Choosing a Telescope for a Child

Recommendation 3: Get a Reflector
There are three main types of telescopes and all three are popular among stargazers. Reflectors (mirror-based telescopes) come in the widest range of sizes and are usually the least expensive at any size.

Refractors (lens-based telescopes) offer sharp and contrasty views but most are small (2"-4") because larger ones tend to be bulky, difficult to manage and expensive. And, except for most expensive models, they also suffer from a problem called chromatic aberration which causes purple fringing around brighter objects.

Compound telescopes are mirror-based telescopes that use a special design to make them the most compact of the three types. It also tends to make them more expensive.

We recommend a reflector for a child's first telescope simply because of cost. We know that refractors have that 'cool telescope look' but, in the 6" size that we recommend, a refractor is a huge telescope and at least double the cost of a 6" reflector. A 6" compound telescope is nice and small but still easily double the cost of a reflector.