Illusions with Kids

Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.

Knowing is Half the Battle

She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”

Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:

Muller-Lyer illusion

So the question is: which line appears longer?  The top one.

Seeing is Believing

Look closely. They are the same length.

Muller-Lyer illusion

Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.

Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.

Seeing isn’t always believing.

And knowing isn’t always half the battle.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.

I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.

For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!

I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).

We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.

Duck or Bunny?

Then we took a look at this one:

duck or bunny illusion

Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?

All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.

Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.

Two Faces or a Pedestal?

pedestal or people illusion

So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.

Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.

Triangle

This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.

triangle illusion

There is not actually a white triangle there.

Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.

Two Faced

The last illusion we looked at was this one.

two faced illusion

There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.

Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.

The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.

How’d You Do?

I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!

And as a bonus:

“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”

A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.

Stay inside.

Don’t let anyone into your home.

Don’t get too close to anyone.

The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!