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DIY Kaleidoscopes

DIY Kaleidoscopes

(Ages 9-11)

Number of Attendees:

We did this activity for a drop-in craft on NJ Makers Day and prepared 50 packets with supplies beforehand. We had 46 attendees.


Prep time varies on how you conduct the program. For a drop-in activity, there will be a bit a prep time. Gather teen volunteers for a session of community service to help.

Otherwise, the program should run about 45 minutes.



  • Recycled toilet paper tubes
  • Rulers
  • Decorations for exterior including washi tape, feathers, googly eyes, etc.
  • Decorations for interior, including beads, sequins, and other small, transparent items
  • Cardstock
  • Mirrorboard similar to this. (tip: if measured correctly, you can use 1 sheet per two kaleidoscopes)
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Hole punch
  • Wax Paper
  • Rubberbands
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape


Description of Program:

Kaleidoscopes are toys that contain mirrors and small colored objects. The mirrors and objects reflect light to create visible patterns. Come make your own with some found treasures and recycled materials!



Prep work:


    1. Measure mirror board and cut in half so that you have two pieces measuring about 5 inches x 3.5 inches. Now measure the smaller pieces into thirds so that each third is slightly longer than 1 inch, then fold to make a long triangular tube (shiny part on the inside). Tape tube closed.


2. Make a viewfinder by drawing a circle on cardstock around the toilet paper tube and then drawing a few small squares around the circle. Cut the viewfinder to follow the drawn shape. Punch a hole in the center.

3. Cut plastic wrap and wax paper so each are about 4 x 4 inches.


Creation Time:

    1. Begin by placing the mirror board triangular tube into the toilet paper tube. I like to encourage participants to look through the tube at this point. They will begin to understand the basics of how kaleidoscopes use light and mirrors to reflect colors and objects.
    2. If kids choose to decorate the exterior of the tube they can begin by using washi tape, makers, duct tape, etc.
    3. Next, using the plastic wrap, place it loosely over one end of the tube so that it slightly dips into the tube.
    4. Place a few translucent beads or sequins onto the plastic wrap so it is sitting slightly inside the tube. I stress to the kids that kaleidoscopes only work when light can go through the objects and not to pile too many beads of sequins in there. Less is more in this case.
    5. Tightly cover the beads / plastic wrap with the wax paper and secure with rubber bands.
    6. Place the viewfinder on the opposite end of the tube and secure tightly with tape. Scotch tape might be easiest. Make sure the viewfinder is equal or larger than the circumference of the tube opening so that light can't get through.
    7. Make any final decorating details (if necessary) and then enjoy looking through the kaleidoscopes and making observations. Look at everyone's tubes to see how different or similar the results are.


$30 for mirrorboard, beads, and sequins. The rest of the supplies came from materials we already had and recyclables.


Intended for 4th to 6th graders because of the math (measurements) and prep work. For younger kids ask teen volunteers to prep baggies of supplies ahead of time.

Pair with any STEM, DIY, or upcycling books.

I have been doing this project for a number of years at different libraries so I actually can't remember where I found the idea! If you look up toilet paper tube kaleidoscopes you'll find a lot of different ways to make them in case my instructions are too complicated!

Submitted by:

Jacqueline Quinn - jacqueline.quinn@teaneck.bccls.org

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