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

Instructions:

  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.

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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.

31 Comments

  1. mmmachuca on at

    Love it!! A great activity to do with my kids.



  2. Lovely! I have a silver one on my bookshelf that my son made when he was about eight. I hope I’ll get to make things with grandkids someday… although I probably won’t be any better at it then than I was when my kids were at that stage!



    • I’m sure it means the world to you and I’m sure your grandchildren will someday appreciate your hard work.



  3. I used to do this as a kid, but long since forgot about it…I think I’m doing it tomorrow and they’ll all be mine! Yes…ALL MINE!!! lol



    • Thank you Sharon; I hope you do this project with your little ones soon.



  4. what a fun activity loved it!



  5. hogar-mujer on at

    Me encanto lo voy a hacer con mis pekes.



  6. Natalia on at

    Great job! Very pretty!



  7. Lolo on at

    I´m definitely trying this one with the kids once they´re out of school! Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year



    • I hope your kids will definitely like this project. Happy Holidays 🙂



  8. Diana Rodriguez -Entre Compras y El Hogar on at

    Love it. Is a DIY perfect for Kids!



    • Yep, it was very easy to do, with very little cutting or using sharp tools.



  9. This is a cute idea, I liked kaleidoscopes when I was a kid. I loved seeing the prisms and multiple objects.



    • We love kaleidoscope, too. It’s amazing how much you learn about light projection, reflection, and so much more science in a very simple craft.



  10. Uyyy, con lo que me gustan los caleidoscopios!!!! Gracias.



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