We highlighted two of Rose Wyler’s early reader magic trick books…still the best for simple tricks that kids can really do. We weren’t trying to impress the kids with our magician skills (since we have none); we wanted them to understand the trick and get excited about trying it on their own.
To start off we handed out a tube of paper to every child and had them try “The Magnificent Magical Hand Trick” (we did make up our own names for the tricks to get some alliteration going). That’s where you hold your hand next to the tube, look through it, and it looks like it has a hole in it. I think about 75% of the kids got it. Which did make this maybe not the best choice for an opening trick, but we wanted one that everyone could do.
Then we acted out The Little Rooster and the Diamond Button. Details are on this page.
Next trick was “The Sensational Strange String Trick.” Put two strings into your mouth…pull out one string! This one takes a bit of practice, but works very well. As I mentioned, we don’t have sleight of hand skills, but did have a lot of fun with the patter, going on a bit about how we thought about using tape or glue to connect the strings, but instead….we’ll do it with our mouth!
The Wizard, the Fairy and the Magic Chicken was our next magical tale. Details are here.
“The Stupendous Sticky Hand Trick” is where you pick up a ruler with your flat palm and no fingers. Obvious once you see the trick, but it does fool most kids the first time.
For a change of pace we used a “kind of” magic book: Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks, one of my favorites. We scanned three of the images from the book, challenging the kids to explain how the photograph we’re looking at is possible. Then we projected the solution from the book. For the third one, we only showed the illusion (the one with the red cube) and told them to check out the book if they can’t figure it out. This book is a stretch for most kindergartners, but I think the first and especially second graders can get it (though I’ve also used with 4th and 5th graders, which might be even better).
Our final magic trick was “The Extraordinary X-Ray Eyes Trick.” This is the one where a few kids tell you their names, you write down each of them on a card, then “see through” the card that’s selected to reveal the name. The trick: once you write down the first kid’s name, you just write it again four more times, whatever the other names are. Another one the kids could go home and try that night on their family I bet.
We finished with Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. We stripped down the story to the core. Strega hires Big Anthony; Big Anthony sees her make pasta with her magic pot; Anthony tells people about it but nobody believes him; Anthony makes pasta, but can’t stop it. It’s an excellent story even though many of the kids may have known it already. And for the overflowing pasta, we got to use Silly String, which is always a plus for this program. Since it overflowed all over Big Anthony and all over the village (the audience) there was plenty of mess to clean up, which is why we saved this one for last.