One of the newest additions to Artful Kids is the Kaleidograph. For those of you who haven’t come across this before, the Kaleidograph is a pattern making toy which is very simple in it’s concept but lots of fun to use. We always like to road test new products here where we can, and I have to say I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one, so the kids didn’t get much of a look in at first!
Each Kaleidograph set (there are currently 4) contains 12 double-sided cards which can be layered in any way you choose to create 570 billion different patterns (the packs come complete with a pattern sheet to give you some ideas). The cards of each of the sets are also interchangeable, meaning that if you have more than one set, the possibilities are extended still further to become almost literally limitless. The 4 designs available are Crystal (geometric shapes) Flora (organic, curvilinear shapes), Op Art and Contrast (black and white sets). Because the cards are added in layers, the patterns created have a satisfying 3 dimensional element about them, while the CD case sized box acts both as storage and frame for the cards.
The best toys inspire creativity in their users, and this one was no exception, so having had lots of fun exploring it’s intended use as a pattern making toy, we were then inspired to experiment with other creative ways of using it, beyond those it is intended for.
When I was a child, my mother used to give me a variety of plastic doileys which she used as table-savers, for me to use as stencils with crayons and felt-tips, and it occurred to me I could do the same with the individual cards of the Kaleidograph. By marking the position of the corners with the first card, (to act as registration marks for the other cards I wanted to use) I was able to build up individual patterns to colour in, and create unique mandelas. You can use as many or as few cards as you like in this way in a single design, and you can colour in the resulting overlapping patterns any way you choose. In this respect it reminded me somewhat of the geometric colouring sheets you can get, in that the designs created can be coloured in lots of different ways. I found that the designs of the Flora set produced astonishingly Middle Eastern looking designs, and that the designs created looked good coloured in, left as an outline, or as black and white patterns.
We then moved on to try using the individual cards as masks, combining them with the ever-popular watercolour spray paint to produce multi-colour layered designs. I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a new set, as although they cleaned up well, the edges did get a little stained, but it would be a great way of extending the life of an old set. If you didn’t want to get the cards covered in paint however, you could use them as masks for sunprinting instead.
Finally, and easiest of all, you can use a few of the cards to create decorative, changeable mats to frame a small photograph, as shown below.
Our verdict: This is a versatile and educational toy suitable for a wide age range, whose compact size also makes it a perfect travel toy that can be easily stached away in a handbag without getting damaged. Meanwhile, if you fancy having a go at a digital version of the game online, you can find it here.