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What to get a 1st grader

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#1 torsinadoc

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 04:49 AM

My niece has taken an interest in astronomy. She has already learned the phases of the moon. Im trying to decide what to get her as a gift to allow her to expand. Suggestions? Are their small binoculars for young kids? Are their fun programs for kids?

#2 Pinbout

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:04 AM

an iPad mini :grin:

#3 RobertED

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:09 AM

An inexpensive 2.4" refractor...to be used at first under parental supervision....just go out with her and look at cool stuff like the Moon and planets. See if she really catches on. Granted, I was 11-12 when that same scope "hooked" me, and back in the early '70's, they really were inexpensive at Sears and places like that. Stay away from "toy" scopes such as those in the larger toy stores....look in camera shops and 'science' type shops.

....binoculars can be a little too confusing or complicated for kids....even some grown-ups!! Go as inexpensive as you can, in case she doesn't really catch on! You can always sell it on Cloudy Nights!! Best of luck to you ALL!!!

#4 Doc Willie

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:24 AM

Models of actual spacecraft.

#5 John Kuraoka

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:32 AM

The most-important thing to give her? Your time.

Take your telescope or binoculars every time you get together and head outdoors for a little observing session. Then you can get a sense of what she's interested in, and adjust accordingly.

Books are good. The Basher science series might be a little advanced for a first-grader (or not, if she's an advanced reader), but the cartoony illustrations and kid-friendly writing style will attract interest.

Buying her a piece of gear that her parents won't use with her and she can't use on her own is, I think, unnecessary unless it would excite her interest just to have it in her room. (But then, there's value in that as well.)

#6 rdandrea

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:47 AM

The most-important thing to give her? Your time.

Take your telescope or binoculars every time you get together and head outdoors for a little observing session. Then you can get a sense of what she's interested in, and adjust accordingly.

Books are good. The Basher science series might be a little advanced for a first-grader (or not, if she's an advanced reader), but the cartoony illustrations and kid-friendly writing style will attract interest.

Buying her a piece of gear that her parents won't use with her and she can't use on her own is, I think, unnecessary unless it would excite her interest just to have it in her room. (But then, there's value in that as well.)


Ditto. The only thing I might add is, do they make these anymore?
http://antiqueradio.org/spitz01.htm

#7 magic612

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 09:33 AM

Consider an Orion Funscope. The aesthetic appeal to a child that age is clear. It is the right size that they can pick it up and move it easily. The alt-az motions are intuitive for them. The wide field of view means objects will stay in it for long periods of time, and make it easier for the child to see, and also to find things like the Moon (it comes with a simple red-dot finder). Plus, unlike binoculars, you can help aim it and then it will stay there on the object.

Yes, it has coma, but a 5 year old won't care about that. I did a rather lengthy review about the Funscope here - it is a surprisingly capable little instrument.

#8 RobertED

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 10:02 AM

rdandrea and magic612 have excellent ideas!!!! I thoruoghly enjoyed the reviews on the ORION Funscope....BRAVO!! If it can see the objects listed in the review...then it must be awesome on the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn!!! I do think there are modernized "Bedroom Planetariums" still available....and those you probably can find in your local, large toy stores!!!
2 awesome ideas, guys!!!.....and the time spent with your 'budding young astronomer'......."priceless!!!!'....

#9 smallscopefanLeo

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 10:44 AM

I think a funscope /firstscope 76mm is a fantastic idea as well. Also consider a baby-dob Orion 'Goscope'
http://www.telescope...roductId=102397 70mm
http://www.telescope...r-Telescopes... 80mm
refractor variant if the budget can stretch a bit more, that way it can be a bit more practical for observing nature during the daylight hours with as well (which we are invariably getting more and more of as we speak :bawling: ).

And a nice small lightweight binocular with close enough IP distance is a great idea too, perhaps a scope AND binocular? Or is that spoiling too much :grin:.. perhaps spread it out and give some now, some at a later date.

And don't forget the books of course, my goodness! There are so many. Here is a potential one among the zillions to get you started browsing what's out there
http://www.amazon.co...426310145/re... ...
That would be the second most important part (I tend to fixate on gear though first and foremost, sorry), second most after your time and energy, as John mentioned above!

I wish someone did this for me when I was a tot, lucky niece!! :bow:

#10 magic612

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:17 AM

I thoruoghly enjoyed the reviews on the ORION Funscope....BRAVO!! If it can see the objects listed in the review...then it must be awesome on the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn!!!


Thank you - the thing to keep in mind for the planets with the Funscope is that it really needs a barlow or a decent, very short focal length eyepiece on the order of 3mm or 4mm. The focal length is VERY short, but it can manage up to 100x - 120x magnification. I have a 2.5mm TMB eyepiece that I bought (back when they were still available) which nets 120x on it. I recall timing how long I could see Saturn once, and it took 2.5 minutes to cross the field of view, even at that magnification.

It's not a bad little instrument - stable, portable, and yes, cute - it always attracts kids and even some moms when I take it to outreach events. But it does have it's shortcomings, most of which aren't too difficult to overcome though (and are generally easier to correct than those of wobbly-tripod, cheapie refractors).

#11 Scott in NC

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:21 AM

The most-important thing to give her? Your time.


+1

My time and an Orion Starblast 4.5" dob were very important factors in instilling an interest in astronomy in my then-kindergarten-aged son several years ago. The scope was a good match for him, but if I had just bought him the scope and turned him loose, I'm afraid to say that the scope would be just gathering dust in the closet. Because I spent a lot of time with him helping to foster this interest, he's eager to go out with me whenever I go out to observe, no matter how cold it is! :grin:

#12 droid

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:26 AM

+2 on spending time with her, show her stuff, explain , in language she will understand, what shes looking at. Make it interesting if possible.
Later as the interest blooms, if it does, you can think telescope.

#13 rdandrea

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:49 AM

I do think there are modernized "Bedroom Planetariums" still available....


Yeah, there are. I just went Googling. They start at about $35. The Ioptron looks pretty cool.

#14 mantrain

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 12:44 PM

Post deleted by tecmage

#15 GeneT

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 03:20 PM

An inexpensive 2.4" refractor


I agree. Also, a three or four inch reflector might be possibilities.

#16 S.Boerner

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 03:33 PM

Your time and work on the Astro League's Sky Puppy Program with her.
http://www.astroleag...y/skypuppy2.htm

#17 wirenut

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 03:40 PM

I kinda think your putting the cart infront of the horse if you buy her a scope now. It's been recommended a lot for people to learn the stars/constellations before they go out and spend money on a scope, cause they'll lose interest not know where to point it. So what about a planisphere? I cant think of a better teaching/learning aid for the constellations. I'm not sure if they'll be able to use it at that age without some assistance but I'm sure you could show her how easily enough. it also fit very nicely with that other recommendation spending time with them.

#18 Unknownastron

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 03:52 PM

Get her a copy of "Find the Constellations" by H. A. Rey. Read the book with her or to her if she isn't there yet (I was 9 and it was easy). Get her a red flashlight (Her own special flashlight), read the book in the backyard together after dark using the red light. Begin to learn the star patterns in the book with her. In strong light polluted areas the patterns are not easy to see but explain this to her and graduate when you can to a darker sky. If she continues with the interest for a couple of months get her a beginner scope. I concur with those posters who suggest the small newtonians mounted on alt-az, for the same reasons stated. She can carry and set it up herself, intuitive aiming and guiding, wide field. I definitely advise against a go-to scope as she may fall in love with gadgets and not astronomy (I know most of us love gadgets but the first love must be astronomy). Go slow and encourage her connections with the sky. That's what amateur astronomy is all about, making connections with the sky. Have a good journey!
Clear skies and clean glass,
Mike

#19 droid

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 04:46 PM

Post deleted by tecmage

#20 John Lacey

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 07:02 PM

Books and time, yeah. We have a bunch of the DK Eye Wonder books. My son's favorite (and mine) was P.K. Chen's Constellation Album. It was not that deep, but it tied in well with actually looking at the constellations at night. He's joined me for many years when I go out.

I think equipment could be frustrating. Naked eye stuff like constellations, ISS, Iridium flares, even just identifying planets, etc. is great. Stay out long enough and random satellites and meteors are possible. I finally put Clear Sky Charts and ISS apps on my phone, which are far handier than the computer widgets and web sites. I think any way of encouraging looking at the sky is good.

My son had small binoculars, and they might have helped, but I'm not sure the visuals he managed to get were that encouraging. Despite years of looking through my scope, at ten, he's just starting to take an interest in the finder, and not yet interested in pointing the scope or even focusing the EP. On the other hand, I do think at some point having your own scope would help. I'm probably unconsciously a little defensive about mine, which might be holding my son back a little. Maybe I should get him one now, or perhaps I just need an upgrade to a 12" or 14" myself so he can have mine? :whistle:

I don't have any direct experience with beginner scopes (except the universal frustration with the Sears refractor when I was young), but something like the StarBlast sounds good. You want something with real views: separate rings on Saturn, cloud bands on Jupiter, craters on the moon (OK not hard ;) ), and some clusters and brighter nebulae.

#21 C_Moon

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:45 PM

This book did it for me when I was in first grade. Looking at it now still evokes feelings of wonder.

#22 kansas skies

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 12:21 AM

The most-important thing to give her? Your time.


I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

My granddaughter is not quite three, but she loves taking a few minutes to go out with me and look at the night sky. She tends to be a little intimidated by the dark, so she stays close. Still, she seems to really enjoy a little time under the stars as grandpa points out a planet or a star or two. Mainly, I try not to get carried away. She also seems to take delight in watching "Luna" go through her phases.

I think it's most important to include the little ones in this activity that we find important. They probably won't grow up to be astronomers, but you can bet they will remember to look up once in awhile. And when they do, they'll probably be thinking about you as well.

I would think that maybe a mobile of the solar system that you can explain while helping her to assemble might be nice.

Bill

#23 John Kuraoka

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 09:51 AM

Bill has a great suggestion with the solar system mobile. I put these up in my son's room when he was oh, about in Kindergarten.
http://www.amazon.co...4/dp/B000S94NWE

One set finally died after many years (the plastic deteriorated), and even at that later age he wanted another so he's on his second set. He's nearly 13 now, and I think he still gets a kick out of them.

What's fun, is explaing that they're totally NOT sized to scale. You can lay them out at scale distances though, and (if the parents let you) give her a choice of placing them at scale distances - which means most of the planets are out in the hallway or in other rooms - or in her room. My son chose to have them all in his room, the falsehood of which, I think, is part of why he still likes them. At this point, it's ironic. So there's something to enjoy about these at all ages!

The glow is pretty good, too. When he was little I used to occasionally use a small LED flashlight to put a smiley face on Jupiter right before turning out the lights for bed.

#24 John Kuraoka

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 10:07 AM

My other son has a ton of these things on his bedroom ceiling. They were put there by a previous occupant of our house.
http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B00001LDDR/

They must be nearly 20 years old now, and they're still up there glowing. I don't think they were put up to match the actual night sky. But there are enough of them that I sometimes I still make constellations for him by drawing them star-to-star with a flashlight.

#25 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 10:49 AM

Get her these:

http://www.overstock...en-8x25-Bino...

(Water proof, rugged and durable, affordable, useful for bright object astronomy and for terrestrial viewing, smaller scale for smaller hands, etc.)

I keep a pair of these in my day pack for opportunistic nature viewing and have used them for the moon and bright planets and the Pleiades. They aren't 7x50s, but they are better than the naked eye.

More importantly, whether the astronomy bug actually bites her in the end or not, these have general utility for other interests (sporting events, bird watching, spying on siblings, etc.).

I'm in the minority, perhaps, but I don't think our hobby is conducive to being "coached into". How many of you required an adult to cultivate your interest as a child? Not me. Rather I think the Universe tends to select you as one of its observers, or not. The love of the night sky is best kindled by seeing and doing, not be being told what or how to see and do. Answer questions, ask about what she's seen and learned, but don't force it.

Regards,

Jim






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