The Vivitar Kids Telescope and other Recommendations
The Vivitar Kids Telescope was a request from our eldest girl a couple of years ago when she was nine, and it was a really great request and idea. It was also in a long list that included lots of electronics and video games with a good measure of books and educational items. I wanted to make a good effort in getting most of what she wanted, but especially what she really desired, so I decided to spend more on her video games and less on the telescope.
The telescope came to just over $21 with shipping and was reasonable for what you get. It includes not only the telescope but also the tripod. In addition, it comes with interchangeable 50X and 100X eyepiece lenses and a 3X side finder scope to locate objects quicker. It’s built of durable and lightweight aluminum frame.
What I didn’t factor in, unfortunately, was the multiple opportunities to use the kids telescope along with how much I, myself, would be interested. Since the gift was for Christmas, we had it available for the Wolf Moon in January. Up here in the Northeastern Countryside Mountains, we get to witness a majestic lunar display throughout the month of January void of any street lights or neighboring ambient city lights.
And this year, what was really amazing was that, not only was it the Wolf Moon, but we had the opportunity to witness the Lunar Eclipse of January 2010!!
While the two little ones were sleeping, our nine year old, my wife and I went out to the front porch and looked up in the sky at an amazing moon! The clouds flew over the moon with roaring intention, and we set up the tripod and began pointing the kids telescope at Earth’s only natural satellite.
Quickly, we were able to find the moon on the telescope with the 3X finder, but when we tried to use the 100X eyepiece, the tripod continuously shifted more than slightly to the point where locating the moon consistently was problematic. This constant wobble is at the height of the telescope’s inferiority. It is unfortunate because it was a truly magical moment to share with my child, and since it was difficult for me to see it, it was nearly impossible for her.
On a positive note, when we were able to finally capture the moon, the light came through well and the focus was very clear. This could be because of the moon’s own natural beauty, but for the cheap materials composing the eyepieces, I was pleased with the brightness and the images they produced. In the end, we were able to see the lunar eclipse several times that evening through this Vivitar kids telescope, but it was immensely difficult.
At the price, I did not mind that the pieces were cheap, but we all hated the constant wobble. If you can find the object, you still needed to focus. The act of focusing led to more wobbling and ultimately to having to relocate the object.
What I minded most is that the difficulty in using the Vivitar telescope dampened the otherwise positive experiences and moments we shared. Besides the lunar eclipse and the Wolf moon, we would go outside on warm summer nights and capture some of the many stars in the country sky. Since the sky is clean and clear, we could catch just about anyone regardless of the wobble.
In retrospect, I would have more closely considered the valuable moments that a kids telescope can bring to a parent and child.
With that in mind, I would in the future be less sensitive to price and instead focus on quality. The Celestron family of telescopes make far better telescopes in a very affordable price range. Under $40 will get you a good selection of decent quality and well reviewed telescopes.
In the mid range telescopes ranging from $70 to $90 are the Meade series with more stability and a more professional look and feel. And we can easily jump into the higher end professional series anywhere from $100 into the thousands with the Orion series including the Orion Apex 90mm Min-EQ Mak-Cass for $250.
I will definitely be considering an upgraded kids telescope in the future for our kids. The educational and family time opportunities are just too valuable to waste on a cheap product. I’ve yet to decide the proper occasion and the right price point, but when I do make a choice I’ll push for a higher end, and I’ll write about it here!