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How to make a safe and fun kaleidoscope for kids

They’re beautiful to look at and kids love to play with them. What’s more to love is the way the color interweave in a majestic color design. What am I referring to? I’m referring to a kaleidoscope. These amazing tools of light and color are great for kids to explore light reflection by just simply turning a color wheel.

Kaleidoscope (caleidoscopio) derives from the Greek kalos, which means beautiful, eidos, which means form, and scopeo, which means to observe. In other words, kaleidoscope is a cylindrical tube that contains a series of mirrors. The tube has one end piece (opening) to allow visible light in and a small eyepiece for viewing.

As visible light (luz) or incident light illuminates into the tube, light waves reflect on the surface of the mirror (espejo). When pieces of glasses or pebbles are within the tube, many colors appear in different patterns or wavelengths. When the tube is tilted or turned in different ways, the observer can experience different sets of colors.

Add decorations to the outside of tube
Add decorations to the outside of tube

Sir David Brewster invented the kaleidoscope in 1816 in Scotland. The Brewster Kaleidoscope Society further categorizes them as teleidoscopes, cellscope, wheelscope, and marblescope. Each diverse version of a kaleidoscope presents different ways to reflect light. Brewster’s optical invention became very popular by 1817.

Yet, many manufactures were able to copy his invention and trademarked it as a toy. Despite the history of its manufacture, kaleidoscopes present a wonderful way to investigate how visible light behaves on reflective surfaces. It’s a perfect tool to understand that visible light behaves as a wave.

Once this wave of light hits a reflective surface, it can turn into the many different colors we see with our eyes. The colors we see just like in a rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. By applying other types of materials inside a kaleidoscope, the color patterns have endless possibilities. So, when we twist and turn a kaleidoscope, we mix all these wonderful colors of the rainbow in a color wheel.

Many kaleidoscopes have glass parts and beads that may be hazardous for kids. Sometimes some of these pieces may break or the kaleidoscope can break spilling these pieces onto your eyes and skin. But in this project, you’ll learn to make a kaleidoscope that’s easy and safe for the kids. You already may have all the necessary materials you might need at home.

Materials needed are:

  • Paper towel roll (cut in half)
  • Colored construction paper
  • Star stickers
  • Aluminum foil scraps
  • Cardboard paper
  • White piece of paper
  • Cellophane paper
  • Decorative scissors
  • Glue
  • Adhesive tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Safety scissors
  • Crayons


  1. Cut a roll of paper towel in half. Wrap one half of the paper towel roll with a color construction paper. Secure with adhesive tape or glue. Set aside.
  2. Cut a small piece of white paper. Insert inside the paper towel roll.
  3. Fold a piece of cardboard paper into a triangular prism. Wrap with aluminum foil to cover all the edges. Secure with adhesive tape. Set aside.
  4. Place some decorative star stickers or other stickers you might have at home on the aluminum surface.
  5. Place the triangular shape inside the wrapped paper towel roll.
  6. Cut two small pieces of cellophane paper. Place them on each end of the paper towel roll. Secure with rubber bands.
  7. Cut two pieces of colored construction paper with decorative scissors. Wrap around the paper towel roll. Secure with glue or adhesive tape. Repeat with the second piece.
  8. Add decorations with crayons or more stickers.

Now, you have a safe kaleidoscope that you can take with you anywhere. As an alternative, you can also use the kaleidoscope as a viewer so you can explore nature. As a caution, don’t look directly into the sunlight to prevent eye damage.

Have you used your new safe kaleidoscope to view rainbows in nature today?

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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