You know how it goes: You drop a pretty penny on the latest techno-gadget for your kid, and they end up more entertained by the cardboard box it came in. So maybe just skip straight ahead to the cardboard — because a paper towel roll is basically all you need to create this super-fun toy.

Sure, crafting can sometimes seem like more effort than it's worth, but it is actually possible to keep it super-simple — and still make a stellar final product. Kids will love making this kaleidoscope almost as much as they'll enjoy playing with it afterward.

The best part? This DIY toy is a fun way to teach your kids about repurposing and upcycling. Win-win-win.


Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows
  • Paper towel roll
  • Ruler
  • Multicolored translucent beads
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Hot glue gun
  • Clear plastic fruit box
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Aluminum foil
  • Empty cereal box
  • Colored scrapbook paper


Step 1

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Use the marker to trace around the end of the paper towel roll on the clear plastic.

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Step 2

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Cut out the piece of plastic so it is just small enough to fit inside the end of the paper towel roll.

Step 3

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Put a small amount of hot glue along the inside rim of the paper towel roll; then, slide the plastic circle into the roll so the glue holds it in place. (Caution: Only adults should handle the hot glue gun.)

Step 4

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Start dropping the translucent beads into the paper towel roll.

Step 5

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Cut a second small plastic circle using the same method as the first circle. Drop the circle inside the tube on top of the beads. Use your ruler to help it lay flat if necessary.

Step 6

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Drop the ruler down into the tube and measure the distance between the second plastic circle and the top of the paper towel roll.

Step 7

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Cut out 3 strips of cardboard from the cereal box that are 1 inch wide and as long as the distance you measured. Wrap the 3 pieces of cardboard in aluminum foil with the reflective side out. Use tape to keep the aluminum foil in place.

Step 8

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Tape the 3 pieces of cardboard together so they form a triangle.

Step 9

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Slide the triangle inside the tube so it is resting on top of the second plastic circle. Mine fit pretty snugly in the tube, but you can secure the triangle in place with tape if necessary.

Step 10

Image: Amy Vowles/SheKnows

Cut the piece of scrapbook paper so it is as long as the paper towel roll and wide enough to wrap all the way around the roll. Attach paper to the paper towel roll with tape.

Then point the kaleidoscope toward a window and spin it to see the different colors and reflections!

A version of this article was originally published in September 2013.