I cannot get enough of optical illusions and chances are your kids can’t either. There is always something magical about tricking the eye into seeing something that doesn’t exist, but as I like to say “It’s not magic, it’s science!” which we will explain a little later.
Today we are making thaumatropes. A thuamaotrope is a classic optical illusion toy consisting of a card with two different pictures on each side; when spun rapidly the pictures appear to combine. Because we are playing with pattern rather than a picture I gave our optical illusion toy it’s own name: Decotropes. Trope is the part of the word that means turning around and Deco stands for decorative.
My favorite types of projects are those that get YOU thinking creatively by asking YOU to add your artistic touch. Decotropes are just this type of project. The template I made is strictly black and white. You can use it as is to test out the optical illusion or you can fancy it up with color and patterns. The best part about this project is testing out different color combinations and decorative elements to see how they look when spun around. And if you try this project I’d love to see what you make! Use the hashtag #decotrope on Instagram and post a pic/video there!
This post is sponsored by Sakura of America. All opinions are strictly my own.
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I also had a chance to use some amazing art materials with this project. Sakura of America provided me with some of their pens to try out and I have to say I’m hooked! Their Gelly Roll Moonlight pens write on dark paper, which was perfect for dressing up our Decotropes. Their color palette is also not to be missed, amazing neons and metallics, and even pens that write like glitter!
Optical Illusion Toy: Decotropes
- Template– DOWNLOAD HERE
- Colorful pens-We used the following pens from Sakura of America:
- Card Stock
- Bamboo skewers
- Step One Print out the template.
- Step Two Decorate/color the circular areas.
- Step Three Fold along center dotted line.
- Step Four Cut out each decotrope while folded. Open and flip over.
- Step Five Tape skewer along inside at centerline. Burnish the tape to the skewer and paper. If the skewer is not securely fixed to the paper the decotrope will not spin correctly.
- Step Six Glue inside faces together. Let dry. If you don’t the glue will go flying!
You’re done! Spin those babies around!
The Science Behind This Toy
Decotropes and Thaumatropes are an example of persistence of vision. This is a phrase used to describe how our brain combines multiple images together when they are rapidly flashed in front of the eyes. This is the basis for film in fact. All movies are simply long strings of still images flashed at quick succession in front of the eyes. Most movies are played at 24 frames per second, meaning there are 24 still images per second flashing in front of you. It is thought that the brain percieves anything from upwards of about 10 frames per second as motion. This is about as fast as you can thumb through a flipbook.
Harry Houdini Today’s projects made me immediately think of Harry Houdini, the master illusionist famous for his brilliant escape acts. Harry Houdini started his career doing card tricks but after impressing a stage manger in Minnesota with his handcuffs act he never looked back. It’s a treat to see pictures of some of his famous escape acts including the Chinese Water Torture Cell in which he was lowered upside down into a cage placed in water, and the Milk Can Escape where he was placed in a locked and water filled milk can. Beyond performing, Houdini was also famous for debunking phony spiritualists and and for heading up the Society of American Magicians. I also found it interesting that he was able to copyright some of his acts by performing them as one-act “plays” He did this to prevent imitators from using his tricks and went as far to sue them if they did!
We had a lot of fun making Decotropes, it’s hard to stop making them once you get started as evidenced by the number of them floating around our home right now…… So print out a bunch, even design your own, and get making and seeing!