Homemade Kaleidoscope

3.4 based on 53 ratings
Updated on Mar 12, 2014

Kaleidoscopes are fun novelty toys that can easily be assembled from the odds and ends you probably already have lying around the house. They're a great way to use the small confetti, beads, or other tiny and shiny toys your child loves collect. This activity will show you how to make a kaleidoscope that will capture your kid's imagination.

You can turn this craft into a math lesson by having your child help you measure the dimensions of the mirror and the kaleidoscope tube. Or, you could incorporate a science lesson by talking about the reflective properties of mirrors and the color spectrum.

Because this activity requires the use of sharp tools, you'll have to take the lead during most of the steps of this craft.

What You Need:

  • 2–3 old CDs or DVDs with a silver (neutral color) reflective surface
  • A plastic tube (a PVC pipe, a toilet paper roll, vitamin tablet container and or something similar), approximately 1 inch in diameter and 5–7 inches long
  • Ruler with a metal edge
  • Utility knife
  • Sharp scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • 2 small rubber bands
  • Clear tape
  • Small crosscut or hack saw
  • Sandpaper (150 grit), found in any hardware store
  • Paper towels
  • Clear material for the lens such as plastic CD cases, paper protectors, or transparencies
  • Strong adhesive (such as Super Glue)
  • Small decorations such as beads, confetti, sequins, shells, or other trinkets

What You Do:

  1. Your CDs will be the mirrors for your kaleidoscope. Take over duties and use your metal ruler and permanent marker to draw a rectangle about 2 cm wide and as long as possible on the reflective surface of a CD.
  2. Use a utility knife and your metal ruler to score the edge of your rectangle, then use sharp scissors to cut along the marking. Create three of these mirrored rectangles. If the reflective material on the CDs starts to peel, use clear tape on the back side to hold it down.
  3. Ask you child to help you arrange the rectangles so the mirrored surfaces face each other and the edges meet to form a triangular shape. Fit them into place against each other, and secure them with rubber bands. Check to make sure that the mirrors will be able to slide in and fit snugly inside your kaleidoscope tube.
  4. Once the mirrors fit properly together and in the tube, use clear tape to hold the three mirrors together on the outside.
  5. Next, prepare the tube for your kaleidoscope. Take over duties and saw off any closed ends of the tube.
  6. Let your child help you measure the length of your mirrors. You'll want to make your tube 1–1.5 inches longer. Make sure you saw evenly, so you can fit a plastic piece to cap the end of it.
  7. Now that your tube is a bit longer than the mirrors, take over and saw off a section that is about ¾ of an inch long. This piece will become the end of the kaleidoscope and will hold the small decorations.
  8. Once your tube pieces are cut, check that they are smooth and even enough to sit flush against a surface without significant gaps. Taking over once again, sand the edges of your tube to get rid of extra material sticking out, and then clean them with a paper towel.
  9. Now create the lenses for the kaleidoscopes (you'll need three). You can use any clear material for the lenses such as parts of a CD jewel case or a plastic transparency. To make a lens, have your child hold the tube against your lens material, drawing around the tube with a permanent marker to make sure it fits.
  10. Take over and cut out the three circles using scissors or the utility knife.
  11. Wash and dry the plastic circles so that they are clean, transparent, and smooth.
  12. Glue one of the plastic circles to the small piece of tube that you cut out to be the end of your kaleidoscope.
  13. Glue another plastic piece to the longer tube.
  14. While your glue dries, ask your child to gather together the decorations he wants to put inside the kaleidoscope. Transparent objects are best as they catch the light.
  15. Once the glue dries on the smaller tube, fill it with the decorations. Then, seal it by gluing the remaining plastic piece over the other end. Set it out to dry.
  16. Finally, have your child slide your mirrors into the longer tube.
  17. Glue the long and short tubes together. One of the plastic caps will be between them.

When the glue dries, your kaleidoscope is ready to go! Take it outside and encourage your child to look through his new instrument in the light. He should be able to see different designs by turning the tube around in his hands.

Amy Hengst is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, with experience writing about education, technology and crafts.