Making a Simple Kaleidoscope

(The "Twelve Step Program")


  • regular size can of Pringles Potato Chips (any flavor will do...) OR an empty paper towel roll
  • clear plastic wrap
  • cardboard from a cereal box
  • aluminum foil
  • small, colorful objects (glass/plastic beads, dried flower petals, clear buttons...check your junk drawer!
  • tape

Step #1:

Open the can of chips. Eat every single one yourself or share with a friend. This is in the interest of science, after all...**

If you have special dietary requirements that prohibit you from eating chips...opt for the paper towel roll method...fewer calories and more fiber!**

**(JUST TEASING!!!!!!!, the purpose of this exercise is to get an empty cardboard cylinder to use as the body of your kaleidoscope!)

Step #2:

Make sure the inside of your chosen cylinder is clean and dry. (If you use the Pringles can, keep the plastic will save you a step or two later!)

Step #3

Make sure both ends of the cylinder are will have to cut the closed end off the Pringles can, but the paper towel roll is good to go already, as long as it's empty!

Step #4

On a piece of scrap paper, trace around one of the open ends of the cylinder. Draw an equilateral (equal-sided) triangle on the circle. Measure the length of one of the sides of the triangle and write it down.

Measure the length of your cylinder

Step #5

Cut three rectangular pieces of cardboard from the cereal box ...all the same size, using the measurements you took on the scrap paper. Then, tape aluminum foil , shiny side exposed, to only one side of each piece of cardboard. (This is a REALLY simple form of a "first surface mirror", a special optical glass mirror used in telescopes, microscopes, kaleidoscopes and other scientific instruments where the exactness of a reflection is crucial!)

Step #6

Tape the three "mirrors" together , shiny sides facing. (It should look like a triangle from either end)

Step #7

Slide the taped mirrors into the cylinder. It will be a really snug fit.

Step #8

Stretch a piece of plastic wrap across one end of your cylinder. (On the Pringles can...use the "bottom end" not the "cap end"). Secure it with tape on the OUTSIDE.

Step #9

Cut a cardboard strip 1/2" wide that will make a "cuff" around the plastic-wrapped end. Tape rubberband in place.

Step #10

Fill the 1/2" space you just made with your colorful "doodads" and seal THAT space with another piece of plastic wrap. Tape or rubberband it up good! Just be sure you tape around the outside of the cylinder.

Step #11 (towel cylinder version)

Making the eyepiece...

On another piece of cardboard, trace around the other end of the cylinder. Cut this circle out and set it aside for a minute...

Go back to the scrap paper you drew the original equal-sided triangle on and draw a circle on the INSIDE of it.

Trace this smaller circle onto the bigger circle you cut out a minute ago.

Cut a hole the size of the smaller circle. Cover it with plastic wrap. Tape it carefully. This will keep any loose junk from falling into your eye!

Now tape the big circle with the hole in it over the end of the cylinder.

Step #11 "Pringles can version "

Making the eyepiece...

Go back to the scrap paper you drew the original equal-sided triangle on and draw a circle on the INSIDE of it.

Use the plastic cap you saved at the beginning...

Trace that circle onto the plastic top and carefully make a hole just that size in the center of the cap. Cover the hole with plastic wrap. Tape it carefully. (This is to keep any leftover crumbs or loose stuff from getting into your eye!!! DON"T SKIP THIS STEP!!!!!!

Darken the outside of the circle so you can't see the mirror triangle. Put the cap on and tape it secure.

Step #12

Enjoy your Kaleidoscope!

Roll the entire cylinder in your hands, or give it a good shake.... remember, close one eye to look through kaleidoscope like an old-fashioned telescope....