Should you buy binoculars for a kid looking to get into astronomy? Yes! Most parents go straight for a cheap telescope the moment a child asks about the stars or the moon yet almost all of them soon collect dust, not light. Cue a pair of binoculars, which are much simpler to use and perfect for giving children their first close-ups of the lunar surface, planets, star clusters and even galaxies.
Binoculars are ideal for beginners and young astronomers because they’re easy to carry and take on trips, but there are a few things to bear in mind then choosing the best binoculars for kids. Don’t just consider small binoculars, which limit the light that gets to their eyes and, ultimately, reduces what they’ll see — especially at night.
When shopping around for binoculars, you’ll notice a selection of numbers — 6×21, 7×30, 10×50, and so on. The first number represents the magnification, while the second gives the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters (mm) — the higher that second number, the more light that’s able to get in and the better the view of night sky targets. To keep weight down, keep the magnification low — about 7x to a maximum of 10x — which will mean a wider and more stable field of view that’s perfect for skywatching.
Quick tips on choosing binoculars for kids
1. Make sure the binocular isn’t too big and heavy for a child to hold steady.
2. Magnifications of 7x or 10x are generally the best for skywatching.
3. Porro prisms and BAK4 glass are best for stargazing.
4. Foldable designs are convenient and portable.
To let enough light in at night, choose an objective lens of at least 30 mm, but ideally 42 mm or 50 mm. With those kinds of specs together as 7×42, 10×50 (and other combinations) they’ll get a bright wide-field view of the heavens and also a reasonably stable image. You should avoid buying toy binoculars, which use poor quality lenses and easily go out of alignment. Porro prisms are preferred for skywatching, as are multi-coated optics and BAK4, but use of cheaper BK7 glass shouldn’t be considered a deal-breaker: some perform well for those on a budget.
Just remember that whatever you go for, a binocular in the hands of a child is only as good as how steady they hold them. Get them to hold the binocular toward the end of the tubes, not close to their eyes, and keep their elbows in. Better still, get them to lean against a wall or sit in a lawn chair.
Here at Space.com, we’ve cast our eye over the market for the best binoculars for kids and rounded up the very best for skywatching and for getting a close-up of some of the planets and the moon. You’ll find most feature 7×50, 10×50 or similar specifications, but we have included a few outliers for parents who want to either spend as little as possible or go for a specialist skywatching binocular instead of a telescope.
Related: Best binoculars 2021: Top picks for skywatching, nature and travel from Celestron, Nikon and other great brands
What most don’t appreciate about children is that they can see a lot better in the dark than adults. That’s because their pupils can dilate wider, which makes their night vision better. So should you give a child a smaller pair of binoculars that are easier to carry and hold, but allow less light in? That’s one option. Another is to go for a pair of binoculars like the Celestron Cometron that manage to be both reasonably lightweight and let as much light in as possible. That way you’re allowing them to see everything in the night sky they possibly could.
With 7x magnification and a 50 mm objective lens, the Celestron Cometron are ideally sized for stargazing. What’s more, they boast multi-coated optics that comprise a stargazing-centric Porro prism, though they do utilise step-down BK7 glass. They also have a large exit pupil, which guarantees maximum light during the night and at dawn/dusk. They’re also easy to adjust to smaller faces.
These ideal specifications and usability come at a cost. The aluminum cased Celestron Cometron are not waterproof and their covering lacks a high-end feel. However, children don’t care about such things and, besides, the Celestron Cometron are such insanely good value that it probably doesn’t matter if they eventually get damaged.
The Celestron Cometron also comes in 12×70 conjuration, which might be something to consider as a next step upgrade specifically for deep sky astronomy.
Related: Celestron 7×50 Cometron Binoculars: Full Review
If you want a good pair of binoculars for astronomy and the night sky that are best suited to kids, those with an 8x magnification and a 42 mm objective lens are perfect. A slight comedown from the 10×50 specification that’s recommended for adults, 8×42 is the ideal match-up in terms of weight, magnification and light-gathering at night — and the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 are an excellent value example.
A porro prism design using BAK4 glass prisms with fully multi-coated lenses, they’re water and dew-proof and come dressed in protective rubber-like armour. In the box is a soft case, a neck strap and rubber objective lens covers. They also feature long eye relief eyepieces so can easily be used by those who wear spectacles.
Light, compact, waterproof and boasting great views of the night sky, the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 makes for an ideal entry-level option for kids with a serious interest in astronomy, but they’re just as good during the day for wildlife and landscapes. They’re also available in specifications to suit all kinds of uses and users, including 6.5×32, 8×32, 10×42, 10×50 and 12×50.
If you’re looking for a good pair of binoculars that can be used by all the family and offer top quality performance, look no further than this pair from top photography and optics brand Nikon. A step-up purchase, these mid-range binoculars are not only beginner-friendly, but well suited to use by kids.
Covered in non-slip rubber for easy grip and shock resistance if dropped, the Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are guaranteed to be both fog-free and even waterproof (up to 1 m/3.3 ft. for 10 minutes). Reasonably slim, compact and lightweight considering their size, they’re easy to hold for long periods of stargazing while images are sharp, clear and bright thanks to their multilayer-coated lenses and high-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror coated prisms. A long eye relief design also means a clear field of view for those who wear glasses.
Their specifications are ideal for stargazing, too, boasting the classic 8x magnification and a 42 mm objective lens that’s perfect for lightweight light-gathering.
The Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are also available in 10×42 configuration.
Though relatively large and heavy, the Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 binocular will be perfectly suited to any child who’s outgrown a pair of small binoculars and wants to get a close-up of deep sky objects — such as the Andromeda Galaxy — without moving into telescope territory.
You get what amounts to a highly portable 3D telescope, with 12x magnification perfect for zooming in on the moon and star clusters like the Pleiades and Hyades. However, 8.25 x 8.1 x 2.8 inches (210 x 206 x 72 mm) and weighing in at 39.2 oz (1.1 kg), we recommend mounting the Celestron SkyMaster 12x60s on a tripod to make them easier to hold still.
Built around a Porro Prism design featuring BAK4 prisms and boasting multi-coated optics for sharp, bright and highly detailed views and with an objective lens of 60 mm to let as much light in as possible, the Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 has an ultra-firm rubber coating on its barrels that’s easy to hold and helps protect them. Also concluded is a carry case and some lens caps.
Rugged, compact and designed to go anywhere, these garish yellow or green are classic “my first binoculars”.
Created especially for young children and in a harsh polycarbonate housing, these roof prism binoculars with BK7 glass come with a small case and a wrist strap to make them harder to lose. That’s important because they’re pretty small and feature only 6x magnification. That, together with just 21mm objective lenses means they’re useful only for looking for the moon, lacking the light-gathering abilities of superior astronomy-specific binoculars.
However, since kids tend to be shakier than adults, that small amount of magnification can help everything seem more stable than when using higher-end binoculars. It also makes it easy to find things — like the moon. But don’t mistake them for a throwaway novelty: inside you’ll find surprisingly good optics and anti-reflective coatings that brighten the image. However, they lack substantial eye relief so aren’t perfect for kids who wear glasses.
Best suited to very young kids and as an introductory binocular, they’re ideal for a situation where you want to introduce a child to skywatching without denting your bank balance.
Want to keep it small and light? Although 10×50 is the standard for skywatching binoculars meant for adults, that’s a lot to hold. If a child is going to be using them as much by day as by night, consider investing in a pair of smaller, all-round binoculars like the Celestron Nature DX 8×32.
With 8x magnification and 32 mm objective lenses, they’re lightweight at 17.98 oz (510 g) and their outer covering makes them easy to hold as well as waterproof. They can probably take a few knocks, too. Inside are BaK4 prisms with a phase coating to maximise contrast and sharpness, though just as importantly for skywatching they have multi-coated optics that maximise light transmission for brighter images in the dark. Unusually for such a small pair of binoculars you also get a built-in tripod mount.
Aimed at beginners and general use but with excellent optics and an outdoorsy construction, the Celestron Nature DX 8×32 will best suit older kids after something portable and highly versatile. They also come in a 8×42 design.
Why would anyone buy a pair of binoculars with such a low 2.1x magnification? For children and adults who simply want to be immersed in a 3D night sky and its constellations rather than getting close-up to objects there are few more instantly impressive or unusual binoculars than the Vixen SG 2.1×42.
Specifically designed for wide-field observation of the stars and the Milky Way, these binoculars use lenses composed of five multi-coated elements to help star clusters like the Pleiades, Hyades and the Perseus Double Cluster really stand out in a dark sky. The stereoscopic depth is incredible, though the nature of the optics means that there is a distinct ring of blur round the edges of the field of view.
Build quality is second to none. Made in Japan and shipped with a cute soft case and neck strap, the Vixen SG 2.1×42 is really easy to use. Each eyepiece focuses individually and, because of the wide field of view and the solid yet lightweight construction the user gets a very steady image that’s particularly well suited to being used by kids. One drawback is that the lens caps are easy to lose, but that’s a small detail on these one-of-a-kind binoculars that committed skywatchers will love.
Does everything look wobbly? The trouble with humans is they’re warm and they constantly move. Add magnification and the upshot is that it’s hard for a binocular user to keep their subject still in their field of view.
Cue the waterproof Canon 10x42L IS WP, a pair of powerful, portable and utterly irresistible binoculars that change the stargazing game by keeping objects completely still. Their built-in image stabilisation (IS) tech will instantly impress a child — or anyone else, for that matter.
Inside these Canons are motion sensors that detect the amount of shake created by the holder and then use actuators around the lenses to compensate for that movement. It’s a battery-powered system that can be engaged just by pressing a button on the top of the binoculars. Two AAA batteries give about two hours worth of IS, which is modest while the lens caps are, surprisingly for the price, a poor fit and easy to lose.
However, its stillness and also its pin-sharpness make star clusters, the Moon and even Jupiter and its moons look truly incredible. It’s not just the IS you’re paying for; inside are the ultra-low dispersion glass lens elements and ‘Super Spectra’ lens coatings.
It all comes at a high cost indeed. This is a specialist purchase, for sure, and they probably shouldn’t be used without supervision. But they represent the most enjoyable and impressive binoculars for skywatching yet. Who needs a telescope?
On paper their 10x magnification and 25 mm objective lens measurement makes the Olympus 10×25 WP II less than ideal for stargazing, when you’re buying a pair of binoculars for a child you have to think about weight. If you went for the ultimate, most incredible binoculars for skywatching you wouldn’t choose a pair like this, with a 10×25 specification, but in practice just as important as the size of a pair of skywatching binoculars is the glass.
Inside these roof‑prism binoculars are high-quality optical glass, which help create a bright image.
They’re also well designed for smaller faces. Boasting a dual-hinge design, they’re easy to adjust to fit a user’s vision, with a focus known in easy reach for sharpening. There’s also a dioptric knob for adjusting to a user’s specific eyesight, which marks these out as a serious binocular. The Olympus 10×25 WP II features a nitrogen-filled body, which helps them to be waterproof, fog-proof and dirt-proof. They shouldn’t be treated roughly, but they do have a rubber coating that’s tactile and easy to grip (and a very long guarantee!).
That dual-hinge means they’re easy to fold up and carry in a pocket, too, while the paltry 260 g weight is a fraction of many skywatching-specific binoculars.
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