also comes with an aluminum tripod and a carrying bag.
Our testers really enjoyed this telescope, and the phone adapter allows more than one person to look at once. However, the phone adapter is not going to hold a lot of the modern larger sized phones, and there are no directions supplied. The assembly, as well as telescope operation and using your smartphone, are things you need to figure out yourself.
The ECOOPRO 3216595147 Refractor Telescope is a smaller size telescope that features a 70-mm objective lens and two interchangeable eyepieces that allow for 51X and 128X magnification. The included finder scope will help you joint your telescope in the same right direction while the included tripod helps stabilize the image. This beginner telescope is lightweight and comes with a travel bag.
While we were using this brand, we found it to be hard to focus, and when we did focus, the image would slowly get blurry again. The whole model looks cheaply made and feels fragile in your hands.
The Merkmak F36050 Telescope is a low-cost children’s telescope that features a 50-mm objective lens along with two interchangeable eyepiece lenses and one eyepiece enhancement lens. The two eyepiece lenses provide a magnification of 18X or 60X. The enhancement lens attaches to either eyepiece to increase the magnification by 1.5X. With the enhancement lense, you get 27X and 90X magnification. This telescope is lightweight and comes in at under 5 pounds. It also comes with a tripod.
While we were trying it out, we noticed that the higher magnifications resulted in very little eye relief, which means you need to practically rub your eye on the lens to find the pinhole image. The magnification is simply too high for the size of this device. Also, there are no instructions, and assembling this unit was a little more challenging than some of the others without them. The lenses, body, and controls are all made of flimsy feeling plastic.
The Emarth TELE-01 Telescope features a large 70-mm objective lens and three lenses. Two lenses are for the eyepiece, and the third lens amplifies the eyepiece. With these lenses, the telescope can provide 15X, 36X, 45X, and 108X magnification. This telescope also comes equipped with a smaller finder scope for spotting objects quickly in the night sky. A tripod and a carry bag come with your purchase.
We were surprised by how small this telescope is when we received it. It worked well for looking at the moon, and also some wildlife when we tried it during the day, but it’s too small to provide adequate eye relief when you use higher magnification lenses. At night, we could only make out the moon with the weakest lens. During the day, we could get up to 45X if we struggled, but could never see any image with 108X magnification. The finder scope is a nice feature, but it was a challenge to get it lined up correctly, and the tripod is a little too flimsy to risk using.
The ToyerBee 100224 Refractor Telescope is another telescope on this list that features the large 70-mm objective lens. It also has three magnifying lenses. Two lenses are for the eyepiece, and one is to enhance the lens in the eyepiece by adding 3X magnification. Therefore, you can achieve 15X, 45X, 50X, and 150X magnification with this telescope. There is also a device called a moon mirror included that works to reduce glare when looking at the full moon. This brand also features a cell phone adapter and a wireless camera remote to help you photograph the images you see, and there is a plentiful supply of video guides showing you how to assemble the telescope as well as how to use it. It also comes with a small tripod.
We were thankful for the video guides and felt that too many other brands let us down in this area. However, the telescope itself is flimsy, and we question its durability. There’s no eye relief on the higher magnification and we couldn’t see an image when using the 150X magnification. We found it hard to focus on the lower magnifications, and the small, lightweight tripod would shake with the lightest breeze distorting the image.
The SOLOMARK Travel Telescope is a brand that gives us a 70-mm objective lens and a longer body than the last few on our list. This brand gives us two eyepiece lenses, which provide us with 20X and 44X magnification. This brand also includes a finder scope to help you find objects quicker.
The downside to this brand is that it’s mostly plastic, and the controls are incredibly fidgety and hard to fine-tune. Even though this scope is longer than the last few, and provides more eye relief, it’s still not enough to make this unit comfortable when using the higher magnification settings.
The EastPole Telescope comes with a cellphone adapter to help you get pictures of the objects you find in the night sky. This ability can also come in handy while birdwatching, or for using the telescope with more than one person at a time. The 70-mm objective lens helps capture as much light as possible to provide clear images, and two eyepieces with one enhancement lense provide 20X, 44.5X, 60X, and 133X magnification.
What we didn’t like about this brand was that we couldn’t see an image using the two highest magnifications. The eye relief was too small to see any light whatsoever. We like the adapter, but it won’t fit all phones. We also found the construction of the telescope housing and the tripod very flimsy.
The Levenhuk LabZZ MTB3 Starter Telescope is the last telescope for kids on our list. This telescope comes in a unique science pack that includes a telescope, microscope, and binoculars. It will most likely peak the interests of any scientifically inclined child, and it contains tools for conducting science experiments and features more than 20 accessories to get the most out of this learning pack. The telescope features two interchangeable eyepiece lenses that provide 60X and 120X magnification. It even has a finder scope to help you locate and line up objects quicker.
Our kids were excited about trying these tools out, but they turned out to be little more than fancy toys. Out of the three, the binoculars were the only thing that worked. The telescope provided a blurry image, and the focus didn’t work at all. The tripod broke as they were trying to figure out how to clear up the image.
Let’s take a look at what comprises the telescope and see what makes an excellent entry-level tool that can introduce your child to astronomy.
The first thing to realize that these telescopes are for children or beginners. None of these brands are going to impress a seasoned astronomer. The idea is to keep cost low, but provide a device that demonstrates the power of these tools on a small scale. At first, you want to see the moon and let them be surprised at the details in the craters. Maybe you can even see Jupiter and a few of its moons. If your child shows a prolonged interest in these objects, and you notice them searching for new ones, you might consider saving up for something that can see deeper into space. If your child loses interest quickly and starts pointing it at the neighbors, you’re not out that much money.
The objective lens is also known as the aperture. This lens is the largest and furthest from the eye. The larger this lens is, the more light it can collect to produce a brighter image. A large objective lens is especially critical at night when light is at a minimum. You’ll notice that all night optics always have huge objective lenses.
Unfortunately, the cost goes up dramatically with the size of the lens, as does the weight. Because we want a low cost, lightweight model that our child won’t drop, we recommend an objective lens no larger than 70 millimeters, but no smaller than 40 mm, or you won’t be able to see anything at night.
When buying optics, it seems many people immediately wonder what the magnification is, and always choose the one with higher magnification, but there is more to it than that. The magnification is part of a three-part system that creates the image presented to your eye. The telescope length, the objective lens, and the magnification lens create the image. More magnification requires more light; and if there isn’t enough, the image will be dark and lack detail.
The length of the telescope affects the size of the image that reaches the eye. This effect is called eye relief, and it refers to how close your eye needs to be to the magnifying lens to see the image. Increasing the magnification decreases the size of the picture. Using a high magnification with a short tube and a small objective lens will result in a dark image the size of a pinhead. You will need to get your eye very close to to the glass to see a picture like this.
Professional style telescopes will use a longer tube and a larger objective lens to increase the magnification. We recommend that you shoot for about 25X magnification for now until your child gets used to finding the smaller image in a higher magnification lens. Many of the brands on our list have several lenses, so any of these will work fine.
Finding a brand that provides plenty of accessories can help your child get a better feel for what astronomy is. A cell phone adapter is a particularly great accessory to look for because they make it easier to take pictures or movies of the objects your child discovers. These can also be helpful to allow more than one child to use the telescope at once because everyone can see the image on the screen instead of putting your eye up to the lens.
Another great accessory to look for is the finder scope. A finder scope is a small scope that is attached to the side of the telescope. This scope works as a guide that helps you aim the higher-powered telescope in the direction of the object you are looking to find.
That concludes our guide to purchasing the best telescope for kids. We recommend a telescope with a 70-mm objective lens with low magnification. You want it to be lightweight, so they don’t drop it or get tired of carrying it. It should work well enough to provide a clear focusable image to hold your child’s interest and grow their enthusiasm for astronomy. Our best overall is a perfect example. The Celestron 21035 Portable Refractor Telescope meets every requirement and comes with software to help your child find objects in the night sky.
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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