Telescopes are a great way to introduce kids of all ages to the joy of astronomy and science. With a simple telescope, a child can see mountains on the moon, discover constellations, and even view planets and moons hundreds of millions of miles away.
Shopping for and learning how to use telescopes doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve made this resource guide to help you find an appropriate, affordable telescope and to teach your kids how to use it.
Finding a Telescope for Kids
Best Telescopes for Kids: This guide explains the basics of how telescopes work as well as which kinds are best suited for kids in each age bracket.
Best Telescope Starter Kits for Kids: These telescope kits come with everything you need and have high customer ratings.
A Child’s First Telescopes: Here are more telescopes available on Amazon. They are rated and organized by price.
Best Telescopes for Beginners: Finally, we have this purchasing guide from Fractus Learning, an educational company.
Best Astronomy Binoculars: Check out binoculars for a more affordable and portable option for star-gazing.
How Telescopes Work
Telescopes Intro: From KidsAstronomy.com, this young children’s educational material includes simple explanations, photos and YouTube videos on how telescopes were invented.
How Telescopes Work: For older kids, this Naperville Astronomical Association goes more in depth on the physics behind even the most powerful telescopes.
Science Video for Kids: For visual learners, this short video presents the science behind telescopes in a kid-friendly way.
Understanding Magnification: Learn how magnification affects the visual quality of a telescope.
Astronomy Resources for Kids
Kids Astronomy: This children’s educational website explains astronomy very simply and offers games and activities to get kids involved with a telescope.
Astronomy for Kids: Facts, quizzes, games and videos—this site has everything a kid needs to know about space.
Becoming a Skilled Observer: Here you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started observing the sky.
30 Space & Astronomy Books for Kids: Including both nonfiction and fiction, these books are organized by age level from 4 years old and up.
Where to Star Gaze
Observing Sites: Search by state for the best spots to view the stars.
Observatory Search: Locate the nearest observatory in your state to take the kids for a fun guided tour of the stars.
Star Party: This Wikipedia article explains the rise of “star parties,” local groups of astronomers gathering to share their knowledge and tools. You can search for a star party near you on any search engine.
Challenger Center: Find a Challenger Center near you. These science education centers allow kids to play roles on a NASA mission using STEM and leadership skills.
Additional Hints and Tips on Telescopes for Kids
Magnification isn’t everything
Don’t let the gimmicks fool you. Magnification specs don’t tell the whole story.
You’ve probably noticed when you zoom in on a digital photo that it gets very pixelated and grainy. Many cheap telescopes are the same way. They may magnify the moon 200 times, but it will not be a sharp picture. Secondly, the more a telescope magnifies an image, the dimmer it will be.
Long story short: if your telescope is too “powerful” at magnifying, you will not be able to see anything worthwhile. So make sure to check for the quality of the optics and the aperture size to ensure a good image.
If you are having a hard time finding a quality, affordable telescope, consider starting with a pair of binoculars designed for star-gazing. Good pairs start at around $35 on Amazon. As a bonus, binoculars are easier to take along with you to better viewing points.
Simple Telescope Maintenance
Telescopes do not require an immense amount of maintenance. Some dust and dirt collection is normal and will not affect your view. However, keeping a lens cap on when the telescope is not being used is the best way to care for your telescope and prevent accidental scratches. Also teach your children to never touch the lens to avoid oily smudges and fingerprints.
Hit the Road
By now, we’ve probably all heard of light pollution. This phenomenon occurs when your surrounding area—and this area can extend for miles in all directions—is emitting too much artificial lighting. This excess of light creates a sort of glowing haze that blocks visibility of the natural night sky.
If you live in the city or in a crowded suburban area, you’ll want to venture outside your backyard to find the clearest skies. There’s a reason national parks are highly rated among star-gazers, but any field or open space away from the bright city lights will do.
We also strongly recommend visiting an observatory or planetarium. Nighttime laser shows can familiarize kids with how to find stars, constellations and planets. Some also use a powerful telescope to allow you a real-time view of the sky.