Thaumatrope; what a deceptively simple name for such a simple little toy. Say it with me “thaw -ma-trope.” These toys are super simple two sided precursors to modern animation.
A thaumatrope has a different image on each side. When spun rapidly the two images give the impression of blending into one. It’s kind of like ice age animation. It’s simple but also a little magic.
Low tech animation…
Thaumatropes were a popular toy back in Victorian ages, we’re talking nineteenth century. It probably helped the popularity of these simple spinners that they were not in competition with smart phones and PS4’s. These babies are as low tech as they come. But I think even our technology jaded kids of today get a kick our of making something a little magical all by themselves.
And once your kiddo learns the basics them only limit to their fun is their own imagination!
All you need is some tag board or other thick paper, skewers or straws and something to draw with. We used Sharpies because I’m bananas over Sharpies and have let my kids use them with abandon since they were tiny. Use something bold so your image stands out, no subtle pencils drawing here!
You will also need something to trace around or a compass to get nice round circles. I couldn’t draw a decent circle if my life depended on it. Maybe you’re gifted in that way.
We used this circle punch by Fiskars. Little kids think this thing is magic. Punching circles could be an activity in itself!
Classic or groundbreaking….
Each side of your thaumatrope will have a different picture. They should relate to each other because your eye will mesh them together into one image.
There were a few classic illustration combinations for them; horse and rider, bird and cage, fish and bowl, and a tree and leaves.
I like the idea of talking about these classic combinations and why they work. Because these toys are so simple students can make one thaumatrope that uses a classic example and then make one of their own imagination. A good brainstorming session could bring lots of fun ideas around!
The how to….
Once you have your circles cut (and they can be any size you choose,) and your images drawn your going to glue them together with a skewer in the middle. We just used plenty of glue from a glue stick and they stuck just fine!
I have one note about the skewers. In case you have a very crooked skewer but choose to use it anyways because, well, wasting. Don’t do it. It’s like Victorian spinning toy on a bad trip. It ruins the illusion. Spend the extra third of a cent for straight skewers. (You could also use a straw.)
Once the glue is dry hold the skewer upright between your palms and twirl it back and forth. As the paper circles twirl around; magic!
Show me what your thaumatrope looks like ! Readers that share pics of what they are doing make my day!