Spinning circles

So for number one of my Christmas holiday boredom busters I present spinning circles. These require little preparation, keep kids busy with colouring and decorating, and work reasonably well too! Am planning on having a bunch of circles ready to hand out around the table for (one of our many) family Christmas dinners to keep young and old entertained. Plus the more artistic ones in the family might actually create some better looking images than I managed!

What you need:

  • cardboard or strong paper (essential – white or light coloured is probably best and you want it to be plain on both sides)
  • scissors (essential)
  • pencils/pens/crayons (essential)
  • string or ribbon (essential)
  • hole punch (not essential but makes life easier)
  • cup or something circular to draw around (not essential but useful)

What you do:

  • Draw around the cup on the card and cut out circle.
  • Draw Christmas tree on one side and star and decorations on the other (or rudolf on one and his nose on the other side, or an angel on one side and wings on the other – or any other festive picture depending on how creative you are feeling!)
  • Punch a couple of holes on each side and thread a bit of string through on both sides
  • Flip the circle over and over, holding the string until it is twisted up tightly on both sides
  • Pull and watch the magic as the two pictures appear as one!

Tips/extra bits:

  • Make sure you get the picture in the right place (we ended up with Christmas baubles above the Christmas tree!) – you want the images to be in the same place when you flip it over in the way it is going to spin.
  • If your kids are not up to drawing the picture then definitely get them to colour them in. It doesn’t matter how neat they are as the images get blurred, so perfect for little ones.
  • Darker or stronger colours work better (our yellow star was a bit pale when spun).
  • Alternatively you could make a colour spinner with red, green and blue sections – split circle into 8 sections and colour 3 red, 3 green and 2 blue. Pierce a pencil through and spin in your hands as quickly as possible.

The science bit

When the circles spin round very quickly your brain cannot differentiate between the two images so they appear as one. With the colour spinner the same thing happens with the colours; your brain cannot separate out each colour so they merge together making a grey (or white) colour.

Explaining it to children

Ask them what they see when you spin the circle quickly and then what they see when the circle is spun slowly. Explain when the circles spin very quickly your brain gets confused and sees the two pictures at the same time (or all the colours at the same time), so the images merge together.


Experiment based on an activity from the fantastic Usborne Activities: 365 Science Activities book.

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