A young child is looking through the telescope he made with a paper towel tube
Be an outdoor explorer with a paper towel tube telescope!

By Sheldon Matsalla, Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site, SK

Promotes: observation skills, appreciation for nature, imaginative play

Spending time with nature is one of the best things about my job at Parks Canada, especially when I get to share my love of the outdoors with kids!

Preschoolers who take part in our Club Parka program really like to explore and this project gives them a whole new way of looking at their surroundings. Pretend telescopes or binoculars can’t magnify like the real thing, of course, but they can help kids zero in on things they may otherwise overlook – good for developing observational skills – and can lead to all sorts of imaginary play.

We made spyglasses from empty paper towel tubes. (You can roll up a sheet of construction paper and tape it closed, too.) Then we used stickers and markers to decorate and headed out to see what we could see. There was a lot of excitement over every little discovery – an ant, an acorn, a bird, a glittery stone – and a lot of questions about everything we spotted. A perfect way to introduce kids to the wonders of nature.

Some little ones find it easier to use both eyes for viewing, so try these DIY field glasses. Easy to make, eco-friendly and fun to use!

Necessary material
First step
Second step

You will need:

  • empty toilet paper rolls or paper towel tubes
  • construction paper
  • elastic bands or tape
  • glue
  • markers, crayons, paint
  • stickers
  • scissors
  • string (optional)
  • Optional: Explore Nature with Parka printable (PDF, 7 MB)

Instructions:

  1. If you want to decorate your binoculars or telescope with Parka, print the Explore Nature with Parka printable—it shows Parka having all kinds of fun outdoors!
  2. To make binoculars, attach two empty toilet rolls together with tape or elastic bands. A spacer can help keep the tubes lined up. Use a rolled up bit of paper taped or glued between the tubes.
  3. Add a length of string threaded through small holes punched in the sides of each tube, if you’d like.
  4. It's time to decorate your binoculars or telescope! Wrap in construction paper and use markers, crayons or paint to add colour. Cut out pictures of Parka having fun outdoors and glue them on. Add stickers or stamps.

These viewers can be used in any season and almost anywhere you go, whether you’re visiting a park, walking through your neighbourhood or looking through a window at home. Have a wonderful time exploring!

Download this activity (PDF, 458 Kb)