You can offer your children or grandchildren a head start to spark their interest in astronomy by giving them a kids telescope with which to view the stars. While it is true that you can buy a cheap kids telescope for under $10, if you hope for them to foster a sincere interest in astronomy, you should plan on shelling out $300 to $400 on a quality piece of equipment.
Telescopes in this price range are really toys and while they may hold a younger childs interest, for those over the age of about eight, a more substantial kids telescope will not only spark an interest, it is likely it would hold their interest longer than a weekend camping trip. Although National Geographic does offer a 40mm kids telescope just under $60, many educators and astronomers recommend one with a longer focal length as well as a separate viewer to make finding objects easier and less frustrating for the first time user.
For about $150 the Discovery Channel offers a kids telescope available with an optional shoulder bag and tripod the help get beginner astrologers into the game. Its 70mm lens offers bright images and it claims easy set up to get you started quickly. It also offers decent views of the night sky and will show more detail of the moons surface than most of the other kids telescope models.
Numerous Models Offer Beginner Level Viewing
There are several models of kids telescopes available for under $100, some between $15 and $50, however most have a focal length of 30mm or 50mm. These will offer a generalized view of the sky, but to really zoom in on planets and constellations, 70mm or higher is recommended. Meade offers the 114EQ-ASTR for about $150 featuring a 1000mm focal length with four and a half inch aperture, which is also capable of being attached to a 35mm camera body for photographing the images.
Whether you buy a kids telescope or a top of the line model you will need to read and follow the instructions carefully in order to see things through the telescope. Many make the mistake of unpacking it and pointing it upwards and ten complaining that they cannot see anything, therefore it must be broke. Before the first use every telescope, except the absolute cheapest ones, have to be set up otherwise it is like trying to find an object while looking through a soda straw. So, parents when you buy your child a kids telescope, set it up for them so you both can enjoy the sights.