Preschool children love colorful things almost as much as they like hands-on STEM activities that teach them while they play. Building a kaleidoscope combines both aspects into one activity that children can play with long after the “work” is done.
Preschoolers might need a helping hand with some of the steps involved in making a kaleidoscope. This includes gathering the supplies, using glue guns, and accurately measuring the materials. You may need to help with cutting and pasting, but take care not to do all of the work because making the device is the fun part of the activity.
For children, the fun begins with putting the kaleidoscope together and continues through using it. Children will enjoy the hands-on aspect of choosing the colorful arrangement, decorating the kaleidoscope, and pasting the colorful bits in place. Adults must supervise them, but children appreciate hand-made toys more if they’re allowed to take an active role in making it.
Using the Kaleidoscope
Since a prism isn’t involved, this type of kaleidoscope is intended more for fun than scientific experiments. And while most directions mention pointing it at the sun, it is much safer for children to use a bright light so that they don’t look directly at the sun. To use it, simply point the lid end at the light and turn it slowly to show the different colors and patterns.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to build a kaleidoscope. You can find the materials you need and their instructions at several online locations, but they all boil to something similar to these kaleidoscope instructions. Feel free to experiment with ideas of your own, such as using tinfoil to wrap the inside of the tube because it provides a better reflective surface.
STEM activities like this one combine real science, math, and engineering skills children will profit from. And because of the educational nature of this project, you may want to build a few different kaleidoscopes using different materials to compare the results they create.