How do choose a telescope suitable for children?

Choosing a telescope for yourself or someone else can be a tricky task, especially for children.  Perhaps you’ve had the frustrating experience of taking your child to a telescope store and finding it hard to find the right telescope for your child.  Choosing a telescope for your child can be a challenge, but with the right information, you can make an informed decision.  With so many options, brands and varieties, it can become very overwhelming.  

With a natural curiosity and fascination for space, a telescope is an ideal device for a child’s curiosity.  But if you start with the wrong telescope, you’ll find stargazing quickly loses its appeal.  

In this buying guide, we highlight the key factors you need to consider when buying a telescope for your child and help you choose the telescope that best suits their age and ability.  Take some time to consider the following points before you buy a telescope for your child.  

choose a telescope suitable for children

1. Type of telescope  

Before buying the perfect telescope, you need to understand the different types.  They usually fall into three categories:  

(1) Refracting telescope  

This is the most common type of telescope.  It’s a long tube attached to a lens, and it can be used to zoom in on objects in the sky and the ground.  If you are looking for a telescope to use for bird watching after your child has finished stargazing, you will need a refractor.  

(2) Reflecting telescope  

Reflective telescopes use mirrors instead of lenses.  They provide extremely high resolution and quality, and they can see distant objects better than refraction lenses, but at the cost of being unsuitable for viewing earth.  They are not as versatile as refractors.  

(3) Composite telescope  

Also known as “refraction telescopes,” composite telescopes offer the best of both worlds.  They can be used on both space objects and Earth objects, and thanks to a dual combination of in-tube lenses and mirrors, they provide clear, crisp images.  Their only downside is that their professional-grade quality also comes with a professional-grade price tag, and they may not be suitable for very young children.  

choose a telescope suitable for children

2. Buy tools, not toys  

Don’t think of the telescope as a toy, think of it as a discovery tool!  Only in your imagination would you attempt to climb a mountain with a plastic pick in a beginner explorer’s kit.  If you want to climb a real mountain, you need real tools.  Similarly, you can’t expect to see the stars with a toy telescope.  When you see a telescope as a tool rather than a toy, you are buying a true key to the universe.  

Does this mean telescopes are not suitable for children?  Binoculars are definitely for kids!  It’s just the difference between a toy and a tool.  Kids can go crazy for their toys but need some help and guidance with real tools.  Telescopes can help teach kids to respect their stuff because the reward is the moon and stars!  

3. Aperture is important  

The aperture is the diameter of a telescope’s lens or mirror, which determines how much light the telescope can collect.  Astronomy is not about how much we can magnify, but how much light we can glean from it.  Think of it this way: The pupil in your eye is about 7 millimeters in diameter when fully dilated.  You want to observe an object in the night sky, such as the Orion Nebula, which shines from thousands of light-years away. 

That 7mm pupil means that when you look up at the constellation Orion, your eyes are only picking up photons from those distant stars at any one time.  You don’t need a magnifying glass to see – you need a bigger pupil!  That’s what telescopes are about, bigger eyes.  Or more specifically, a lens that focuses more precious photons into your eye.  

choose a telescope suitable for children

4. Easy to setup/use  

The best telescope for your child should be one that is as easy to set up and use as possible.  It should have a low learning curve and be intuitive to young minds.  

In this way, the child can learn to use the telescope independently, which will give them more fun than any dependent partner.  

5. Conclusion

Buying the right telescope for your child is critical if you want your child to have a positive experience and continue to use it for years to come.  Make sure it’s easy to install, use, transport, and powerful enough to provide a clear view of objects in the night sky.  

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