X-ray Magic (Thaumatrope Toy)

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Halloween Costumes

Picking out a Halloween costume was pretty simple when I was a kid.  In mid-October the stores would fill a few shelves with costumes in cardboard boxes.  You could see the mask peeking out through the plastic covered lid.  The side of the box had a picture of the entire ensemble.  I always knew exactly who I wanted to be – Spiderman, but my mom always had another idea – homemade costumes.  Lots of kids made their own costumes; mostly ghosts, hobos, and witches.  I was usually a witch.  Witches had powers like superheroes, so I was okay with that.

When my daughter, Alyssa, was little and I would ask her what she wanted to be for Halloween, it was never a costume that could be quickly purchased at a store.  Her ideas were super specific…  “I want to be a Halloween mermaid.”  “I want to be a girl skeleton.”  “I want to be the painting called “The Scream.””  She’d make a drawing of her idea.  Then I’d have to figure out how to make the costume.  Her costumes were always really unique and she liked it that way.  She wanted to be different from everyone else.  So, naturally, my dad would always pretend he was making the exact same costume for himself.  He made the claim every year and she always fell for it and argued that he needed to come up with his own idea.  I can only imagine what my dad would have looked like as a Halloween mermaid or a girl skeleton.

Little Jack never cared what his costume was.  I’d usually buy a costume at the store and change it a bit to make it unique.  But when Jack was five, his  buddy told him he was dressing up as a superhero he’d invented called, Dino Boy.  He said his mom was going to help him make the costume.  Jack loved that idea!  Jack had also created a superhero.  His guy was called, Pickleman.  Pickleman looked like a pickle and dissolved into pickle juice whenever he needed to make a quick getaway.  I tried to imagine my child walking into his kindergarten classroom dressed as a giant pickle in a red cape.  I just couldn’t put him through that humiliation.  Some of the kids in his class were really mean.  I talked him into being his favorite TV superhero, Teen Titans’ Robin.  It was the most difficult costume I ever made.  Green leggings were impossible to find.   I think I found a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas that had green pants.  Robin wore black high-tops.  I could only find red, but several Sharpie markers later, they were black.  I sewed the black and yellow cape; made the logo and the mask.  I bought black hair gel to give Jack the spiky dark look of Robin’s hair.   Jack felt so cool in that costume.  It was totally worth the effort!

It doesn’t really matter if the costumes are store-bought or homemade, simple or complicated, standard or unique.  It’s always fun to put on a costume and become someone else for a few hours.



This craftivity is inspired by a toy from the 1800s.  It’s called a thaumatrope.  It’s an optical illusion toy.  You make a disc with a picture on each side.  Then attach the disc to a stick and spin it between your palms to see a flicker movie effect.  Click “X-ray Magic” to get the template and instructions for this craft.

Optical Illusion Toy

Fortune Face

Click the image to view or print the template and instructions for this craft.

The Fortune Teller

When my daughter, Alyssa, was in fourth grade, she asked if she could have a Halloween party.  My answer was, “YESSSSS!”  The last Halloween party I had hosted was years before, for my little sister, Meg, who was probably in fourth grade.  That party included homemade orange and black construction paper decorations, balloons, streamers, and games like, “Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin.”  It was a very traditional party.

Now, years later, my little sister and I would host a not-so-traditional Halloween party for my daughter.   Meg, probably the most creative person on the planet, was staying with us while attending a nearby college.  When I’d told her about Alyssa’s Halloween party, she couldn’t wait to get started.  The process of brainstorming party ideas lasted well into the night.  When Meg returned from her classes the next day, I had already made a lot of the props we had discussed the night before.  Meg grabbed a paintbrush and got right to work.

One of the first props we created was a paper-mâché head.  It was painted green and had ping-pong ball eyes and moss hair.  The head was attached to a turntable so it would spin.  It was so ridiculous, I’m still laughing thinking about it!  Meg made a poster-sized painting based on the “Adam’s Family” character, Gomez.  She poked two holes in Gomez’s eyes and placed light bulbs in them.  Totally cheesy!  Then we made a  sarcophagus out of an old shoebox and a masking tape cat mummy to go inside it.  A mad scientist’s lab was created using old containers and tubes.  We used florescent paints on all of the objects so we could display them under a black light in my super-small guest room.  We made information cards, so the kids could read about each object on display.  Finally, cobwebs were strung over everything; and spiders, bats, and skeletons were added to all of the empty spaces.  This was our, “Museum of Frights,” and every time we looked at it, we busted out laughing.  It was super corny.  Nothing could make it seem scary.

On the night of the party, Meg and I set up all of the activity areas.  Games, crafts, and food tables filled the house.  Meg was dressed like a gypsy.  She had planned to tell fortunes, but one of the parent volunteers took over that activity.  I looked at Meg like, ‘Is this okay?’  She nodded, smiled at me, and headed toward the “Museum of Frights.”

As soon as the majority of kids had arrived, I asked them to form groups of five or less.  I gave each group a list of the activity areas.  Each list had an activity circled to indicate the starting point for the group.   In no time at all, the house was noisy with giggles and talking and screaming.  The kids were enjoying all of the activities, but the thing they loved the most was the museum.  I had no clue what Meg, one of the all time great storytellers, was saying to the kids in that tiny guest room, but when they exited the room they’d say, “That was awesome!   So good!  So scary!  We have to do that one again!”

When the party was over, I walked into the “Museum,” looked around, and thought,  ‘It does look pretty cool all lit up, but not scary.’  Meg opened the door and walked in.  I asked, “How in the world did you manage to make this into Disney-level entertainment?”  Meg picked up a flashlight, shined it from Gomez, to the spinning head, to the cat mummy, then under her chin.  She spoke in a slow, deep voice, “These ancient artifacts have stories to tell, and through me, they speak.”  Then she fainted.  She opened one eye and looked at me.  And, once again, we busted out laughing!!!



The featured craft is called, “FORTUNE FACE.”  You can click the link to get the template and instructions.  This craft can be used as a paper fortune teller or a puppet who tells fortunes.  You can even flip it over and use it as a candy holder. Have the kids fold it. Then they can decorate it.