Thaumatropes – a fun mini movie (optical illusion toy)

Thaumatrope with words, Jesus loves me; free printable optical illusion toy for kids

LIGHTS, CAMERA… ACTION! 

Happy New Year everybody! How was your Christmas break? Let’s start off with something fun. A thaumatrope (thauma-what?!) is a paper toy, a simple optical illusion. Our kids will get to play movie director with their own mini movie in two frames that spin and merge together to make one image and give the illusion of movement. It’s created using one or two pieces of card and twirled as fast as you can. I can’t believe how easy these are and yet so much fun… our kids will love them and will want to have a go at making their own… enjoy!

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THAUMA-WHAT?!

A picture is worth 1000 words. Click on this valentine thaumatrope – simply a circle with a cute heart on one side and ‘I love you’ in words on the other – to see it in action; the simple but very cute idea that inspired this post – thanks Mollie. :) Once you’ve seen it, you’ll be hooked.

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WHAT IS A THAUMATROPE AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

A thaumatrope is a piece of card with an image on each side (think: lollypop) and when it is twirled quickly between your fingers or using the palms of your hands, as fast as you can, it appears as one (moving) image. It works well for any images implying movement and depending on where you put your spinning axis, can be twirled either horizontally or vertically. The closer your fingers are to the card when twirling, the faster it will spin.

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A SNIPPET OF HISTORY

The thaumatrope was a popular Victorian toy invented in the 1820s. Dr John Ayton used one to demonstrate ‘persistence of vision’ to the Royal College of Physicians in London in 1824. It is believed to be the first cinematographic device.

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JESUS LOVES ME ~ THAUMATROPE (PAPER TOY CRAFT) ~ FREE PRINTABLE

Here’s a cute little freebie designed by Paper Gifts for Estefany – 2 designs – in colour or to colour – to remind our kids how much their Creator loves them; and what better way to do it than this fun spinning toy. Print on craft card or photo paper; cut out and assemble. You may also like to laminate your thaumatrope to make it a bit more resilient.

Thaumatrope with words, Jesus loves me; free printable optical illusion toy for kids

DOWNLOAD

Thaumatrope with words, Jesus loves me; free printable optical illusion toy to colour for kids

DOWNLOAD

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BLANK ~ THAUMATROPE (PAPER TOY CRAFT) ~ FREE PRINTABLE  

And here is a blank one if you would like to make your own. Full instructions below.

Thaumatrope with words, Jesus loves me; free printable optical illusion toy to colour for kids

DOWNLOAD

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MINI THAUMATROPE (PAPER TOY CRAFT) ~ FREE PRINTABLE

Dinosaur mini thaumatrope for kids  God made me too!

FREE Dinosaur Mini Thaumatrope for kids

Blast off into outer space with this Universe Mini Thaumatrope for kids

FREE Universe Mini Thaumatrope optical illusion paper toy for kids; free printable

Momma Duck and her cute little Ducklings ~ Mini Thaumatrope for kids

FREE Momma Duck and Cute Little Ducklings Mini Thaumatrope optical illusion spinning paper toy for kids; free printable

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MAKE YOUR OWN THAUMATROPE ~ HOW TO

1. Cut 2 identical shapes (e.g. circles) onto good quality card; 2 shapes for each thaumatrope.
2. Draw part of your picture on one circle; and the other half of your picture on the other circle. When the images are glued back-to-back and spun quickly, the two separate images will appear to merge. Note: Make sure your images will line up! And depending on where your spinning axis is, you may need to invert one image, but you’ll figure it out.  :)
3. There are various ways you can make it twirl: rope, string, a lackey band (add a tiny hole punch to either side of your card and loop through); or attach a thin stick – think: bamboo skewer; or for our sponsored kids, a strip of heavy paper or card rolled up to make a wand which is what I have done above, just in case they do not have access to any of the others.

Super easy tutorial for kids

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THAUMATROPE ~ CREATIVE IDEAS

Have a go at making your own! Here are some ideas to kick off your creativity…

SHAPES: Experiment with different shaped cards – circles (round tags); ovals; hexagons; squares; rectangles; stars; hearts; animals (e.g. fish, butterfly, animal faces); snowflakes; autumn leaves; a crown shape; a birthday cupcake (hmmm, that sounds like fun! I’ll have to try that one); the possibilities are endless. All it needs to do is to be able to spin evenly.
COLOURS: Try different colours, backgrounds and patterns (e.g. plain, stripes, dots, whirly gig) – again, the possibilities are endless – experiment. Keeping it simple probably works best. Some of the best I’ve seen are simple images on plain white backgrounds.
WORDS: Design a special mini message of love to your child using just words on your thaumatrope (e.g. I love you; you are loved; thinking of you; happy birthday; need a hug?; or a short Bible verse. This would be a fabulous Bible verse memorisation technique). Experiment with different fonts or typography.
CLIP ART: Add some clip art, e.g. stars, hearts, animals, or lines radiating out from your object to show movement.
COLOURING PAGES: Split up parts of a colouring page and put one part of the image on one shape and another part of the image on the other shape, e.g. any of these circus tricks would work well. You may need to reduce your image sizes first to make sure they fit.
SILHOUETTE: Split up parts of a silhouette image, like these people dancing and if you follow the link you will find more interesting silhouette ideas.
PHOTOS: Cut around a photo of your child on one shape and add a top hat to the other (great birthday idea). Or put your child’s photo on one shape and your photo on the other. Make it look like you are doing something together (e.g. kicking or throwing a ball, waving to each other). The photo of you could be the ‘action shot’ if you need one. Take a photo of you blowing kisses to your child; kicking a ball; or reaching out your arms to them for a hug. Include a unique message for your child – written in words around the images; or take a photo of you holding a sign with your message; or add a text box to your image to make it look like a sign.
FRAME: Try adding a border or frame to one shape and what you see on the other shape – e.g. a window; an open book (e.g. a short Bible verse); a puppet theatre; a TV frame; a movie set; or put a stage with curtains and show your subject (maybe your child?!) making a grand entrance.
SPLIT YOUR IMAGE: Split up parts of any image to make a thaumatrope. Here’s a simple heart in two halves (add your name to one side and your child’s name to the other). Something like this pink merry go round image would be lovely split up as a thaumatrope for the girls.
GIFT TAGS: Thaumatropes can also be used as very cute gift tags. Just add names. The pink merry go round would make a great gift tag. Here are some valentine heart thaumatrope gift cards  where you can add your name and your child’s name. You may think of ways to add them to other stationery items too (e.g. adhere with a tiny piece of double-sided tape).
THEME: Tie it in with your theme package – thaumatropes can be adapted for any theme. Doing a Bible theme? Make up a thaumatrope to match your theme. There are some ideas below. Writing about a specific animal? Add a thaumatrope of that animal into your package – either using a shape template as your thaumatrope card; or including a picture of that animal on your thaumatrope. Sending a birthday package? That cupcake shaped thaumatrope would be a winner; or include a cupcake image on one shape and candles or radiating lines on the other.
LIKE DOODLING? DRAW YOUR OWN! Or get your own children or students to make one for your sponsored child. They will love it! Flick through the topic suggestions below for more inspiration.
SEND SOME BLANK THAUMATROPE SHAPES so that your sponsored child and their friends can have fun designing their own. Why not include some ideas and a few samples? I recommend a starting diameter for your shape of somewhere between 8 to 10 cm. I looked at the slimline rim of my favourite pink cupcake mug :) and started with that. It also depends on the quality of your card. Again, experiment. Some mini thaumatropes would also be extremely cute and possibly a little easier to handle for the little ones.
POP YOUR THAUMATROPE INTO A MINI ENVELOPE for some extra fun and don’t forget to jazz it up!

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TOPIC IDEAS ~  FOR MORE INSPIRATION

Bible: Sparkly gem thaumatrope (terrific for a Bible treasure theme) plus it comes with a mini envelope; Jonah inside the big fish  (scroll down to crafts section) would make an excellent thaumatrope; Jesus – transfiguration thaumatrope; Easter / Passover: cross on one side – empty tomb on the other (or just radiating lines from either to show it’s empty); Fruit of the SpiritDaniel – lions (Daniel on one side and the lions on the other); creation: day – night (yellow on one side and black on the other – an easy one for younger children); Armour of God: armour on – armour off; Esther: crown on – crown off, or showing Esther on one shape and Xerxes with his sceptre on the other.
One person: looking for something (e.g. friend, their shoes); a person holding a trophy; hat on – hat off; change of costume (this would work well for a paper doll thaumatrope); peek a boo  this would be a very cute idea for a thaumatrope; stick figure walking or running; a person standing in one frame – in the next frame showing them moving straight up and leaving their boots behind; playing a musical instrument – with lines showing sound radiating out; throwing hat into the air (cool idea for a graduation); William Tell: arrow – apple; man holding umbrella (vintage design)
People interacting: looking at each other; waving to each other; shaking hands; walking, running, dancing; people sitting at a table – one disappears;
Zoom in: Two hands high-fiving; eye blinking; eye peeking through a hole, then disappearing; sad face – happy face; light bulb – idea cloud;
Animals:  running, walking, hopping; climbing a tree; cat – whiskers (cute – plus it also comes with an envelope); mother duck swimming with chicks; butterfly and flowers; butterfly landing on a child’s nose; dog chasing cat; fish in bowlbird landing on branch (madebyjoel.com – this idea would also work well for a nest); bird in cage; another bird in cage; fish in bowlfish in disguise; and here’s a cute Hello Kitty for the girls; or how about an action shot like a jumping dolphin or kangaroo?
Nature: flowers in vase; a country scene, e.g. tree appearing or disappearing
Seasons: How about a snowman on one shape, with a surprised expression on his face as he is receiving a carrot as his nose on the other? Include some radiating lines! Or leaves falling from a tree for Autumn?
Toys: whirlygig (this free printable in fun colours could be adapted to make a thaumatrope by punching your holes on the outer edges); Jack in a box (scroll down); yoyo
Sports / action: jumping, riding a bike; Boy kicking soccer ball  (a fun one for the boys); Winnie the Pooh bouncing a ball; Tweety surfing; motorbike and rider (motocross handlebar trick); horse and rider – silhouettehorse and rider – to colour;
Mini Movie: lights, camera… action – ideas on how to set up your own mini movie set;
Transport: boat; train; car; flying; parachute; rocket blast off (e.g. simple rocket image on one side – radiating lines and a fluffy cloud showing blast off on the other image); put your child in a spaceship, plane or helicopter (e.g. face in window); yellow bird with crash helmet flying a helicopter
Circus: trapeze; juggling; tightrope high wirelion jumping through burning hooptiger jumping through burning hoopdaring circus ridersmerry go round (scroll down);
Geography: American flag; your country’s flag (or map) on one side and your child’s country flag (or map) on the other
What you see: what you see out a window; what you see on a page on a book; what you see from a swing; what you see swimming under the ocean… etc. You get the idea! By now you should be brimming over with creative ideas. I’ll leave you to get started… and I’d love to hear what you came up with!

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PLUS ONE FOR YOU

And here’s a fun one for your own family; or maybe as a cute wedding favour or wedding gift card for that special couple. It could also be adapted to show someone being kissed on the cheek (e.g. grandchild):  two people kissing – great valentine idea  :)

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And when you write to your sponsored child, don’t forget… :)

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11 thoughts on “Thaumatropes – a fun mini movie (optical illusion toy)

    • They’re great, aren’t they? I’d never seen these before. Had you? My father just told me that he had some kind of ‘flipping book’ as a child that when they flipped the pages over it was like a mini movie, with each page the next one in a sequence of motion. So many amazing ideas… Thank you for your visit today, recachu – my very first post for 2016! :)

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