Reviewed by Sarah Bryan
In our home, we love space. The fascination starts at some point in childhood and lasts for a lifetime. The unknown, the impossible, the mysterious, the little green men and the shooting stars, the rockets and the meteor showers, the eclipse and the galaxies far, far away. We should always look up to the skies no matter how old we are. So when the opportunity came up to review this product, I jumped at the chance. The ”Build Your Own Telescope” is just one creation from the people at “BuildYourOwn” who are part of Paper Engine; a company that design and produce popup books, 3D models and prototypes and have worked with some big name clients such as Alton Towers and Egmont Publishing. Looking at their website it seems they can do some amazing things with cardboard and paper engineering and they have now started producing affordable and sustainable children’s toys too.
The small flat cardboard box came wrapped in a colourful sleeve and was emblazoned with info that shouted out clearly the company’s environmental ethics – eco friendly, sustainable cardboard, #paperfantastic and a nice little welcome message underneath. It also appears very modern and appealing to younger people with the use of QR codes and hashtags. I love the hot air balloon image which shows the magnification so you can see what you are going to get from this telescope – a whopping 16 x! The packaging is bold and bright and fun and it gets you interested. Our children couldn’t wait to do exactly what the girl on the front of the packaging is doing and look up to the sky. More specifically they wanted to look at the moon.
The QR code is great, it takes you direct to the product on the Build Your Own website as well as the how to guide and a helpful video to watch. The paper instructions that come in the box are black and white – ink saving – and are very comprehensive, every part is coded and ordered so it’s so easy to follow. The slot together cardboard parts are intricate in design to look like actual components of a real telescope.
Before you start constructing your telescope, make sure you have a clean flat surface to work on. Although it is straightforward to follow the instructions, it is a bit fiddly and needs either an older child or adult to assist in the build. Remember it is made of cardboard, some bits are sturdy and others thin and the flaps that you have to tuck in are small and need care taken to avoid ripping. We did break 2 bits but a tiny piece of tape fixed it. I must admit during the first bit of making the telescope and up until we reached section 16, I wondered if this would be a load of pants – it felt flimsy and tabs kept popping out but suddenly you add on parts that completely reinforce the whole structure and you can see that actually you’ve only gone and made your very own telescope! Almost a scale model of a telescope so it’s not huge but it’s perfect for smaller hands and did I just mention that you have successfully just made your own working telescope with actual lenses!? Us adults were even more impressed at what we had made and I personally couldn’t wait to see if it really worked.
Another tip during the construction stage is to avoid handling the lenses as much as possible, that teeny, tiny speck of dust will end up looking huge when magnified! The sliding focusing tube works very well and extends to 72cm, along with the degree finder you can get it perfectly lined up for your eyes. The next couple of evenings were cloudy and the youngest children fell asleep before it was dark enough to see the night sky but all the planets were aligned for us on the 3rd night…I held the telescope in my hands and scoured the skies, fleeting glances of a bright wobbly light kept whizzing past my vision. A small table was needed to steady everything. I adjusted the degree finder and played with the focusing tube…AND THERE SHE WAS…A jaw dropping eureka moment happened as there before my eyes in super sharp detail, craters and all, was the big glowing crescent moon. It has been years since I have looked through a telescope at night and it gave each of us that looked through the lens the same reaction and feeling. Our 3 year old gasped and said “Why does the banana moon have so many holes and why is it so big?” Our 6 year old sat transfixed for ages, gazing upwards through the telescope, imagining she saw a flying saucer and an alien waving at her as it saw her eye looking.
It was the 9 year old who fell completely in love with astronomy that night. She revelled in the fact that she had helped to make it, delighted that it worked and proud that it was hers, to adjust and search and look and wonder as she wanted. It is so light yet sturdy that it’s easy for her to carry and move. It’s not expensive so I don’t have to panic that she might break it. She has upgraded the cardboard lens flap as it was getting annoying and now uses an old yogurt pot to keep it dust free. She says that she is re-using plastic so hopefully the folks at Build Your Own won’t mind too much. This cardboard telescope gives fantastic clarity and amazing results and would make an ideal gift for a child. From construction to use, it is a great family afternoon activity. It’s home now is on the windowsill. Prepped and ready for action.
Rating: 4.5 stars – it is out of this world!
This product can be purchased from BuildYourOwn here.