How to make your own kaleidoscope for kids

Kaleidoscopes fascinate kids with changing colours and the play of light. Making their own kaleidoscopes allows kids to learn about how kaleidoscopes work and gain satisfaction from building something educational and enjoyable. The National Geographic Kids website recommends a kaleidoscope project for kids to customise and build themselves. With adult assistance and a few household and craft supplies, making a kaleidoscope can offer an engaging individual or group activity and provide entertainment on rainy days.

Draw a 10-by-20-cm (4-by-8-inch) rectangle on the report cover. Create three lengthwise lines with a ruler on the rectangle, 29 mm (1 3/8 inches) apart.

Put the report cover on a cutting board and have an adult cut the rectangle out with a utility knife.

Fold the plastic for the kaleidoscope along each of the lengthwise marks you made. Tape the edge from one end of the plastic to the other.

Slide the triangular plastic into the paper towel tube. Position the plastic so that it is even with one end of the kaleidoscope tube.

Make the kaleidoscope tube even with the other end of the triangular plastic. Have an adult cut the cardboard tube by gently inserting the tip of the utility knife into the tube and slicing it all the way around.

Put the square of cling film over one end of the kaleidoscope. Push the cling film into the triangle 6 mm (1/4 inch) so that the plastic forms a small pocket.

Take small pinches of beads, shiny decorations and glow in the dark shapes and put them on the cling film within the triangle. Use only three or four small pinches of decorations for the kaleidoscope--using too much will block the light.

Cover the end of the kaleidoscope with the waxed paper square and smooth it down along the tube over the cling film.

Put a rubber band around the end of the tube to hold down the cling film and waxed paper.

Round the corners of the waxed paper and cling film with scissors.

Have an adult poke a hole in the middle of the square of black construction paper with scissors. Place the construction paper square over the other end of the kid's kaleidoscope. Wrap tape around the end of the kaleidoscope tube over the construction paper to hold it in place. Round off the paper's corners with scissors.

Wrap coloured masking tape in a spiral over the kaleidoscope to cover the cardboard.

Peel glow-in-the-dark stickers off their backing and decorate the kaleidoscope any way you want.

Put the black end of the kaleidoscope to one eye. Look toward light, such as a bright window or a lamp. Turn the kaleidoscope to watch the shapes move. The plastic triangle inside acts like a mirror, reflecting the coloured shapes in the pocket you made.

Turn the lights off or take the kaleidoscope into a dark room after exposing it to light to see the stickers glow.


Reuse foil or hologram gift wrap to cover the kid's kaleidoscope. For a classroom or group project, cut the construction paper, cling film, waxed paper and report cover parts ahead of time.


Keep beads, small toys and other small parts out of reach of younger children due to the risk of choking. Keep utility knives out of reach of children.

Things You'll Need

  • Clear plastic report cover
  • Felt tip marking pen
  • Ruler
  • Utility knife
  • Cutting board
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Paper towel tube
  • 10-cm (4-inch) square piece of cling film
  • 10-cm (4-inch) square piece of waxed paper
  • 10-cm (4-inch) square piece of black construction paper
  • Rubber band
  • Clear or translucent small beads and other small sparkly decorations
  • Coloured masking tape
  • Glow-in-the-dark stickers
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About the Author

Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.