This guide will introduce you to telescopes that are budget-friendly and perfect for inquisitive kids.
Here’s a checklist for buying budget-friendly telescopes for kids:
- Magnification: Look for telescopes with a magnification of at least 30x-40x. This will allow kids to see celestial objects clearly.
- Aperture: Choose telescopes with a larger aperture (the diameter of the telescope’s front lens or mirror) for brighter, clearer images. A 60mm aperture is a starting point.
- Portability: Consider telescopes that are easy to move and set up, such as tabletop or compact models. This will make it easier for kids to use and store.
- Durability: Look for telescopes made of sturdy materials that can withstand accidental bumps and falls.
- Accessories: Consider telescopes that come with accessories like eyepieces, tripods, and finderscopes. These can enhance the viewing experience and make it easier for kids to find objects in the night sky.
#1. Celestron 80mm Travel Scope
Suggested Ages: 6+ years
With an aperture size of 80 mm and a focal length of 400 mm, this 80mm baby has a focal ratio of 5. The f/3 to f/5 types like this are best for wide-field observing, i.e., more of the sky.
It’s good for observing the Moon at night and terrestrial viewing during the day.
It comes with…
- A lightweight adjustable tripod
- 2 eyepieces (20 and 10 mm) for 20× and 40×
- The highest useful magnification is 189x – for what this means see my article on what to look for in a telescope.
No tools required to set up and you’ll have this up in just minutes. Celestron offers US-based support on the technical use of their instruments.
The alt-azimuth mount is easy to operate, with the panhandle working in an up and down, and left to right motion.
A 45-degree prism is included for image correction. Tip: For looking at objects high in the sky you might want to consider purchasing a 90-degree one as well.
The tripod tends to be a bit flimsy, which detracts from the best views. I have an article on modifying flimsy tripods to get a sturdier deal.
- Comes with a sturdy padded backpack and smartphone adapter
- Lightweight, affordable
- Easy to set up
- Can double for wildlife spotting
- Wide field views
- Software for education
- Full size tripod is flimsy (but you can fix this – see notes above)
- Has plastic components (though these reduce the weight and cost factors)
The Celestron telescope comes at a reasonable price for what it offers, click the image to see the latest price at Amazon…
#2. Orion GoScope III refractor telescope
Suggested Ages: 6 – 18+ years
This ultraportable day and night telescope is perfect for on-the-go beginners. It is ve… [More]
An aperture size of 70 mm (about 3″) and a focal length of 400 mm makes it a f/5.7.
- Eyepieces 25mm and 10 mm
- Lightweight tripod
- Moon map
- Sturdy backpack
Orion is another well-known brand of telescopes. This is my pick of the ones here.
Like most of these, it doubles for daytime use with terrestrial viewing and is a portable scope.
- Moon map included for information about the moon’s features
- Easy to put together
- Affordable price
- The backpack has extra space to include personal items along with the accessories
- Tripod while adjustable is not full size for adults or a tall teenager, but it can be placed on table or top of a vehicle and adjusted to give it the height you’re after.
- Tripod could be sturdier. You can fix that with weights as I outline in my article here.
#3. Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ refractor telescope
Suggested Ages: 6 – 18+ years
This refractor telescope is one of Celestron’s PowerSeeker range. It is simple to use, well built, and of good quality. It’s an ideal children’s telescope. Being a PowerSeeker, it comes with three eyepieces (4, 10, and 20 mm) and a 3× Barlow lens.
The optics are fully coated glass to provide enhanced image brightness.
Aperture size is 70 mm (about 3″) and focal length 700mm, giving a focal ratio of 10. Your child should get a good view of the moon and be able to observe the bright planets such as Venus.
It comes with a full-size tripod and stands about a meter from the floor. The mount is an alt-azimuth for manual movement to navigate to and adjust to stay pointed at objects in the sky.
The child will have fun in trying out the different lenses and working out the trick in figuring out which lens to use.
With this telescope, you will get a computer program where you can add your location and it will show you what constellations and planets are visible in that part of the sky at certain times of the year.
- Lightweight, portable, and affordable
- Has a 90º correct image prism
- Easy set up with no tools required
- Good achromatic optics for a lightweight package
- The range of eyepieces
- Plastic parts (designed for lightness and low cost)
- No carry case — you will need to buy it separately
‘Value priced’ is what reviewers say about this. It’s in the ball park of others listed so far for the same aperture size.
You might be able to get a discounted price at Amazon — See the latest price here.
#4. Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ refractor
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ is similar to the PowerSeeker 70AZ (above) but is said to have better construction (less plastic). The alt-azimuth mount is solid metal and the tripod has metal legs and a locking tray.
The other differences: It has two eyepieces (20 and 10 mm). The focal length is 900mm and aperture size 70mm, giving it a focal ratio of 13 and making it a ‘slow’ telescope with an implied higher magnification and narrow field of view – best for lunar, planetary, and binary star observations.
Includes free Starry Night astronomy software.
- Easy to set up
- Affordable price
- Includes a container for the eyepieces
- Includes a 90º elbow for ease of viewing
- Focal length
- No carry case
- The tripod can cause frustration when trying to keep object in view
Another one rated “great for the price”. This one is around the $100 mark. It is popular with buyers at Amazon. See the latest price here.
For a bit extra, you can get a 80 mm aperture (diameter of the objective lens) AstroMaster for more light gathering. Check it out here.
#5. Emarth telescope — A 70mm refractor
Manufacturer Recommends Ages: 12+ years, but 3+ years can use this telescope designed for children. You’ll find this small telescope is also marketed under other brand names.
It’s a real cheapie — an introductory piece for your kid to play around with. It has the extra accessories without too much of an outlay.
An aperture size of 70mm, a focal length of 360 mm, and therefore a focal ratio of 5.1. Similar deal to the above mentioned.
- a 40 cm adjustable tripod
- a finder scope, and carry bag
- a 3× Barlow lens to increase viewing power
- 2 eyepieces (25 mm and 10 mm) – magnifications of 128× and 51×
- a solar system map
The Emarth telescope for kids is super easy to set up since it is a no-tool gig. It has an alt-azimuth mounting and can be moved vertically as well as horizontally.
It sports fully coated optics and uses BAK-4 prism for better viewing.
This kid’s telescope, sold by EmarthTech, comes with a 24 month warranty: “We will make an instant refund or replacement for you until you are satisfied with it”, and 24 hour service – according to Emarth, who is a supplier of outdoor, sports, and electronic goods.
- Compact scope
- Having a carry case makes it good for traveling also
- It also has a lifetime money back guarantee
- Tripod (40 cm) is not a full standing height for an adult
- No astronomy software but does include maps of the moon and stars
“Reasonably priced” say reviewers. It’s in the same ball park as the other 70mm telescopes. As shown at Amazon, they offer a satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy, send it back.