Harness the power of illusion with this easy-to-make 19th-century optical toy.
A thaumatrope is an optical toy consisting of a disc with a different picture on each of its sides. When the disc is rapidly rotated, the two pictures appear to combine into a single image. This is called an optical illusion.
People of all ages enjoyed optical illusion toys in the 19th century. To learn more, check out our online learning lesson on optical toys.
Making a thaumatrope is easy and the design possibilities are endless! So get creative, and make your own toy — or two!
Optical Toy Tutorial
Step 1: Gather your supplies
You will need:
- Two pieces of yarn or string, about 30 cm long
- Cardboard or card stock, cut into a small rectangle or circle
- Markers or pencil crayons
Step 2: Make your thaumatrope
With the tips of the scissors make a small hole at each end of your cardboard. The holes should be directly across from each other.
Weave a small amount of string through each hole and tie a knot. Leave enough string to grasp in your hands.
Step 3: Get creative
Now, a chance to put your artistic skills to work! On the two sides of the cardboard, draw the images you’d like to combine. In this example, I’ve drawn a face on one side, and a picture of the sun on the other.
Some other ideas for thaumatrope images:
- A flower and pot
- A tree and apples
- A candle and flame
Or design your own!
Step 4: Have some fun!
Amaze family and friends with your new toy. Gently grasp the strings on either side, twist, and give a gentle tug. The cardboard will spin, and the images will merge. In this example, the face appears to be on the sun.