Best telescopes for kids 2024: Top picks for young skywatchers

The best telescopes for kids are the perfect gift to get little ones into stargazing and get them hooked on observing the night sky.

It's worth noting, however, that children's telescopes are not toys: all the products we've reviewed and selected to include in this guide are fully functional scientific instruments that work just like a 'standard' telescope does. Of course, it's possible to find toy telescopes out there, but they are not included in this guide. To genuinely develop young children's interest in astronomy, we recommend opting for a real telescope that will deliver fantastic views of the night sky.

Now, when choosing the best telescope for kids, you'll want to consider how easy it is to use, the kind of functionality it offers, how sturdy it is, and last but not least, the budget you have available. We've detailed all the main things you need to know about each telescope down below so you can make the right purchase for your little ones.

To put your mind at ease, we've made sure every telescope in this guide has been tried and tested by a team of expert reviewers, and crucially, by their kids and families so you can truly be sure it's a good pick for children. We never recommend a product that we've not tested for ourselves. 

Many of the products recommended in our guide to the best telescopes under $500 are suitable for kids, so you may want to consult it if you don't find your lot in this guide. If you're after a telescope for the whole family, our best telescopes guide is your best bet: it contains recommendations for all budgets and abilities. 

Telescopes aren't the only option for stagarzing; a pair of the best binoculars can also give impressive results, and they're generally more portable. If you're specifically looking for a gift for a child, you can check out our guide to the best binoculars for kids.

Telescope FAQ answered by
Gemma Lavender Headshot
Telescope FAQ answered by
Dr Gemma Lavender

A contributing expert to Space.com, Live Science, All About Space and more, Gemma is the author of several books including 'Quantum Physics in Minutes'. She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master's in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics and became fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Gemma is also the Communications and Outreach Office at the European Space Agency.

The quick list

Best telescopes for kids we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust Space.com Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test and review products.

Best tabletop telescope

Celestron FirstScope on a white background

The Celestron FirstScope is a low-budget tabletop instrument to instill some sky-watching enthusiasm into your children. (Image credit: Amazon)
Best tabletop telescope suited to on-the-go astronomers with small hands

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Dobsonian
Aperture: 2.99-inch / 76mm
Focal length: 11.81-inch / 300mm
Highest useful magnification: 180x
Lowest useful magnification: 11x
Supplied eyepieces: 4mm, 20mm
Weight: 4.5 lbs / 2.04kg

Reasons to buy

+
Portable
+
Robust build
+
Easy wide-angle views

Reasons to avoid

-
Finderscope not supplied
-
Some observations lack clarity and detail
Buy it if

✅ You want low investment: For casual viewing, this telescope is a great option with a low price point.

✅ You don't want to spend ages setting it up: It arrives assembled and ready to go, so no complicated setup process needed.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to find objects easily: It doesn't come with a finderscope, so anyone wanting to locate certain celestial objects easily may get frustrated.

You want all the extras: This package doesn't include a finderscope, so you'll need to either buy one separately or consider another telescope package that does.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron FirstScope 76 Tabletop Telescope If you have children who have been bugging you for a telescope and you can't quite commit to a moderately-priced instrument, then the FirstScope may be for you — especially if the moon and casual glances at the night sky are of interest. ★★★★

The clue is in the name with the Celestron FirstScope 76 — it's designed to be a kid's first telescope. Because of that, it's super easy to use and to set up, which we absolutely love. This tabletop telescope is fully assembled in the box, and so it's ready to go as soon as you open it up: Perfect for impatient kids who simply can't wait to get started.

It's very portable, too, weighing only 4.5lbs (2.04kg). However, being a tabletop telescope it might not be the most practical to use out in the wild — it'll always need somewhere to stand. Despite its low price point, the Celestron FirstScope 76 has a solid construction. It's made with durable, non-glossy plastics, so it looks great quality too.

In our Celestron FirstScope 76 Tabletop telescope review, we noted that it's ideal for little hands since the tube can easily be pushed to the desired target. It's also fully equipped for decent night sky observations with two basic eyepieces included — 4mm and 20mm. It comes with a basic edition of Starry Night astronomy software, too, as a downloadable resource. This is a great tool for young stargazers and their parents to delve deeper into the wonders of the universe.

The Celestron FirstScope 76 might not be the very best choice for serious deep sky observing, but it does a valiant job making it suitable for just about every type of stargazing. Its 76mm aperture (nearly three inches) and a fast focal ratio of f/3.95 put it up to the task of seeking out celestial objects from the brightest planets to the faintest deep-sky treasures.

There are two included eyepieces in the box, with magnifications of 15x and 75x. That means you won't get hugely close-up views (unless you want to pick up some of the best eyepieces for telescopes at extra cost) but it's plenty good enough for skywatching beginners. We got some great views of craters and even though it might not have been totally pin-sharp, it's a great starting point.

When using the telescope we found Jupiter dazzling at magnitude -1.9. The views are basic, but the moons of Jupiter can be found easily using the FirstScope — we saw Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa appear as bright points of light on either side of the gas giant's equator. However, we did find it more challenging to see Jupiter's atmospheric bands without using any planetary filters. Saturn is visible as a small, faint, fuzzy object and we could only just about make out its rings and yellow coloration.

Perhaps the only real complaint we can throw at the FirstScope is that is doesn't come with a finderscope —  a tool that aids in aligning the telescope. Having one would enhance the overall experience for young astronomers, and so we'd highly recommend purchasing a red dot finder. Thankfully, they're relatively inexpensive.

The Celestron FirstScope is ideal for casual viewers who want a problem-free skywatching experience. To get the biggest bang for your buck and further enhance your experience, we highly recommend accessorizing with a finderscope and better eyepieces.

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Celestron FirstScope 76
AttributesNotes
DesignGood quality build for the price.
PerformanceProvides a 'wow factor' for young observers.
FunctionalityOptics struggle to pick out detail.

Best quality for beginners

Celestron 80AZ side on to the camera against a white background

The Celestron Inspire 80AZ has the excellent build quality you'd expect from Celestron, and plenty of good quality accessories are included with the package too. (Image credit: Amazon)
Best quality beginner instrument from Celestron at an affordable price

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 3.15-inch / 80mm
Focal length: 35.43-inch / 900mm
Highest useful magnification: 189x
Lowest useful magnification: 11x
Supplied eyepieces: 10mm, 20mm
Weight: 16.98 lbs / 7.70kg

Reasons to buy

+
Offers more over most beginner packages
+
Easy assembly
+
Very good quality build
+
Portable refractor design

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to track targets
-
Slight color-fringing in optics 
Buy it if

✅ You want easy setup: We found this telescope to be very easy to set up and use, getting you stargazing in no time.

✅ You'll be traveling with it: As it's so portable and lightweight, it's very easy and convenient to take outside of the home, on camping trips or for long nights of stargazing.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a tight budget: This isn't the cheapest telescope on this list, however, it is better quality than the cheaper ones.

❌ You're not a beginner: This telescope is definitely geared more towards beginners, so we'd recommend going for something more advanced if your skills are further along.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 80AZ An excellent telescope for a beginner — especially given that a complete package is offered, exudes portability and is easy to use and set up. ★★★1/2

For children who like the idea of more traditional astronomy without the aid of modern technology, we highly recommend the Celestron Inspire 80AZ. This is a great starter telescope for kids and adults alike, but it's particularly suitable for youngsters looking to take stargazing seriously.

The telescope comes with an alt-azimuth mount and a user-friendly panning handle for precise movements, making it easy to focus on specific celestial targets. Unlike other mounts that can cause sudden shifts, this telescope allows for smooth and gradual adjustments to the tube's position. 

We'd recommend that an adult who knows what they're doing offers some support to younger users, though. There's a bit of a learning curve involved in navigating the night sky and getting to grips with the basics. 

That said, the Celestron Inspire 80AZ is a great starting point, and in the box you'll find everything you need to begin. There's a solid tripod, two eyepieces (20mm and 10mm, providing 45x and 90x magnification), a StarPointer Pro red-dot finderscope, an LED flashlight (to preserve night vision), and a software download of Celestron's Starry Night Basic Edition.

There's also a smartphone adapter, which allows users to take photographs of their astronomical discoveries with their phone. It's unnecessary but a neat touch, and is likely to be particularly useful for younger users who may want to share the neat things they've seen in the night sky with their friends.

In our review of the Celestron Inspire 80AZ, we unfortunately found a small amount of chromatic aberration around the brightest targets in the night sky. In other words, color fringing around certain objects. Considering the price point of the telescope, though, it's not too concerning and doesn't interfere too much with the views the Inspired 80AZ can provide. On the whole, we loved the clear views, particularly Jupiter and its belts. We also got to glimpse the ice giant Uranus.

The 3.15-inch (80 mm) aperture made short work of picking out Starbirth at the center of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), while magnified pin-sharp views of the Hyades star cluster in Taurus dazzle through the optical system. 

The Inspire range is also available in apertures of 2.76 inches (70mm) and 3.14 inches (100 mm). If you're looking for an instrument that will take a few years to outgrow, the Inspire 80AZ is the ideal choice.

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Celestron Inspire 80AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignComplete observing package.
PerformanceClear views, with false color observed.
FunctionalityEasy-to-use smartphone adapter.

Best for younger users

Orion Space Probe II on a white background

The tube is made of steel but it remains light enough to take out and about on camping trips and on-location skywatching events. (Image credit: Amazon)

Orion SpaceProbe II 76

Best for younger users, but impressive and well-equipped enough for the whole family to enjoy

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 2.99-inch / 76mm
Focal length: 27.56-inch / 700mm
Highest useful magnification: 152x
Lowest useful magnification: 11x
Supplied eyepieces: 10mm, 25mm
Weight: 7.05 lbs / 3.2kg

Reasons to buy

+
Good views for young skywatchers
+
Good build quality
+
Excellent range of accessories

Reasons to avoid

-
Views are not pin-sharp
-
Assembly is a little fiddly
Buy it if

✅ The whole family will use it: This telescope is user-friendly and good for users of all abilities.

✅ You want to travel with it: It's incredibly lightweight, so you can take it on camping trips or to dark sky sites as well as using it in your backyard.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're serious about astronomy: As we found the views are not 100% sharp across the frame, and its general beginner-friendly feel, it's best suited to younger users or anyone who isn't sure if it's a long-term hobby.

The bottom line

🔎 Orion SpaceProbe II 76 Particularly suited to skywatchers younger than ten. It would also work well for beginners who are new to skywatching and unsure if it will be a long-term hobby. ★★★

While the Orion SpaceProbe II 76 might not be the best choice for users more serious about astronomy, we've found it to be a great option for youngsters just getting started. As a reflector telescope, it's perhaps the best kind for beginners thanks to its innate light-gathering power. Indeed, we've found that this particular scope collects up to 60% more light than similar beginner scopes. Considering it costs less than $100, that's a real achievement.

The Orion SpaceProbe II provides an aperture of 2.99-inches (76mm), which — just like the aforementioned Celestron FirstScope — will reveal the solar system, lunar surface and a selection of bright deep-sky targets. 

Weighing 7.05lbs (3.2kg), it's not the absolute lightest telescope on the market but it's still very portable — whether it's just moving it into the back yard or taking it on a camping trip, it's easy enough to carry or pop in the car. It's still plenty sturdy despite its comparative lightness: Its steel tube construction is durable so you won't have to worry about the odd knocks and bumps.

Out of the box, the Orion SpaceProbe II can provide magnification levels of 28x and 70x, but with additional accessories that can expand up to 152x. It also comes with two eyepieces (10mm and 25mm), a red dot finder and a moon map. The red dot finder is seriously useful in simplifying star hopping, and it's a major plus that one's included in the box here.

We love the wide-field views offered by the Orion SpaceProbe II. It's great for viewing objects like nebulas and star clusters, but it's when viewing moons and planets that you're really going to get the most out of this telescope. 

We probably should mention that, because of the SpaceProbe II's spherical mirror, the views aren't completely sharp, and that's why we wouldn't necessarily recommend it for more seasoned astronomers. For youngsters just getting started, though? Getting up close and personal with Saturn or the moon's craters is bound to be pleasing. 

We'd recommend the Orion SpaceProbe II for newcomers to astronomy under the age of ten. If you're older and want a cheap, inexpensive place to start, this can also be a decent option thanks to its low price point.

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Orion SpaceProbe II 76
AttributesNotes
DesignLightweight and portable design.
PerformanceRed dot finder makes star-hopping easy.
FunctionalityOffers wide field views for many different objects.

Best for viewing planets

An inexpensive refractor suitable for children and beginner skywatchers

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 2.76-inch / 70mm
Focal length: 3.54-inch / 900mm
Highest useful magnification: 165x
Lowest useful magnification: 10x
Supplied eyepieces: 10mm, 20mm
Weight: 11 lbs / 5.0kg

Reasons to buy

+
Good views of the solar system
+
Accepts accessories
+
Good overall build

Reasons to avoid

-
Cheaply made star diagonal
-
Pan handle lacks precision
Buy it if

✅ You have a small budget: This telescope is very affordable, although you do get what you pay for.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something that's going to last: We noted in our review that it wouldn't be enough to hold the interest of beginners for a long time.

❌ You want to see deep-sky objects: While you can see some deep-sky objects, we found them to appear quite dull, so we'd recommend looking elsewhere.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ: This lightweight chromatic refractor uses its relatively long length to produce natural-looking views of planets and the moon, but for anything else it's underwhelming. It's also quite difficult to lock onto targets. ★★★

If you want a simple, no-frills telescope, we can't help but recommend the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ. Don't expect groundbreaking technology and amazing views here, but what you will get is a solid starter scope with a very reasonable price point.

There's everything you need here straight out of the box: You won't need to make any additional purchases to get started, which is always a plus. It comes with 10mm and 20mm eye pieces, a star diagonal to help with comfortable viewing, and a battery-powered red dot finderscope that will help locate objects in the sky.

Pleasingly, you'll also get a free download of Starry Night, a piece of stargazing software that features 36,000 targets in the night sky. It's pretty much standard with AstroMaster telescopes, and it's always a joy to use. 

During our Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ review, we noted that the telescope has more plastic features than we'd have liked to have seen — we particularly found that the star diagonal felt poorer quality to others in similar price brackets. Despite that, we can still recommend this as having an overall solid build, especially at this price point. Make sure it's treated with care, though: It may withstand the odd slight bump, but it shouldn't be left unsupervised in the hands of young children who might not understand how delicate the optics here are.

We also noted in our review that the alt-azimuth mount is very smooth to control and we didn't experience any stiffness. When it came to focusing on a particular object in the night sky, the handle tightened enough to make sure there was no sagging of the tube — not having to constantly re-adjust the scope is certainly a boon for younger users.

The steel tripod can be adjusted to your desired height for a comfortable viewing experience. The optical tube assembly provides high-quality magnified views of the solar system, star clusters and bright naked-eye nebulas, such as the Orion Nebula (Messier 42).

The multi-coated optics provided us with clear and vibrant images of the moon and its craters, Jupiter and Venus, and with careful adjustment of the focuser, we could see Jupiter's moons and even catch a glimpse of Jupiter's cloud bands and the changing phases of Venus. Like many entry-level refractor scopes, we did see a slight amount of color fringing (chromatic aberration), appearing as blue-purple tints around the brighter objects. However, given the low price, this minor issue doesn't ruin the overall enjoyment of using this telescope.

Because of the telescope's 2.76-inch (70mm) aperture and useful magnifications of 10x and 165x, the optics can be pushed a touch further without compromising on image quality. We recommend investing in some of the best eyepieces to show your young skywatcher more dazzling sights of the universe. 

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Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignLightweight design.
PerformanceNo 'false color', but dull deep-sky objects.
FunctionalityDifficult to lock on to targets.