Watch Wildlife with Paper Tube Binoculars


Help your child make simple binoculars from paper tubes for a whole new point of view on nature.

What You Need

  • Hole-punch, if making many binoculars
  • Masking tape
  • Decorative stickers (optional)
  • String or yarn, about one foot long
  • Toilet Paper rolls

What You Do

  1. Gather small animal toys from around the house.
    If you have small wildlife-themed toys, send your child on a search throughout the house to gather them up. You can then skip step 2 or if you want to extend the activity, do both step 1 and 2.
  2. If you do not have small animal toys, make cardboard-backed photos of animals.
    Gather back issues of your National Wildlife Federation (such as National Wildlife magazine, Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard and Wild Animal Baby) or other wildlife photography magazines. With your child, peruse the magazines and find large photos of animals. The best photos fill a whole page of the magazine or at least half a page or the resulting animals might be too small for your children to spot in the forest. You could also find old coloring books with photos of animals. If using coloring books, you could color in the photos. Cut out the images and glue them on thin cardboard, such as old cereal boxes. Use a hole punch tool to punch a hole near the top of the picture and string some yarn through the hole, like you are making an ornament.
  3. Hide the toys and/or animal photos.
    Do this step without your child ideally, so it’s more challenging to find the animals. Find an area with defined boundaries, such as your backyard, or a section of a park with fences to define the space. For small children, make it a relatively small space. If there is not an obvious space, you could mark off an area of space with skipping ropes or string.
  4. Make the toilet paper tube binoculars.
    Attach the two toilet paper tubes side by side with tape. Use a hole punch to punch two holes near one end, on the outside of the tubes. From these holes, attach about a two foot long piece of string or yarn so the child can hang their binoculars on their chest when not in use.
  5. Encourage your child to decorate their binoculars.
    They can draw pictures on the toilet paper tubes with markers, crayons or pencil crayons. They can stick on small stickers.
  6. Find the hidden birds and other wildlife.
    Enjoy some time outside together as you find the wildlife. You might consider offering a checklist of the wildlife. Here is a sample backyard wildlife hunt checklist for children who cannot yet read.tptubebinoculars2
  7. Clean up your wildlife toys and pictures.
    Don’t forget to bring everything inside when you are done so you can enjoy this activity again another day. You can try it during different seasons. You might laminate your pictures with clear contact paper. During which seasons is it the most challenging to find your animals?tptubebinoculars