The thaumatrope is a good warm up for the movie wheel and it only takes a minute to make. The mysterious message written on the thaumatrope pattern will appear when you spin it. Interestingly, the thaumatrope preceded --and led to the invention of-- the movie wheel.

What you need.

The thread could be dental floss or even a couple of very thin rubber band cut open and tied together.

STEP 1: Cut out the thaumatrope pattern and fold in half.

  1. Print out the pattern.
    Check the printed paper to make sure it did not re-scale the size of the pattern. Some browsers and PDF viewers change the scale and the size of the printed pattern. Choose the print options that say something like "Actual Size" or "Scale: 100%."
  2. Cut on the solid lines. Fold carefully right on the dashed line so the printed part is on the outside. Using a strait edge or a table corner will help make the fold straight.

STEP 2: Tape in the string and tape halves together.

  1. Tape a string onto the non-print side so it splits one of the halves, as shown.
  2. Tape the halves shut. You should now have a two-dimensional rectangle with letters on both sides a string splitting it right through the middle.

STEP 3: Try it out

Twirl the thaumatrope by rolling the string between thumb and forefinger of each hand as fast as you can. If you are using dental floss, sometimes you have to roll it awhile before it works smoothly. If using a thin rubber band, pull it slightly as you spin it. You should see "PERSISTENCE OF VISION." That expression was used to explain how we perceived animation. It is being superceded by the expression, "phi phenomenon."

Here is a blank pattern if you want to make your own design. You can cut it shorter if you want to.

More About Visual Perceptioninteresting strips kids have made for zoetropes

Round thaumatropes with pictures instead of letters

Here you can find more about explanations, activities and cool links related to visual perception.

I'd like to know how this project goes for you. I'm happy to answer questions about it. Feedback from you is an important way for me to know what works and what needs clarification.