How to Make Kaleidoscope Art


Combine art and science with a simple, creative kaleidoscope project that not only puts on a beautiful show, but teaches you about the behavior of light. National Geographic Kids explains the phenomenon in straightforward terms. Light normally travels in a straight line but, when it reflects off an object such as the shiny plastic sheet on the inside of the kaleidoscope, the light bounces off the shiny objects and refracts straight back to give your eyes a fractalized view of the objects.

Things You'll Need

  • Ruler
  • Thin marker
  • Clear plastic sheets
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Paper towel roll
  • White paper
  • Glue
  • Stickers
  • Confetti
  • Glitter
  • Beads (glass or plastic)
  • Black construction paper
  • Use a ruler and a thin marker to draw an 8-by-4-inch rectangle on a clear plastic projector sheet, then cut out the rectangle.

  • Draw two parallel lines lengthwise along the rectangle. Position the lines 1 1/3 inch apart from each other and from each end so that they are evenly spaced.

  • Fold the plastic along the lines, turning the two outside edges in to meet at a slanted mid-way point (don't fold them flat), to form the shape of a triangular tube. Connect the meeting point with a single strip of clear tape.

  • Cut a few inches off the end of a paper towel roll so that it equals the length of the triangular tube.

  • Cut a piece of plain white paper so that it wraps around and completely covers the paper towel roll. Decorate the paper with stickers, glitter or your own personal artwork. Tape the paper to the outside of the paper towel roll.

  • Place one of the circular ends of the paper towel tube on a piece of black construction paper and trace a circle on the paper. Cut out the circle and poke a small eye hole in the center with the scissors. Cut two more circles of the same size out of clear plastic sheets.

  • Cut a 1-inch-wide strip of thin cardboard long enough to wrap around the paper towel tube. Tape the strip together to form a circle. Glue one of the clear plastic circles to the bottom edge of the cardboard circle, to form a little cup.

  • Fill the cup with shiny, colorful and transparent items. You can use glitter, cut up pieces of colored transparent plastic and glass or plastic beads. Get creative mixing up the colors, shapes and sizes of the objects.

  • Place the colorful objects in the cup without overfilling it and glue the other clear circle on top to create a chamber. Wait for the glue to dry completely, then glue the chamber to the end of the tube.

  • Slide the plastic triangle into the tube and tape or glue the black construction paper circle over the end opposite the object-filled cup, without taping over the eye hole you punched into the circle. Aim the tube at a bright light, look through the hole and turn the tube to see your kaleidoscope art.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a stacked potato chip can instead of a paper towel roll for a sturdier tube.
  • Make the viewing chamber larger by cutting the plastic disks about a 1/2 inch wider and making the cardboard strip a little longer.
  • Do not overfill the object chamber. The pieces need to be able to move easily past one another.

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  • Photo Credit kaleidoscope image by Christopher Ursitti from
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