Thaumatropes for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Do you know what a thaumatrope is? You probably do even if you aren’t familiar with the word. It’s a particular kind of optical illusion where an image is printed on each side of a disk and when you spin it, it looks like the two images become one.

Maybe you’ve seen this with a bird and a cage, which is shown in this video from Mr Henry’s Vids.

OWL Learning Channel has a video and printable templates you can use to make your own thaumatropes, including a spider and a web, a duck and a pond, some math problems and the word boat broken into two pieces (which is actually pretty cool).

These sorts of toys work because of what’s know as persistence of memory. The brain continues to see an object briefly even after it is no longer visible. Because of this, when you flip the images quickly your brain combines them.

If you want to see a Valentine’s Day themed version, check out this one from Team Cartwright. It has a heart on one side and the words Happy Valentine’s Day on the other, so when you spin it, it looks like the words are inside the heart. Babble Dabble Do has a similar project with a heart and an arrow, which is meant to be a gift tag, or you can just play with it.

This is a fun, easy and low-prep STEM activity to do in the classroom around Valentine’s Day, or it’s a fun one you can do with kids at home.

Once your kids understand the concept, they may want to play with making their own, which they can do with two different drawings, or like this example they can fill a heart with a different sentiment. Or they may just want to play with other printable thaumatropes,

[Photo: Team Cartwright.]


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