Choosing a Telescope for a Child

Recommendation 3: Get a Reflector
There are three main types of telescopes:

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 and harder to manage. Cheaper ones 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.

While all three types are popular among stargazers, for the greatest value, we recommend a reflector for a child's first telescope simply because these are usually the least expensive in the 3" to 6" range.