In the modern-day world, there are a lot of kids and teenagers who spend most of their free time staring at computer screens or their phones. Instead of hanging out with friends and peers, they are tempted by social networks and numerous games that are popular among the younger generation.
Spending so much time looking at their phones, swiping through unimportant pieces of information, means nothing good for the kids and teenagers. Their creativity and imagination are still in development, so it is essential to engage them in some thinking activities.
A lot of parents find themselves in a situation in which they have no idea how to break the circle and motivate their kids to do something else next to spending time online. One of the most critical questions among parents is: "How to persuade a child to channel their potential elsewhere?"
When Christmas time and the season of gift-giving approaches, this question becomes more pressing and starts to pop up in the parent's mind more frequently. What is a good gift for a kid that would motivate him/her to get outside and put down a phone for an hour or two? What sort of activity is suitable for a child to expand their knowledge and skills, and can be done in the home's backyard?
If you are among those parents who look for a perfect gift, then your search is over. Getting your child a telescope is, without a doubt, a beautiful and enlightening gift. Telescope encourages children to think, learn about stars, and stimulates their imagination. Observing the moon and stars is fun and one of the most attractive hobbies. Stargazing is suitable for children of all ages. The youngest one can find the moon and watch the stars as they drive by. Slightly older children who show more interest in science can use a star chart and try to locate individual stars by themselves!
When the decision to get your kid a telescope is made, then comes the second question.
“What kind of telescope is most suitable for my child, and how much should I spend on it?”
It all depends on the kid's age and ambition, and of course, your financial situation.
If your child has never looked through the telescope before, then getting him/her the most expensive telescope is probably not the best idea. Get your kid a telescope that is simple to use and has a stable-manual mount. For teens that already show interest in stars and planets, telescope on a computerized mount is a good option. This type of mount allows them to quickly select the desired celestial object from the computer database and locate it in the night sky.
Below is the list of eight telescopes that, in my opinion, are suitable for kids of different ages. This article is a perfect astronomy gift buying guide. It is indispensable for parents who already know they will present their kid with a telescope but don't know which one to pick.
1. Celestron PowerSeeker 60 AZ [89.00 €]
When parents are not sure if their kids will enjoy the hobby of stargazing, the PowerSeeker 60AZ is an excellent choice. Given the price, this is an excellent telescope for everyone who just became involved in sky-gazing. PowerSeeker 60AZ is a refractor telescope that uses a combination of glass lens at its objective and a second glass at its eyepiece. Compare to the 50AZ model, it features a 10 mm bigger aperture, meaning that 60 AZ provides more light-gathering power than a smaller model. Besides celestial observations, this telescope can also be used for terrestrial viewing. On a bright night, kids can enjoy viewing the moon, its surface, craters, star clusters, and they can even distinguish the rings of Saturn.
The telescope is seated on manual altazimuth mount; its installation is effortless and fast. Altazimuth mount enables the telescope to move in two different directions:
- up – down (altitude) and
- left-right (azimuth).
For more effortless movement and tracking stars, the mount features a special altitude slow-motion controller. It is used to make small movements of a telescope in the up-down direction.
As I have mentioned above, the PowerSeeker telescope comes with an aluminum altazimuth mount. Besides mount, there are also other accessories included in the packet:
- 5x24 finderscope (used to aim the telescope and locate the desired celestial object)
- 20mm and 4mm eyepieces (used to achieve different magnifications)
- 3x Barlow lens (to increase the focal length – to magnify the image)
- correct image prism (for a non-reversed image – suitable for terrestrial daytime observations)
- SkyX software
- Inexpensive telescope, suitable for small children
- Goog first telescope for observing Moon and brighter stars
- Can also be used for terrestrial observations
- Small aperture - doesn't have enough light-gathering power.
2. Bresser 76/350 18-117x76 [109.00 €]
If you are looking for a telescope at an affordable price that is easy to operate and comes ready to use, then Bresser 76/350 is the right choice. This is a Dobsonian type of telescope that is simply placed on the top of a table and can be easily moved to the other location. Because of its simplicity and small size, it is one of the best telescopes for kids.
Dobsonian telescope features a Newtonian reflector with 76mm aperture and 350mm focal length. The optical tube is sited on a simple altazimuth mount, which allows movements in two directions (vertical and horizontal). Telescope comes with 20mm and 6mm eyepieces, which provide 18x and 58x magnification, respectively.
Bresser 76/350 is an excellent telescope for kids; it provides incredible insight into the world of astronomy. Once the telescope is set to the table, kids can immediately start to observe the night sky. Telescope has an included moon filter, which provides better contrast and brings out more surface details of the moon.
Bresser collects a lot of light, which makes it an excellent telescope for the price. Viewing the stars and moon with the Bresser 76/350 is a great adventure for the kids! The downside of this telescope is that because of its design (Newtonian reflector), it is not suitable for terrestrial observations.
- Easy to set and use - suitable for small children.
- This is a good telescope for viewing Moon, stars, and brighter planets.
- Not suitable for terrestrial observations.
3. Levenhuk Strike 90 Plus [249.99 €]
If you are thinking about purchasing a stable telescope with a good size aperture, and acceptable optical performance, then you should consider Levenhuk Strike 90 Plus. This telescope is suitable for kids under the age of ten, but it is also great for older children who already have some knowledge of the movement of the stars.
Strike 90 Plus is an achromatic refracting telescope that uses curved mirrors to collect and focus light. It is the smallest model in the Strike series. Because of its lightweight structure, it is more comfortable to move than more prominent models. Altazimuth mount moves the telescope in altitude and azimuth. The assembly of the telescope very easy and fast. The mount is already attached to the telescope and ready to use. The tripod of Strike 90 Plus is made of aluminum and is very stable and compact.
Strike 90 Plus is in a higher price range than the previous two telescopes from my list. It is an excellent scope for observing stars, planets, and the surface of the moon. It comes with two different eyepieces and a 3x Barlow lens. This means that we can observe the night sky with six different magnifications!
If your kid is excited about photography and has a desire to learn about astrophotography, then Strike 90 is not the right choice. The camera cannot be attached to Strike 90, and there are no slow-motion controllers to track the celestial object. You must keep in mind that the equatorial mount is much more suitable for astrophotography than altazimuth mount. Strike 90 Plus can be used for terrestrial observations, but unless you use the correcting image prism, the image is upside down.
- Stable telescope with acceptable optical performance, good for children of all ages.
- Very easy to move around.
- Good telescope for observing planets and the surface of the Moon.
- Not suitable for astrophotography - the camera can not be attached.
- Also, there are no slow-motion controllers to track stars.
4. Celestron LCM 60 Computerized [298.00 €]
Celestron LCM 60 is the first telescope on my list that features a computer and a motor drive. This telescope is an excellent choice for high school students that have an interest in stars. LCM 60 enables students to see and observe the surface of the moon. Viewing the stars and planets with LCM 60 is also enjoyable, but for the deep space observations, this telescope is not the best choice.
LCM 60 is the smallest telescope in the LCM series. Because of its size, it is very portable and perfect for taking to places where there is no light pollution.
LCM 60 is a refractor type of telescope with a 60mm aperture, which is not the best size. Bear in mind that for the same price, you can get a telescope with a bigger aperture - but without GoTo mount. The advantage of this telescope is that the user gets computerized and motorized mount for a reasonable price.
The telescope features Sky-align technology, which makes locating celestial objects very simple. There is no need for the use of a star chart when aligning the telescope; the procedure of alignment is uncomplicated and swift. When the telescope is aligned, the user selects the desired celestial object from the computer database and waits for the telescope to slew to the right position on the sky. Hoping from star to star with LCM 60 is very easy and fast and doesn't require the knowledge of the location and movement of the stars.
Telescope comes with two different eyepieces, 25mm and 9mm. The aluminum tripod is of good quality and sturdy. A finderscope is also included – a built-in StarPointer for trouble-free alignment and precise locating of celestial objects.
- Very affordable GoTo telescope, great for planetary and lunar viewing.
- Tracking stars and planets is straightforward.
- Small size of the aperture.
- Batteries won't last very long.
5. Levenhuk Strike 900 Pro [349.99 €]
Strike 900 Pro is an entry-level telescope from the Strike PRO series. This is a refractor telescope that uses an achromatic lens, meaning that the effect of chromatic aberration is minimal. Strike 900 features a 90mm aperture, which is enough to produce bright and sharp images of stars and planets. Besides viewing stars, planets, and surface of the moon, Strike 900 is also a good telescope for “deep-sky” observations. The objective lens gathers enough light to make the brightest deep-sky objects visible.
The refractor is set up on an equatorial mount EQ2. Using the equatorial mount is more complicated and puzzling than using a simple altazimuth mount. Because of its complex design, the Strike 900 PRO is better suited for older kids, such as high school students. For quality observations and precise tracking of the stars, the telescope needs to be correctly aligned, using the slow-motion controllers. The telescope is mounted on an adjustable and well-built tripod. It is compact, small and light enough for taking to the countryside where light pollution does not affect our view of the stars.
For those students that are interested in photography, a camera can be attached to the T-thread on the focuser. Keep in mind that you need to purchase an adapter for your type of camera to properly attach it to the telescope.
Astrophotography is a beautiful hobby, and Strike 900 PRO is a great telescope to begin with. It is an excellent telescope for your kid to take its first photograph of the universe, using short exposure time.
With this model, you will get a lot of extra supplies that are usually not part of the standard packet. For all those kids who want to learn about the universe, extra gadgets such as eyepieces (25mm, 10mm, and 6.3mm), lunar and solar filters, Barlow lens, compass, and 6x30 finderscope are a great addition.
- Excellent entry-level telescope that produces a bright image.
- Great for observing stars, planets, and bright "deep-sky" objects.
- Suitable for astrophotography.
- No motor and computer for tracking stars.
6. Celestron NexStar 102 SLT Computerized [595.00 €]
NexStar 102 SLT is the second telescope on my list that has a computerized and motorized altazimuth mount. This type of telescope is not designed for small children, but it is a good choice for older kids that know how to read and use instructions.
NexStar 102 SLT is a refracting telescope with a short optical tube and a 102mm aperture. It uses a combination of glass lenses to form an image. The short focal length contributes to brighter images, which makes this telescope ideal for planetary observations. Considering the small aperture, even nebulas and galaxies are well resolved. The good side of having a small aperture telescope is that it is very portable and can be taken to different locations.
NexStar has a vast database that contains location information of selected celestial objects. When the alignment of the telescope is done, it is effortless to select the object we want to observe and track. It doesn't matter if your kid is a beginner in watching skies and doesn't have plenty of experience. Observing the night skies with NexStar is always entertaining.
Setting up the telescope is very easy and fast since it comes almost fully assembled. Tripod is very well built, made of aluminum and can be adjusted for height. NexStar has a wide field of view, which means that besides viewing large areas of skies, it is also suitable for terrestrial observations. The image created through the refractor is either flipped or upside down. To fix this problem, an image diagonal needs to be installed.
The included items in the packet are a 20mm and 9mm eyepiece, StarPointer finderscope, and an image diagonal. The telescope is also compatible with the NexRemote software for controlling the telescope via computer.
- Great telescope for older children interested in astronomy.
- NexStar is suitable for all sorts of celestial observations (stars, planets, the surface of the Moon, even bright "deep-sky" objects)
- Vast database of celestial objects location.
- The included eyepieces are not high quality - for better contrast and wider field of view, you will need to buy a high-quality eyepiece.
7. Bresser Ultra-Light Dobsonian 254 mm [749.00 €]
The seventh telescope on my list is Bresser Ultra-Light Dobsonian with a 254mm aperture, which makes it the biggest telescope on the list. This telescope is a perfect gift for students that are interested in observing the surface of the planets and “deep-sky” objects. Because of its good light-gathering power and extraordinary optics, the surface of the moon or planets is incredibly detailed – even an amateur can observe them.
Bresser is a Dobsonian telescope, meaning the optical tube has a Newtonian design set up on the simple altazimuth mount. The mount allows the telescope to move in two directions: up-down and to the side. The simple construction makes it very compact and easy to transport. Dobsonian mounts are great for beginners and amateurs that have minimal experience in astronomy. If your kid has a desire to observe details of the moon, planets, but doesn't have any skills, then Bresser is a perfect gift.
Although Bresser is a large telescope, setting it up is very easy and fast. The assembly can be done without tools and in a matter of minutes. The storage of Bresser is not a problem, because it can be folded into two small carts. The mount features large altitude wheels that allow a smooth and precise movement at high magnifications. The construction is dew resistant and made of aluminum – this means substantial mass reduction, which makes the telescope very lightweight and easy to move.
Comparing Bresser to other telescopes in the same price range, you will find out that its optical performance is outstanding. For 750 €, you will get an excellent telescope that allows for all-around high performance.
- Large aperture provides good light-gathering power.
- This is an excellent telescope for observing the surface of the Moon and planets. It can also be used for "deep-sky" observations.
- Simple altazimuth mount makes this telescope great for beginners in astronomy.
- No GoTo system - unable to track celestial objects.
- No computer also means that there is no database with coordinates of celestial objects.
8. Celestron NexStar 5 SE Computerized [1075.00 €]
The last on my list is a NexStar 5 SE from Celestron. It is the only telescope on the list with a catadioptric design. A Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope combines an open optical tube with a secondary and primary mirror and a Schmidt corrector lens to eliminate chromatic aberration. NexStar 5 SE uses a combination of mirrors and a lens to form an image.
If you are looking for a perfect gift for your science-loving child, then NexStar 5 SE is the right choice. It is a great first telescope with good light-gathering ability at an affordable price. The altazimuth mount has a built-in motor and a computer for automatically locating and tracking celestial objects. The alignment can be done very quickly and doesn't require specific knowledge about the star's location.
NexStar is a very versatile telescope that lets you view the surface of the moon and planets, track stars, and on clear nights even observe distant galaxies and nebulas. Stainless steel tripod is very sturdy and easy to assemble. It is no problem to put NexStar in your car and take it away from the city lights to your favorite observing site.
One of the best features of the NexStar series is that all telescopes are compatible with various smart-tech gadgets, which kids who like to play with electronics will love. The last thing to mention is a built-in wedge. For students that are involved in photography, this is an excellent opportunity to expand their knowledge of Astro-imaging. Wedge transforms your altazimuth mount into an equatorial mount and eliminates the effect of “field rotation.” The wedge is a great asset; instead of short-exposure images, photographs with a significant exposure can be taken.
- Perfect telescope for beginners - GoTo mount is very easy to align.
- Automatically tracking and locating celestial objects.
- Telescope comes with a wedge - for long exposure photography and elimination the effect of field rotation.
- The battery doesn't last very long.
Picking a perfect gift for your child is not an easy task and can be very time and nerve consuming. Many parents want to give their child a gift that is entertaining, engaging, and memorable. They want to be innovative and present their child with a gift that would distract them from the influence of the internet and social networks. To get their child away from the computer screen for even a short period is a success.
Giving your young ones a telescope as a gift is also a gift of time. Viewing the stars with your kids can become a family activity and a beautiful way to bring your family closer together.
In addition to spending quality time together as a family, telescope can also get your kid excited about science and physics. It can encourage kids to be more curious, responsive, and susceptible.
A telescope is a beautiful and useful gift that will last for years.