Sunday, April 06, 2008

Magic Tricks for Kids

I’m one of those people who likes to enjoy a magic trick without trying too hard to figure out how it’s done. But as the mother of a budding magician, I’ve had to acknowledge the fact that a lot of magic involves gimmicks bought in magic shops. Luckily, though, not all magic tricks require special equipment. You can start doing magic with only a deck of cards, a piece of rope, and a few coins. Here’s what my son Anthony has learned so far about being the art of prestidigitation:

· The easiest tricks to start off with are rope tricks.

· Once you know the trick and the secret move, practicing is fairly easy. I try to practice as much as possible whenever I learn a new trick.

· It’s best to talk over the part where you have to make a secret move, so people don’t know what you’re doing.

· I love the look on people’s faces after you perform a magic trick.

Anthony got his start in an afterschool magic class, but there are plenty of Internet resources if you want to learn some easy tricks at home. Parents who want to encourage a child's interest in magic can also check out the Web site Kapoof! Magic You Can Do, where teacher Andy Makar offers advice, a library of tricks, and lots of links. The family-created Kidzone from DLTK has a section on magic tricks for children as well.

Other worthwhile sites include Anthony’s pick, The All Magic Guide, which offers a variety of trick instructions with photos, magic show videos and more; How to Do Tricks, which also includes coin trickery, levitating illusions and street magician tactics; Good Tricks, where you can learn the secret behind “mind reading” demonstrations; and Mighty Tricks a blog that has not been updated recently but which still offers interesting videos and some super magic tricks. You can also find a comprehensive links page at Magic Tricks.

Perhaps the best way to learn how to be a magician may be to watch a master in action. Endurance artist David Blaine, who has lived in a fishbowl in Lincoln Center and hung suspended over London in a glass box for 43 days, has videos of both his stunts and some card tricks at his Web site. For other famous magicians, however, you’ll have to do some searching on YouTube. We enjoyed seeing clips of David Copperfield disappearing the Statue of Liberty and walking through the Great Wall of China. The comic duo Penn & Teller have some interesting segments where they give away the tricks of the trade by doing the popular cup and ball sleight of hand with clear plastic cups. But the present-day performer we enjoyed the most was Criss Angel. On his A&E show Mindfreak, Angel takes his illusions to the street, enlisting passersby who are shocked (and sometimes horrified) at some of tricks. He does some beautiful levitation from building to building, but he also does coin swallowing and voodoo doll routines that are on the gruesome side. For many fans of magic, however, the brush with death is what makes it so exciting.

Of course, the granddaddy of all showmen was Harry Houdini. You can watch silent film clips of Houdini’s escapes, and play an online escape game, on PBS American Experience. The Library of Congress has an online collection of Houdini documents. And The History Museum at the Castle in Appleton, Wisconsin – where the magician lived when his family first came to America from Hungary in 1878 – has an online exhibit called “AKA Houdini” about the man and his times. Magicians today still try to top Houdini’s tricks, but few succeed. Maybe – with a little practice – you can be the one to match his amazing feats!

Update: We just had a great time at the exhibit Magic: The Science of Illusion at the NY Hall of Science. Be sure to catch it if it comes to your area!

Family Online Picks


Kidzone Magic Tricks

The All Magic Guide

How to Do Tricks

Good Tricks

Mighty Tricks

Magic Tricks

David Blaine

Criss Angel A&E videos

Houdini PBS site

AKA Houdini