It can be really, really hard to get kids interested in anything even remotely related to science or education, especially when it comes with the word “toy” somewhere. Kids aren’t clueless. They know when you’re trying to sell them something other than what they want. That’s why you have to find science and learning toys that also happen to be really cool, and for that you don’t have to look much further than a telescope.
Sneaky, But It Gets The Job Done
I’ve ascertained that the ultimate way to cheat with kids is include something related to space. For some reason, space is just awesome. Why is it so many video games these days take an otherwise dull premise and plunk it into space, thus making it amazing? Now just think of how easy it is to focus that potential into a child’s learning process. Guess what? Space is right up there. For free. Every night. But you’ll need something handy to access this wealth of free space.
Enter the Celestron AstroMaster Refractor Telescope. This is currently Amazon’s best selling telescope in the Toys & Games category i.e. the For Use By Children category. It’s also currently priced at just over $90. Stop! Before you consider the price, consider what a telescope can really do.
Telescopes are essentially super binoculars. While a good pair of binoculars will enable you to see a plane in the sky a bit closer, a good telescope will let you see craters in the moon and make comets look a heck of a lot closer than they really are. Of course, you can always use a telescope for the usual nosey neighboring business, but you didn’t hear that from me (though your kids WILL try spying on everyone).
And there’s nothing really wrong with the process of dinking with a telescope for whatever devices your child ends up using it for. For all you know, this is just step one towards their career as a government intelligence agent. But to really encourage the use of a telescope you should keep some things in mind.
First, there is the problem of space being boring. There are nights when clouds have covered everything or there just isn’t anything really worth looking at. That happens, you’ll just have to accept it. But when you hear about meteor showers or a planet being visible, make a point of turning this viewing into an event. “Maybe we’ll see a shooting star up close!” Kids will eat that right up.
Secondly, to deliver on these promises, don’t forget about light pollution. While turning off some lights in your own house can be helpful, it won’t guarantee that everyone else in your neighborhood will turn their lights off as well (possibly because your kids are spying on them with the telescope). If you live in the country this problem is usually solved, otherwise try scheduling some camping trips or just plan to head into the country for the evening when you know there will be a lot of celestial activity. Kids won’t even know they’re supposed to be learning anything.
Essentially, a telescope is a free pass to interact with your kids in a really cool way. You may need to do some research beforehand to ensure that you sound like the expert, but I promise you that it’s research well spent. Do waste the opportunity while you still have it.