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Visual Trickery

Optical illusions defy the old saying, “What you see is what you get.”
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Creativity
Fine Motor Skills

What you need: 

  • white paper 
  • red, blue, orange, and gray construction paper 
  • green, black, and orange tempera paints 
  • glass of water 
  • pencil or straw 
  • glue 

What to do: Kids love the magic of optical illusions. With your help, your child can create some simple optical illusions that will astound her friends.

  1. Blind Spot. Explain that everyone has a place in the eye where they cannot see. On a piece of white paper, ask your child to draw an X. Approximately six inches from the X, she should draw a small circle and fill it in with her favorite color. Ask her to slowly bring the paper to her face, with the X coming toward her nose. When the circle disappears, she has found her blind spot.
  2. Refraction. Get a pencil or a straw and a (clear) glass of water. Ask your child to examine the pencil or straw for any breaks or cracks. Then ask her to place into the glass. What does she observe? At the surface of the water, the straw or pencil should look bent or broken. (This effect is called refraction.)
  3. After Image. Give your child two sheets of white paper and green, black, and orange tempera paints. On one sheet, ask her to use the green, black, and orange paints (in that order) to create stripes. After she has drawn several stripes, ask her to stare at her drawing for approximately 30 seconds and then quickly stare at the blank sheet of white paper. Does she now see red, white, and blue stripes? (Explain that green, black, and orange are the opposite of red, white, and blue, and that this effect is called an after image.) 
  4. Color combinations. Ask your child to cut out squares of red construction paper and glue them to the centers of blue, orange, and gray construction paper. When she looks at the red square on the blue paper, does the square seem to vibrate? Ask her to put the orange and gray sheets side by side. What does she notice about the red squares? Even though the squares were cut from the same sheet of construction paper, do they look the same now that they are against different backgrounds? 

Learning Benefits:

  • sense of sight 
  • creativity 
  • fine-motor skills

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