How to make binoculars for kids with recycled items

Golden Gate Raptor Observatory Director Allen Fish has spent 35 years publishing and speaking on raptor biology, but many Bay Area kids know him for his entry-level binocular creation made with materials lingering in your average kitchen junk drawer.

Fish developed the binoculars while working with his own kids, realizing that fancy, fragile binoculars weren't the right fit for children ages 3 - 8. The simple DIY project may not magnify the subject, but it allows kids to focus on birds (and other subjects) without distraction.

"The aha moment was when I got it that magnification is actually difficult for kids to use," says Fish. "Kids don’t need magnification; they need blinders. They just need directional 'wings' to help them point the darn binoculars correctly."

Fish's binoculars--built using the steps in the images above-- do just that, and they are durable enough for even the most adventurous Jr. Ranger.

"They are waterproof and they float. And the price is right as rain," says Fish.


  • Two well-cleaned, square-sided, plastic juice bottles, with lids. Fish uses Odwalla juices because they are easy to find around the Bay Area, however Naked Juices or many other “squared” bottles will do. Stay away from colored bottles as they may change the colors of the bird/landscape.
  • Duct tape - white is best for personalizing.
  • A string that will feel comfortable against a child's neck.
  • Scissors or other cutting tools needed to modify the bottles.


  1. Have an adult clean and cut the bottoms off of two squared plastic bottles. Stand them up and make sure they are even.
  2. Cut a piece of string about 36 inches long and tie knots near each end.
  3. Use duct tape to connect your bottles so that they won't shift during use. 
  4. Using another layer of duct tape, secure the string to the sides of your binoculars to form the strap.
  5. Use stickers, pens and whatever decorations you can find to make your binoculars stand out!