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Fourth of July Thaumatropes


In the 19th century British physician, John Ayrton Paris, invented the thaumatrope. He was curious about the retina and its ability to retain an image. So, he created a simple device to test it. He took a card and placed an image on one side, and a different image on the other. Then he tied strings to each side of the card and spun it fast to test the retina’s abilities.

The retina is the part of the eye that acts kind of like a screen. It’s incredibly light sensitive. That’s why when you stare at a bright light and look away, you’re left with spotty vision. More importantly, it’s responsible for taking visual information and sending it up to the brain for processing. The brain figures out what the image is and what it means. Now, while the retina is excellent at sending the info super fast there’s still a bit of delay.

If you want to create your own thaumatrope, you can follow the directions below!


  • card stock or thin cardboard
  • hole punch
  • string or rubber bands
  • markers
  • scissors


  1. Cut a rectangle out of the card stock.
  2. Draw a set of colorful fireworks on one side of the card.
  3. Now, flip the card over so the drawing you just drew is upside down. Draw a second set of fireworks on the new blank side.
  4. Punch two holes on either side of the card; left and right.
  5. Attach a piece of string or rubber band through each hole and tie it in a double knot.
  6. Now roll the pieces of string between your thumb and forefinger to make the card flip back and forth. 

The two images become one. Cool, right?

After the kids get the hang of it, have them experiment with other drawings. For more great fun, click the link below!