By Nicholas J. Johnson
So you’re stuck inside spending way too much quality time with your kids. They’ve read all their books, their toys are getting boring and there’s only so many times you can watch the new episodes Bluey. (467 times based on my household’s consumption of that little blue pup).
So, why not bring a little magic into your families’ lives? You don’t have to head to the magic shop or even the local library to turn your kids into budding magicians. Some of the greatest tricks out there can be put together using a few basic household items.
Here’s four easy magic tricks for kids using something everyone has a lot of right now: empty toilet paper rolls. You can do all of them with a plain old empty bog roll or go nuts with glitter and glue and turn the tricks into a full blown arts and craft project.
The X-Ray Tube
This optical illusion will make it seem like you have a hole in the middle of your hand! Tape two toilet paper rolls together into one long tube. Hold the double tube up to your eye while holding your hand flat next to the end of the tube. If you look straight ahead with both eyes open, it will look as if there is a hole right through the middle of your hand!
This trick works because your eyes point in slightly different directions. This allows your brain to create a 3D model of the world by combining the two images together. In other words, your brain perceives the hole in the tube and your hand as being in the same place!
Ha! I just tricked you into learning science!
In this simple trick you thread two shoelaces into a toilet paper tube and then make them both magically melt through the tube! You’ll need two reasonable long shoelaces to make this work. If you can’t find any you can use string or ribbon. Fold the two shoelaces in half and tie them together in the middle with a small piece of thread. You’re now going to separate the shoelaces so that it looks like two straight laces. In reality, the two shoelaces are actually still folded in half, their ends together.
Hide the folds in the middle in your hand. You’re ready to begin!
Thread the shoelace into the tube, being careful not to let anyone see the cheeky bit in the middle. Once you’ve done this, take a single lace from each end and tie them together in a knot.
If you pull both ends of the shoe laces at once, the little piece of thread will break, and the toilet paper will magically come free! Make sure you don’t pull too hard or you’ll tear your toilet paper roll.
This trick works because we assume we are looking at two straight laces and not two folded shoelaces. This is because our brains are wired to look for straight lines and smooth curves. That’s right: you just got scienced again!
The Unpoppable Balloon
This is my favourite. A balloon modelling balloon, like those used to make poodles and giraffes, is threaded into a toilet paper tube. Two pencils are then jammed through the side of the toilet paper tube. Incredibly, the balloon doesn’t pop!
How is it done? Secretly twist the balloon in the middle before threading it through the tube. This will provide plenty of space for the pencils to fit.
Once you’ve removed the pencils, you can untwist the balloon and remove it from the tube. Why doesn’t the balloon pop when you twist it? The air in a twisted balloon is displaced further down the balloon. Regular fully inflated balloons can’t be twisted because there is nowhere for the air to go. BOOM! More stealth science!
The Indestructible Toilet Paper of Doom
This trick uses no science at all. It is still very clever.
Take a single square of toilet paper—if you can spare it—and wrap it around one end of the toilet paper tube. Tape it in place. Fill the tube ⅓ of the way with rice. Now ask your friend to push the rice through the toilet paper using a magic wand or wooden spoon handle. No matter how hard they try, they won’t be able to do it. The mighty toilet paper wins again!
Normally, a wooden spoon handle would punch straight through the thin paper. In this case, the force is spread over a larger area because of the rice. The larger the area, the less pressure the force creates. It is the same reason why a balloon can be popped by a pin and not a banan…AND I GOT YOU ONE MORE TIME! I can’t believe you fell for it! This trick uses the most science of all!
So there you have it! Four very easy magic tricks for kids that they can do with just an empty toilet paper tube. But be careful, if you don’t watch out, your kids might learn something!
Nicholas J. Johnson is a magician and author. Tricky Nick, his latest book for young readers, is available in September. www.funnybones.com.au