Family fun – make a Thaumatrope

//Family fun – make a Thaumatrope
Flower in pot Thaumatrope
An example of a Thaumatrope

Back in the days when children often made their own toys, they made thaumatropes. This was a simple art form designed to fool the eyes into combining two pictures into one composite picture. The picture on the right shows two separate pictures in the first two circles. The third picture combines them into one picture. These were combined with the help of computer software, but if you print the first two circles on cardstock or other heavy paper and make them into a thaumatrope, you can spin them to get them to combine into one image.

How to make a thaumatrope:

  1. Cut two circles the same size on a piece of cardstock or heavy paper. You may copy the file below into a document to print and use as a template.
  2. In one circle draw one part of your picture (such as the flower pot or vase).
  3. In the second circle draw the rest of your picture (the flowers).
  4. Glue the pictures back to back, but keep in mind that one must be upside down in relation to the other.
  5. Punch a hole in the two sides of your thaumatrope. Attach a string through the holes on each side. The heavier the string seems to work better.
  6. Hold on to one of the strings and twist it until it is wound up tight like a paddle on a toy boat. Then holding both strings gently pull as you watch the thaumatrope spin. You should see your two pictures merge into one as the toy spins. If your thaumatrope balances well it should spin continuously as first the string on one side winds up tightly and the other side unwinds. Experiment with different thicknesses of string. How long can you keep it spinning?


I used rubber bands for the string on my thaumatrope.


Tips for drawing your pictures.

  • Keep in mind the position the two parts of your composite picture must have with each other. It may help to first draw the composite picture in a circle to see exactly where each part of the picture must appear before drawing the separate parts.
  • Use tracing paper to help position the parts.

Ideas of pictures to draw

  • Bird in a cage
  • Butterfly over a flower
  • Robin catching a worm
  • Goldfish in a bowl
  • Dog in doghouse
  • Leaves on a tree
  • Flowers on a plant
  • Dog chasing bird

Another website with directions and pictures to copy for making thaumatropes

One more thaumatrope website

by Janice D. Green, author of The Creation and The First Christmas.

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Janice D. Green retired as an elementary librarian to write books. She is author, illustrator, and publisher of The Creation, and The First Christmas, Bible storybooks for children. The colorful illustrations in The Creation are hand appliqued fabric pictures that have been put together to make a Bible quilt. The First Christmas, is illustrated by Violet Vandor. Janice's passion is to write about the Bible in a way that encourages people to want to know more and to read it for themselves.

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