The most commonly used phrase here at The Madhouse this week has been "wow, look Mum", closely followed by "Euuurrrgggghhh" ! Both of these comments have been inspired by the Miniland Educational Observatory that we received to review from DKL Toys.
This nifty piece of kit enables you to discover in close up any little critters that you manage to catch by looking through the magnifying glass in the viewing window. This lens magnifies 6x, but it is even cleverer than that because it also has a viewer in the side, which magnifies 4x and which allows you to examine your object (or creature) of choice from underneath too. Even as a grown-up, it's totally fascinating and I admit that I've been emitting almost as many "wows" and "eeeuuurrggghhs" as the Madhouse Mini Testers !
When you unpack the observatory, it comes with a plastic spider inside to show you how it works. Despite knowing that it's made of plastic, it still makes you jump when you look through the lens and see a huge magnified spider looking back at you. Cue much enjoyment !
We've been out on the patio and at the park hunting for insects to examine and have been having great fun. The girls are usually quite squeamish about insects and are most likely to run screaming from the room when one puts in an appearance, but nevertheless they've been fascinated too, frequently requesting to go out and have a dig about under the plants to see what they can find.
I was also really impressed to see that you can take photos through the viewer which show up your finds in all their magnified glory. This would be a great way of keeping a souvenir of your finds, to look them up online and create a really funky (and educational) science project. This centipede picture is a bit blurry because he wouldn't stop moving !
There's a little beetle/ant thing somewhere on the very right that was invisible to the naked eye but I can't see it now !
Getting up close and personal to a snail !
I spent absolutely ages trying in vain to catch an ant to put inside the observatory and it was eventually 3-year-old Pierre who worked out that you didn't need to - you can just put the magnifier part straight over the top and look through it on the ground !!
A few words of warning though - the box says it's not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts, and also warns that it shouldn't be left in direct sunlight because it could start a fire and children shouldn't use it to look at direct sunlight. Also, from experience, make sure it will have a soft landing if it drops on the floor. After reluctantly releasing a spider that she had been examining and that she was scared of, Sophie was in such a rush to put down the viewer and run away that it got dropped on the patio. Although it still works, there is now a big crack down the transparent plastic part of the viewer - you have been warned !
It's a simple piece of kit but one that can give literally hours of fun - the kids have even been examining inanimate objects like leaves and - ahem - dust bunnies ! It's also a great way of combining play and learning, particularly if you complement this (as we have) with an I-Spy insects book to try and find and identify as many different garden visitors as possible.
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £11.95
Disclosure : We received a Miniland Educational Observatory in order to write an honest review.
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