There's a Trick to Making Your Own Colorful Kaleidoscope

You can use household items to create optical illusions.

diy kaleidoscope
Photo: Riche Holmes Grant


  • Empty paper towel roll
  • Clear plastic lid from a disposable container
  • Fine-tip marker
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Translucent beads in assorted colors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • 1 sheet of holographic or mirrored scrapbook paper
  • Tape
  • 1 sheet of thin scrapbook paper
  • Mounting spray
  • 1 small sheet of colored card stock (optional)
diy kaleidoscope
Riche Holmes Grant


Use a marker to trace the outline of one end of the paper towel roll onto the plastic lid.


Using scissors, cut out traced circle. (Note that your circle may not be perfectly round depending on the condition of the paper towel roll, but this is will still work.)


Using your circle template, cut out another circle from the lid that is slightly smaller and that will fit snugly inside the paper towel roll. Test the fit as needed and then set the new circle aside.

diy kaleidoscope
Riche Holmes Grant


Line the rim of the end of the roll that you traced in Step 1 with hot glue and place the first plastic circle that you made on top of the glue while it's still hot. Press to hold.

diy-kaleidoscope-step4a.jpg (skyword:431489)
Riche Holmes Grant


Once the glue dries, hold the paper towel roll upright and drop the beads inside.


Keeping the paper towel roll upright, drop the smaller plastic circle inside. You may need to use the ruler to adjust the position of the circle inside the roll until it lays flat on top of the beads.


Once the smaller circle is firmly in place, use the ruler to measure the distance from the smaller circle to the top of the roll. Using that measurement as the length, cut out three strips of holographic or mirrored scrapbook paper that are approximately 1 ⅛ inches wide.

diy kaleidoscope
Riche Holmes Grant


Use tape to form a triangle out of the three cut strips. Slide the finished triangle all the way inside the paper towel roll until it reaches the plastic circle inside the roll.


Measure the length of the full paper towel roll and use that measurement to cut out a piece of thin scrapbook paper that is approximately 5 ½ inches wide.

STEP 10:

Spray mounting spray directly onto the paper towel roll and wrap the piece of scrapbook paper around it. Seal the seam with additional mounting spray if needed.

diy-kaleidoscope-step8a-0517.jpg (skyword:431495)


You can add an eye hole to your kaleidoscope by first tracing the outline of the top of the paper towel roll onto a piece of cardstock and then cutting out the resulting circle. Next, fold the circle in half and trace a small semi-circle in the middle of the fold line. Cut out the smaller circle to create the finished eye hole.

diy kaleidoscope
Riche Holmes Grant

When you're project is completed, hold your DIY kaleidoscope up to a window and turn it to see the beautiful colors and reflections at work!

Looking for more ideas? Watch how to make color-changing kinetic sand from Professor Figgy in Kids Lab:

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