Skip the telescope and buy a pair of the best binoculars for kids. Binoculars are simpler to use, easier to support, and for views of the Moon, planets and even galaxies are just the thing for nurturing an interest in the night sky. They’re great for birdwatching too!
There are, however, a few things that mark the best binoculars for kids, and the best binoculars in general, out from the crowd. They need to be easy to carry, tough enough to throw in a bag, but mustn’t limit the amount of light they let in too much. This rules out a lot of small pairs, which are better off used for nature-spotting in good light.
The lens on the end of the binoculars you don’t look through is called the ‘objective’, and the size of this determines the amount of light a pair of binoculars can gather. Look out for objective sizes of at least 30mm for night-time use, and preferably 42 or 50mm, though these rapidly get heavy as they increase in size. Binoculars are also categorised by their magnification factor, so a pair marked as 7x30 have an objective of 30mm and magnify seven times. The numbers often go up together, so you might see 6x21, 8x42 or 10x50.
1. Make sure the binocular isn’t too big and heavy for a child to hold steady.
2. Magnifications of 7x or 10x are generally the best for skywatching.
3. Porro prisms and BAK4 glass are best for stargazing.
4. Foldable designs are convenient and portable.
The ideal pair for beginner sky-watchers will have a large objective and a lower magnification – 7x50 are common and not too expensive – this lets in lots of light, but keeps things stable and easy to handle. Look out for things such as porro prisms, BAK-4 glass, and multicoated optics, as these improve the image you’ll see through them. BK7 glass is cheaper, and can degrade the image, but some pairs perform perfectly well.
One of the most difficult things for a child to master is holding their binoculars steady for long enough to get a really good look at a night-sky object. While some pairs of binoculars can be mounted on a tripod with a standard quarter-inch screw thread, others require a binocular adapter that uses a strap to hold them in place. If handholding, get them to grasp the binoculars closer to the objective lens than to their eyes, forming a triangle with their arms that will be more stable. They should tuck their elbows in, and even lean against a wall or sit in a chair or at a table if it helps. For more advice, check out our round-up of stargazing with binoculars beginner's tips.
Space.com’s experts have rounded up some of the very best binoculars for kids that we could find on the market today. They’re great for a bit of casual skywatching and getting views of the surface of the Moon, and you may be able to pick out the Galilean moons of Jupiter or even spot the distinctive ‘eared’ shape of Saturn too. We’ve mainly stuck to 7x50 or 10x50 pairs, but have thrown in a few more interesting choices, and have kept tight parental budgets in mind too.
We do also have a page dedicated to the best binoculars deals around – but be warned that current industry-wide shortages mean that deals are few and far between. So if you see a pair below at a reasonable price, it's probably worth buying it now rather than waiting for Black Friday to roll around.
What most don't appreciate about children is that they can see a lot better in the dark than adults. That's because their pupils can dilate wider, which makes their night vision better. So should you give a child a smaller pair of binoculars that are easier to carry and hold, but allow less light in? That’s one option. Another is to go for a pair of binoculars like the Celestron Cometron that manage to be both reasonably lightweight and let as much light in as possible. That way you’re allowing them to see everything in the night sky they possibly could.
With 7x magnification and a 50 mm objective lens, the Celestron Cometron are ideally sized for stargazing. What’s more, they boast multi-coated optics that comprise a stargazing-centric Porro prism, though they do utilise step-down BK7 glass. They also have a large exit pupil, which guarantees maximum light during the night and at dawn/dusk. They’re also easy to adjust to smaller faces.
These ideal specifications and usability come at a cost. The aluminum cased Celestron Cometron are not waterproof and their covering lacks a high-end feel. However, children don’t care about such things and, besides, the Celestron Cometron are such insanely good value that it probably doesn’t matter if they eventually get damaged.
The Celestron Cometron also comes in 12x70 conjuration, which might be something to consider as a next step upgrade specifically for deep sky astronomy.
If you want a good pair of binoculars for astronomy and the night sky that are best suited to kids, those with an 8x magnification and a 42 mm objective lens are perfect. A slight comedown from the 10x50 specification that’s recommended for adults, 8x42 is the ideal match-up in terms of weight, magnification and light-gathering at night — and the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8x42 are an excellent value example.
A porro prism design using BAK4 glass prisms with fully multi-coated lenses, they’re water and dew-proof and come dressed in protective rubber-like armour. In the box is a soft case, a neck strap and rubber objective lens covers. They also feature long eye relief eyepieces so can easily be used by those who wear spectacles.
Light, compact, waterproof and boasting great views of the night sky, the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8x42 makes for an ideal entry-level option for kids with a serious interest in astronomy, but they’re just as good during the day for wildlife and landscapes. They’re also available in specifications to suit all kinds of uses and users, including 6.5x32, 8x32, 10x42, 10x50 and 12x50.
If you’re looking for a good pair of binoculars that can be used by all the family and offer top quality performance, look no further than this pair from top photography and optics brand Nikon. A step-up purchase, these mid-range binoculars are not only beginner-friendly, but well suited to use by kids.
Covered in non-slip rubber for easy grip and shock resistance if dropped, the Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are guaranteed to be both fog-free and even waterproof (up to 1 m/3.3 ft. for 10 minutes). Reasonably slim, compact and lightweight considering their size, they’re easy to hold for long periods of stargazing while images are sharp, clear and bright thanks to their multilayer-coated lenses and high-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror coated prisms. A long eye relief design also means a clear field of view for those who wear glasses.
Their specifications are ideal for stargazing, too, boasting the classic 8x magnification and a 42 mm objective lens that’s perfect for lightweight light-gathering.
The Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are also available in 10x42 configuration.
Though relatively large and heavy, the Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 binocular will be perfectly suited to any child who’s outgrown a pair of small binoculars and wants to get a close-up of deep sky objects — such as the Andromeda Galaxy — without moving into telescope territory.
You get what amounts to a highly portable 3D telescope, with 12x magnification perfect for zooming in on the moon and star clusters like the Pleiades and Hyades. However, 8.25 x 8.1 x 2.8 inches (210 x 206 x 72 mm) and weighing in at 39.2 oz (1.1 kg), we recommend mounting the Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 on a tripod to make them easier to hold still.
Built around a Porro Prism design featuring BAK4 prisms and boasting multi-coated optics for sharp, bright and highly detailed views and with an objective lens of 60 mm to let as much light in as possible, the Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 has an ultra-firm rubber coating on its barrels that’s easy to hold and helps protect them. Also concluded is a carry case and some lens caps.
Rugged, compact and designed to go anywhere, these garish yellow or green are classic "my first binoculars".
Created especially for young children and in a harsh polycarbonate housing, these roof prism binoculars with BK7 glass come with a small case and a wrist strap to make them harder to lose. That’s important because they’re pretty small and feature only 6x magnification. That, together with just 21mm objective lenses means they’re useful only for looking for the moon, lacking the light-gathering abilities of superior astronomy-specific binoculars.
However, since kids tend to be shakier than adults, that small amount of magnification can help everything seem more stable than when using higher-end binoculars. It also makes it easy to find things — like the moon. But don’t mistake them for a throwaway novelty: inside you’ll find surprisingly good optics and anti-reflective coatings that brighten the image. However, they lack substantial eye relief so aren’t perfect for kids who wear glasses.
Best suited to very young kids and as an introductory binocular, they’re ideal for a situation where you want to introduce a child to skywatching without denting your bank balance.
Want to keep it small and light? Although 10x50 is the standard for skywatching binoculars meant for adults, that’s a lot to hold. If a child is going to be using them as much by day as by night, consider investing in a pair of smaller, all-round binoculars like the Celestron Nature DX 8x32.
With 8x magnification and 32 mm objective lenses, they’re lightweight at 17.98 oz (510 g) and their outer covering makes them easy to hold as well as waterproof. They can probably take a few knocks, too. Inside are BaK4 prisms with a phase coating to maximise contrast and sharpness, though just as importantly for skywatching they have multi-coated optics that maximise light transmission for brighter images in the dark. Unusually for such a small pair of binoculars you also get a built-in tripod mount.
Aimed at beginners and general use but with excellent optics and an outdoorsy construction, the Celestron Nature DX 8x32 will best suit older kids after something portable and highly versatile. They also come in a 8x42 design.
Why would anyone buy a pair of binoculars with such a low 2.1x magnification? For children and adults who simply want to be immersed in a 3D night sky and its constellations rather than getting close-up to objects there are few more instantly impressive or unusual binoculars than the Vixen SG 2.1x42.
Specifically designed for wide-field observation of the stars and the Milky Way, these binoculars use lenses composed of five multi-coated elements to help star clusters like the Pleiades, Hyades and the Perseus Double Cluster really stand out in a dark sky. The stereoscopic depth is incredible, though the nature of the optics means that there is a distinct ring of blur round the edges of the field of view.
Build quality is second to none. Made in Japan and shipped with a cute soft case and neck strap, the Vixen SG 2.1x42 is really easy to use. Each eyepiece focuses individually and, because of the wide field of view and the solid yet lightweight construction the user gets a very steady image that’s particularly well suited to being used by kids. One drawback is that the lens caps are easy to lose, but that’s a small detail on these one-of-a-kind binoculars that committed skywatchers will love.
Does everything look wobbly? The trouble with humans is they’re warm and they constantly move. Add magnification and the upshot is that it’s hard for a binocular user to keep their subject still in their field of view.
Cue the waterproof Canon 10x42L IS WP, a pair of powerful, portable and utterly irresistible binoculars that change the stargazing game by keeping objects completely still. Their built-in image stabilisation (IS) tech will instantly impress a child — or anyone else, for that matter.
Inside these Canons are motion sensors that detect the amount of shake created by the holder and then use actuators around the lenses to compensate for that movement. It’s a battery-powered system that can be engaged just by pressing a button on the top of the binoculars. Two AAA batteries give about two hours worth of IS, which is modest while the lens caps are, surprisingly for the price, a poor fit and easy to lose.
However, its stillness and also its pin-sharpness make star clusters, the Moon and even Jupiter and its moons look truly incredible. It’s not just the IS you’re paying for; inside are the ultra-low dispersion glass lens elements and ‘Super Spectra’ lens coatings.
It all comes at a high cost indeed. This is a specialist purchase, for sure, and they probably shouldn’t be used without supervision. But they represent the most enjoyable and impressive binoculars for skywatching yet. Who needs a telescope?
On paper their 10x magnification and 25 mm objective lens measurement makes the Olympus 10x25 WP II less than ideal for stargazing, when you’re buying a pair of binoculars for a child you have to think about weight. If you went for the ultimate, most incredible binoculars for skywatching you wouldn’t choose a pair like this, with a 10x25 specification, but in practice just as important as the size of a pair of skywatching binoculars is the glass.
Inside these roof‑prism binoculars are high-quality optical glass, which help create a bright image.
They’re also well designed for smaller faces. Boasting a dual-hinge design, they’re easy to adjust to fit a user’s vision, with a focus known in easy reach for sharpening. There’s also a dioptric knob for adjusting to a user’s specific eyesight, which marks these out as a serious binocular. The Olympus 10x25 WP II features a nitrogen-filled body, which helps them to be waterproof, fog-proof and dirt-proof. They shouldn’t be treated roughly, but they do have a rubber coating that’s tactile and easy to grip (and a very long guarantee!).
That dual-hinge means they’re easy to fold up and carry in a pocket, too, while the paltry 260 g weight is a fraction of many skywatching-specific binoculars.
What to look out for when buying binoculars for kids
Binoculars can make a great entry point for budding young astronomers and nature watchers, yet there are some things worth considering before purchasing a pair for children. Above all, be wary of binoculars that resemble ‘toy binoculars’. They be cheaper and more visually appealing to children, but their performance will not meet anything like the standards of properly designed binoculars and will therefore affect their enjoyment.
Binoculars can tire even grownup users with repeated use, so it’s especially important to factor in weight when letting children handle them. Children can struggle to keep an image steady with even mid-weight binoculars, so we would recommend pairs that weigh less than 10oz for very young children (4-7 years). Teenagers can generally handle standard-sized binoculars well but can still benefit from more lightweight binoculars with a lower magnification.
If the weight of your binoculars can cause image shake and affect the stability of your view, so too can magnification. High-powered binoculars with a magnification above 8x can prove difficult for smaller hands to keep the view steady, as any movement of the hands gets multiplied by the magnification of the binoculars. Since a shaky image can prove frustrating and eventually bore younger users, having a low-powered – and therefore more stable – pair of binoculars can greatly improve their enjoyment.
Lower-magnification binoculars also produce a wider field of view than high-powered/higher magnification binoculars, which has several benefits for all users, especially children. High-powered binoculars zoom in closer to the object you’re looking at, but low-powered binoculars, with a wider field of view, makes finding objects much easier to begin with. They also help locate fast-moving objects such as birds and can significantly improve a beginner’s coordination and accuracy when it comes to using binoculars.
- Related: How to Hold Binoculars Steady
The aperture of binoculars refers to the diameter of the front lenses and affects the amount of light that reaches the rear lenses. It is the second number after the magnification and denotes millimeters. So, a pair of binoculars that is rated at 7x30 offers a magnification of x7 and a diameter of 30mm.
That aperture can make a big difference to the experience of using binoculars, especially in low-light and at night, so we recommend using a pair of binoculars with 40mm or above aperture, especially if you intend to use them for nighttime stargazing.
Anything can happen when you’re out in the field, so to prolong the life of your binoculars and to ensure the best possible user experience for as long as possible, it’s sensible to purchase the most durable pair that you can. This doesn’t have to mean an expensive pair of binoculars, as many pairs, such as some of those included above, come with some form of protective rubber coating, and some are even waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. Anything that prevents accidents and damage can only add to your child’s enjoyment of binoculars and the incredible views of nature and the sky above that binocular can provide.