Making thaumatropes before a screening of a silent film is a fun way to engage kids and show them the basic elements of moving images.
A thaumatrope is an optical toy that was popular in the 19th century. Usually it was made with a disk with a picture on each side and to two pieces of string attached either side. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one.
We make them slightly differently, with a straw instead of the string. I found it difficult to find the right string that would spin the thaumatrope at the right speed. The straw is a simple solution which makes it easier to construct and spin for children.