We would love to be able to get kids into astronomy just by giving them a pair of binoculars and pointing them at the night sky. However, not every pair of binoculars will be suitable for them and could make for a frustrating experience if they're not quite right. Most binoculars are typically sized for adult hands and faces and they can be pretty weighty so not practical for an enjoyable evening of stargazing with small children.
Many top manufacturers now have models tailored for kids, including Celestron, Nikon and Olympus — all competing for business. But just what are the best binoculars for kids and how should you pick?
Size and weight have to be your first consideration. You can always mount a larger pair on a tripod for them to peer through, but having one light and comfortable enough that they can hold and sweep across the sky is important for their independent learning.
Binoculars with rubber grips are often more comfortable to hold, and easier for smaller hands too, but you can find out more about that in our best compact binoculars guide. Be sure to also check out our guide to the best binoculars for stargazing or seeing in the dark with one from our roundup of the best night vision binoculars.
1. Make sure the binoculars aren’t too bulky or 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.
Because magnification exaggerates movement, binoculars with more magnification are harder they are to hold steady, and youngsters may get frustrated or lose their grip. Lower magnification binoculars of 7x or 8x are better to introduce kids to astronomy. See our tricks for holding binoculars steady which you can pass on to them.
It's worth checking how much physical adjustment is possible too. Binoculars have a degree of flex to better fit individual faces, particularly the distance between the eyes. The more flex, the more likely they will fit a smaller face.
Larger objective lenses mean brighter images, so aim for at least 30mm diameter. The best binoculars will have fully multi-coated optics and BAK-4 glass prisms. There are cheaper instruments available, which will still give enthralling views of the heavens, but you won't be getting the absolute best image possible.
If you want to look further your research into what's available or if you want to consider telescopes for an even more powerful look at the night sky, then be sure to check out our binoculars deals or best telescopes guides. Otherwise, if you want to check out the best binoculars for kids, read on.
Best value for money
Fun fact, children can see better in the dark than adults. It's not because of surplus carrots in their diet, but because of anatomical differences. Their pupils can dilate wider, which increases their light-gathering power and makes their night vision better. This means it is possible to give a child smaller binoculars that are easier to carry and hold but that allow less light in than yours, and they will still see a glistening night sky, whereas, with the same pair, it might not look as impressive for you. You also have the option of going for a pair of binoculars like the Celestron Cometron which are both reasonably lightweight and let in a lot of light.
With 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses, the Celestron Cometron is an ideal size for a beginner’s introduction to stargazing. What’s more, their optics are multi-coated and include a stargazing-centric Porro prism, though they do utilize step-down BK7 glass (not the preferred BAK-4). They also have a large exit pupil, which guarantees maximum light during the night and at dawn/dusk. As a bonus, they can easily adjust to suit smaller faces.
There is a downside though. The aluminum-cased Celestron Cometrons are not waterproof, and their covering lacks a premium feel. However, parents care about such things more than children do, and the Celestron Cometron are such good value that it probably doesn’t matter if they eventually get left out in the rain or accidentally dropped and break.
Best for durability
Ideal binoculars for kids to view the night sky are those with an 8x magnification and a 42mm objective lens. This is lower than the 10x50 specification that is generally recommended for adults. It means a smaller size and lower weight but still has enough magnification and light-gathering power. The Opticron Adventurer T WP 8x42 is an excellent value example.
The specs are good: you get a Porro prism design using BAK4 glass prisms with fully multi-coated lenses, water and dew-proof and it comes coated in protective rubber-like armor. In the box is a soft case, a neck strap and rubber objective lens covers. They also feature long eye relief eyepieces for kids who wear glasses.
All this help to make night sky viewing easy and enjoyable. Opticron Adventurer T WP 8x42 binoculars are 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 including 6.5x32, 8x32, 10x42, 10x50 and 12x50.
Best for the whole family
Not everyone can justify buying binoculars solely for their kids to use. Instead, you might want to find a top-quality pair that the whole family can enjoy. If that is the case, look no further than Nikon - a photography and optics brand you can’t not have heard of. These mid-range binoculars are beginner-friendly, well suited to use by kids but also anyone else who finds holding binos their face a tiring experience.
Covered in non-slip rubber for easy grip and all-important shock resistance in case of accidental drops, Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are guaranteed to be both fog-free and even waterproof (up to 1 m/3.3 ft for 10 minutes). They are slim, compact and lightweight considering their size making holding them for long periods of star gazing easy.
The images they display are sharp, clear and bright thanks to their multi-coated lenses and high-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror-coated prisms. A long eye relief design also means a clear field of view for glasses wearers.
As mentioned before, 8x magnification with a 42mm objective lens is perfect for kids' binoculars, and this pair from Nikon is just that - perfect for light-gathering and stargazing. Nikon Prostaff 3S binoculars are available in 10x42 (opens in new tab) as well if you want a little more magnification.
Best for detailed images
Though quite large and heavy (at over 1kg), Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 binoculars are a great choice for any child who’s outgrown small binoculars and who wants to get close-ups of deep-sky objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy without moving into telescope territory. It is also perfect for letting a tripod take the weight.
You get what amounts to a highly portable 3D telescope. With 12x magnification, it’s perfect for spotting moon craters and resolving individual stars in clusters like the Pleiades and Hyades. However, at 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 finding something sturdy to rest them on if you're going to be using them for long periods.
Built around a Porro Prism design featuring BAK4 glass and boasting multi-coated optics for bright and detailed views, the objective lenses of 60 mm let in a lot of light. The Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 has an ultra-firm rubber coating on its barrels that’s easy to hold and helps protect them from bumps. A carry case and lens caps are included.
Best for reducing wobble
Rugged, compact, and portable, these garish yellow or green (hard to lose) binoculars scream "my first binoculars".
Designed with very young children in mind, and with a tough polycarbonate housing, these roof prism binoculars with BK7 glass come with a small case and a foolproof wrist strap. That’s important because they are pretty small. Featuring only 6x magnification and with just 21mm objective lenses they’re only useful for looking for the Moon, as they lack the light-gathering abilities of superior astronomy-specific binoculars.
Since kids tend to be less good at holding still than adults, that small amount of magnification can help everything seem more stable. The higher the magnification of the image, the higher the magnification of the wobble. Reduced wobble makes it easier to find and focus on things like the Moon. Don’t mistake them for a throwaway novelty, though, as inside you’ll find surprisingly good optics and anti-reflective coatings that brighten the image. They lack substantial eye relief so we wouldn’t recommend them for kids who wear glasses.
If you can put up with their shortcomings, these are is a brilliant cost-effective option as an introductory pair of binoculars, ideal to get young children interested in stargazing.
Want to keep it small and light for your child? If you’re looking for something small and light, consider investing in smaller, general-purpose binoculars like the Celestron Nature DX 8x32.
The 32 mm objective lenses and 8x magnification certainly keep the weight down, and the waterproof outer covering makes them non-slip and can probably withstand a few knocks, although this isn't the sort of thing we regularly test. Inside are BAK4 prisms with a phase coating to maximize contrast and sharpness, and they also have multi-coated optics that maximize light transmission for brighter images in the dark. Unusually for such small binoculars, you also get a built-in tripod mount to aid stability if desired.
Both portable and highly versatile, the Celestron Nature DX 8x32 are perfect for beginners, but perhaps best suited to older kids. They also come in an 8x42 design (opens in new tab).
Best for a wide angle view
For children and adults who want to be fully immersed in a 3D night sky, with all its colors and constellations, there are few more instantly impressive or unusual binoculars than these.
Specifically designed for wide-field observation of the stars and the Milky Way, Vixen SG 2.1x42 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 against a dark sky. The stereoscopic depth is incredible, and the light-gathering power is remarkable, though the nature of the optics means that there is a distinct ring of blur around the edges of the field of view.
Made in Japan and supplied with a soft case and neck strap, the Vixen SG 2.1x42 are easy to use and boasts excellent build quality. It can be a little fiddly to focus both lenses individually, but because of the wide field of view, the user gets a very steady image. This, and the solid yet lightweight construction make it suitable for kids. One drawback is that the lens caps are easy to lose, but that’s a small detail on these pocket-sized, unique binoculars that skywatchers will love.
Best with built in image stabilization
One problem with us humans is that we’re constantly moving. Throw magnification into the mix, and the upshot is that it’s hard for anyone using binoculars to keep their subject still in their field of view without using some sort of external support mechanism.
Cue the waterproof Canon 10x42L IS WP, a powerful, portable, expensive but utterly irresistible pair of binoculars that change the stargazing game. They can help the user keep objects completely still using the same built-in image stabilization (IS) tech seen in Canon's wallet-melting camera lenses. Capable of instantly impressing a child — or anyone else, for that matter.
Inside, gyro sensors detect the amount of wobble created by the holder and use actuators around the barrels to move floating lens elements to compensate for that movement. It’s a battery-powered system that is engaged simply by pressing a button on the top of the binoculars. Two AAA batteries give about two hours’ worth of image stabilization.
The stillness of these binoculars helps to produce images pin-sharp, so star clusters, the Moon and even Jupiter and its moons become truly incredible to look at. It’s not just the image stabilization you’re paying for. Inside are the ultra-low dispersion glass lens elements and ‘Super Spectra’ lens coatings. The lens caps however are a surprisingly poor fit and very easy to lose, something which shouldn't be seen at this price point.
This is a specialist purchase and probably shouldn’t be used by children without supervision and a neck strap. They do represent the most enjoyable and impressive binoculars for skywatching yet. Who needs a telescope?
Best for spectacle wearers
On paper, its 10x magnification and 25 mm objective lenses make the Olympus 10x25 WP II appear less than ideal for stargazing in anyone's hands. They just don't have the appropriate light-gathering power to produce bright images. However, when you’re buying a pair of binoculars for a child, you have to think about weight and size as well as image quality. If you wanted the ultimate binoculars for night-time skywatching, you wouldn’t choose a pair like this, but in practice, for children, the size of a pair of skywatching binoculars is as important as the glass inside them.
Inside these roof‑prism binoculars, is high-quality optical glass, which helps create a bright image. They are also well adapted for smaller faces. Boasting a dual-hinge design, they’re simple to adjust to fit the user’s face, with a focus knob in easy reach for sharpening. There’s also a dioptric adjuster for matching the lenses to a user’s specific eyesight, this makes them a stand-out optical instrument. The Olympus 10x25 WP II binoculars have nitrogen-filled bodies, which aids with waterproofing, fog-proofing and dirt-proofing. They’re protected by a rubber coating that is tactile and grippy.
They are easy to fold up and carry in a pocket, and the paltry 260g weight is a fraction of many skywatching-specific binoculars, and ideally suited to smaller hands.
What to look 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 one for children. Above all, be wary of ‘toy binoculars’. They are cheaper and generally more visually appealing to children, but their performance will not be anything like the standards of ‘proper binoculars’ and will therefore affect enjoyment and learning.
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 (283g) 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 make it tough for smaller hands to keep the view steady, as any movement of the hands gets multiplied by the magnification. Since a shaky image can prove frustrating and eventually bore younger users, having low-powered, stable binoculars can enhance their enjoyment.
Lower-magnification binoculars also produce a wider field of view than high-powered/higher magnification binoculars, with 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, make finding objects much easier. They also help locate fast-moving objects such as birds and can significantly improve a beginner’s coordination and accuracy.
- 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 are 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 a 40mm or above aperture to let in more light, especially for night-time stargazing.
Anything can happen when you’re out in the field, so to prolong the life of your binoculars and ensure the best possible user experience for as long as possible, it’s sensible to purchase the most durable pair. This doesn’t have to mean the most expensive, as many, including those 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 reduce your worry and add to your child’s enjoyment of binoculars and the incredible views of nature and the sky above that binoculars can open up.