Reviewed by Rachel-Cassey Holland
Since the global COVID-19 pandemic really started to take hold and we were suddenly thrust into family self-isolation at home just prior to the official lockdown here in the UK, I have been looking for things to entertain and inspire our three children – all boys – ages 10, 9 and 6. They are keen and inquisitive about the world around them and that outside of our own world, and we are also lucky enough to have a friend who is both an Astronomer and tutor. He kindly provided my children with a couple of online astronomy sessions and so the subject suddenly became the next big thing in our household. Imagine my delight, therefore, when I was lucky enough to have the chance to review the The GeoSafari® Jr. My First Telescope™! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
The GeoSafari® Jr. My First Telescope™ is the product of Educational Insights, a subsidiary of Learning Resources – the well-known purveyor of attractively bright and eye-catching children’s educational toys and learning aids. These toys fall into the increasingly popular and sought-after STEM category of toys (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). This telescope is aimed for children from age 4 years and upwards and is available in a choice of two colour schemes – pink and purple or multi-coloured. The website blurb here aims this telescope for the primary use of “lunar exploration”. Boasting a 10x magnification, it is also focus free, meaning that all the user needs to do is simply look through the eye pieces. With a collapsible tripod base, the telescope is advertised as suitable for table top viewing – all sounding incredibly promising.
Of course, the telescope arrived with us on Friday – the first day of rain in quite a few weeks – typical! This didn’t deter us from opening it and playing with it to see how it worked. We received the pink and purple telescope and the packaging was very visually appealing. I was unusually pleased to note that the picture across the front of the box was that of a young boy looking through the pink coloured telescope. We try really hard not to adopt or adhere to gender stereotypes in our household, so this felt pleasantly reassuring to me. With regard to the actual telescope itself, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it somehow felt a little smaller and lighter than I had imagined.
Upon opening the box I immediately found the instruction manual. It is as the box looks – really attractively set out and easy to read, certainly very appealing to young children. The instructions are set out in English, Spanish, French and German, so perfect if you wanted to send it to a friend or relative in one of those countries! The first page gives a clear overview of what each part of the telescope is, which is always helpful. The manual tells you that the telescope is assembled in four easy steps, all set out clearly, but also tells you what you need to know first before setting it up. The most important part here is that this telescope is really for kids only! The reason being that it is designed specifically for the width of a child’s face and the eye pieces and the nose cut outs are positioned and sized especially for the distance between their pupils. Naturally, in adults the pupillary width is going to be much bigger. Well, my children loved this idea! It’s “theirs”, not mine – I can’t use it and only they can! Clever marketing going on here, I like it! I think?!
The leaflet also encourages your sense of realism with using this product. It is for a young child to get their first taste of exploration by telescope. It is not going to be the same as a professional astronomer’s telescope. It is designed merely to see things at a distance, so encourages you to look at things which are at least 100 feet away from you. As mentioned before, the focus is not adjustable, so the instructions recommend taking several attempts at moving the telescope up and down to be able to find what it is you want to look at. Having taken all of this information on board we followed the four simple instructions to set up.
Putting the telescope on the base is really simple. Firstly you open the tripod legs as far apart as you can and push the centre down until it locks into position. To be honest it didn’t really lock into position for me, but we carried on regardless and the rest of the setup was a cinch. The tripod is actually really much shorter than I imagined (the legs are approximately 37cm long) and so it really is reliant on using a table to place it on or kneeling down behind it (if you are a child!). Once the telescope is sitting on top of the tripod it feels completely sturdy and very secure. Whilst it is made out of very brightly coloured plastic, the apparatus is tough and well-made and gives the impression that it will withstand a good amount of the sort of rough and tough treatment a child of 4 years and up can put it through.
So bearing in mind the clearly set out instructions and the fact that I am an adult and not a child, what was the first thing I tried to do? Yes! I tried to look at the cat across the other side of the kitchen. I couldn’t see a thing. Hmm, it might have helped if I had taken the lens cap off before trying! So, with the lens cap off I tried again. I could see more but it was blurry. I looked again and turned the page of the instruction leaflet to page 4 – ah-ha! It helps adults who want to use it if they close one eye whilst looking through an eye piece. I tried this and the cat came into focus, albeit ten times closer than she actually was! Magnificent! As the telescope is so light, I carried it over to the window and pointed it to look across the garden. I could see our palm tree at the bottom of the garden and could see the trunk well. This was exciting! The children grabbed the telescope out of my hands and spent the rest of the afternoon looking out of various windows around the house at different aspects. I hope the neighbours weren’t too concerned, but the children were having fun!
I had to wait until Sunday night to attempt to use the telescope for its original purpose – I wanted to look at the moon. If only I had known beforehand that the moon was at the incorrect position for me to see it! Well, I wasn’t giving up. With my naked eye I could see that Venus was twinkling away brightly in the sky, so I had a go at trying to find her through the telescope. It took a while because of the lack of adjustment, but finally I managed it and there she was in all her glory. I kept looking and, to my amazement, as my eye adjusted, I could see white and yellow colours radiating from Venus.
In summary, I would say that this is a really lovely, simple and child friendly piece of kit for anyone whose children want to be able to see the moon or explore with visual distancing. It’s not going to do much more than that for you, so it really is more suitable for pre-schoolers and my 9- and 10-year olds are definitely way too old for it, even though they did enjoy the afternoon playing with it. For what you are getting I feel it is reasonably priced and would make for a unique gift. It is robust, sturdy and very well made and it does EXACTLY what it says on the box. I can’t wait for the moon to come back around to a position where we can see it and we will have a lovely time having a good look closer. Thank you for the lovely opportunity.
To purchase this product please visit Learning Resources here.