When choosing telescopes for kids, expensive models are not necessary to spark their interest in stargazing. Consider the ages of the children who will be using the telescope, however. For very young children, keep it simple and not overly complicated. If you want the telescope to be an educational tool and not just a toy, avoid buying poorly constructed plastic telescopes for kids, as these may be a waste of money. It's also a good idea to shop at a specialty store that sells optical equipment rather than at a toy store, so you will have a variety of models to choose from.
When you visit the store, speak with an associate who can offer suggestions for buying age-appropriate telescopes for kids. A basic beginner's model might be best for a very young child. The beginner's telescope might not offer very powerful magnification, although it should keep a young child interested while he learns how it functions. For a child older than 10, consider an intermediate telescope with higher magnification. Learning how to focus and adjust magnification will take practice and skill, so wait until the child is older to buy him a more advanced model.
You can choose between a reflector telescope and a refractor telescope, both of which should be available in a child's model. The reflector is equipped with a mirror that will magnify distant objects, while the refractor's main magnification tools are the lenses. Many parents choose the reflector style for children, as they tend to be less complicated and less expensive. It is important to remember these telescopes are generally a bit larger and bulkier than most refractor telescopes for kids.
It's not a good idea to buy a child's telescope from an unknown company. Choose a brand that has manufactured optical equipment for many years to be sure the company is reliable and offers good customer service. Buy your telescope from a company that offers toll-free telephone support, in case you need service or have questions.
Depending upon the size of the telescope, you will need a well-built mount to keep it secure and steady. A hand-held model will most likely produce a shaky image when held by a child's small hands. For small telescopes, a table-top mount is best. Use a floor mount if it is a large model telescope.
Your child may want to take his telescope on family trips or sleep-overs at a friend's house. For this reason, you should choose a telescope for children that is easy to transport. Although it should be light enough for the child to carry, it needs to be durable enough to withstand the rough handling of children.