What you need

  1. Unsharpened pencils
  2. Circular shapes of thick white card (10cm diameter)
  3. Various black and white images - download resource


A thaumatrope is a small optical illusion that’s really easy to make and fun to spin. It’s not too confusing (as far as optical illusions go) – and won’t make your eyes go squiffy! It’s basically a disk attached to the top of a pencil, with a different picture on each of its sides. When you twirl the pencil quickly between your fingers, the pictures appear to blend into one.

Once the thaumatropes are finished, you can leave them lying around to be picked up and twirled anytime.

Top tip

If you are drawing your own images, try to make sure that both images line up. For example, ideally you want a bird inside the birdcage. However if it is half out the birdcage it will still be effective and look good

You can colour the images in as well if you wish

The Activity

  1. Take 2 circular cards
  2. Draw the first image on one side of the card (or print out an image and glue on to the card)
  3. Draw the second image on the other side of the card (or print out an image and glue onto the card)
  4. Tape the pencil to the inside of one of the cards, making sure the image is on the outside
  5. Glue the other card on top, again making sure the image is on the outside and that the pictures line up
  6. Leave to dry
  7. Your thaumatrope is now ready to use
  8. Hold the pencil between the palms of your hands and rub them back and forth to spin the pencil around
  9. Ta da! Your thaumatrope image will appear as if by magic

PDF Resource