Make a Simple Optical Illusion

We tend to ‘believe it if we see it,’ but sometimes our eyes play tricks on our brains!  Kids and adults alike are fascinated by optical illusions.  Sometimes they boggle our minds and other times they just give us a headache, but either way you can’t deny that they’re amusing! Here’s a fun visual science experiment that will help your child explore the sense of sight and sharpen their logical thinking and observations skills.

We tried this simple activity sent to us by education.com, where preschoolers can practice scissor skills and create a homemade optical illusion!

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LEARN SCIENCE VOCABULARY

Optical – anything having to do with the eye and, in particular, light.  Light enters our eyes through our pupils, but it requires our brain to interpret this light as the images we ‘see.’

Illusion – something that appears real, but isn’t!  Magic is the art of ‘illusions’…getting people to believe they have seen something impossible, when really magicians are using carefully practiced tricks to fool our eyes and brains.

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • Full-page color picture, like from a magazine
  • Straight-edge or ruler
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Construction paper
  • Optional: Blank paper and pen for recording observations

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Invite your child to choose a picture from a magazine, or find a picture from a clip art program. Whichever you decide to use, try to find a picture that’s more or less the size of a standard piece of paper (about 8 1/2″ x 11″).
  2. Fold a piece of blank paper in half “hotdog style” and use the marker to draw a line down the middle. Label one column “before” and the other “after.” If your child has started writing, let him label the columns for practice.
  3. Encourage your child to write or dictate to you all of their observations about the picture under the “before” column.
  4. Use the ruler to draw 3 vertical lines down the picture, dividing it into 4 equal strips.
  5. With adult supervision, have your child cut the picture along the lines so that they have four equal strips.
  6. Help your child arrange the pieces of the picture in order on a piece of construction paper, leaving some space between each strip. Then glue them on. (My son really enjoyed practicing cutting in a straight line and using a glue stick!)
  7. Look at the picture with your child, and record what they notice below the “after” column. Ask them questions like, “Is there anything different about the picture now?” and “How does it make your eyes feel to look at the stretched picture?” The “stretching” of the picture tricks your eyes and your brain will try to fill in the gaps to make the picture look normal. Your child might notice that the picture looks stretched, or even that it looks like it’s wiggling when it’s really not!
  8. Extension: cut a picture into more than four strips, or cut a picture into wavy or diagonal strips!

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    This is our finished product…we ended up with a couple of wiggles in our lines, but we like how it fools our eyes!

THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT

Optical illusions occur when the brain interprets the information gathered by the eye (basically visual light) in a way that does not match up with reality.  In this case, the brain uses its previous knowledge of what’s familiar to fill in the gaps in the picture.

Check out fun preschool and kindergarten games and logical thinking activities here at education.com!

Show your kids more examples of optical illusions here at Optics For Kids.

Artists sometimes use optical illusions to make some really cool images.  My favorite is the sidewalk artist Julian Beever (you can see more of his work here).

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Julian Beever sidewalk art illusions: top is the ‘illusion’, bottom is how it was really drawn! 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. What a neat optical illusion that just about anyone can do! I will have to try this with my kids.

    Like

  2. Rose says:

    Great little project to do with my kids. Something they can do and I can explain. Sidewalk art and street art is so fun. I wish we had more around. That snail is pretty neat.

    Like

  3. Such a cute and EASY idea! I love that it’s something both my kids (2 and 4) can help with and participate in doing with me 🙂 We’ll definitely be trying this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. babiestobookworms says:

    This is such a fun and simple way to teach optical illusions!

    Like

  5. Love when you can make learning relevant and hands on. The artist you mentioned is talented too.

    Like

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