How do you help kids learn social skills, gain persistence, and wow their friends at the school lunch tables? Magic. Specifically, teach them some magic tricks.
But you can’t just hand them a Magic 101 guidebook and expect them to become young Houdinis — how you introduce the art makes a difference. Here are some good ways to do it, according to magicians.
Start With the French Drop
The French Drop is a classic coin trick that gives kids a basic foundation in misdirection and sleight of hand. Magicians recommend introducing it early on, as it requires no special props (you can use any small object) and it enforces the value of practise. The trick is easy to learn, but takes time to master.
Here’s how it works:
Learn Cups and Balls
Cups and balls routines incorporate the fundamentals of magic: Balls vanish, reappear, and jump from one place to another.
You can start kids off with a homemade set (plastic cups and three balls) and have them practise simple routines (there are a ton of examples on YouTube). After mastering the fundamentals, they can learn to improvise for different audiences, which is where magicians really have fun.
Add In More Everyday Props
In order for audiences to appreciate a a good magic trick, New York’s Jeremy the Magician tells me that they must “understand the principles of reality that the trick is supposedly violating”. That’s why when performing for adults, magicians often use common, everyday items such as $5 notes, business cards and pens.
So for a six- or seven-year-old, he says a good trick might be a magic colouring book or magic stoplight cards. For older kids, you can start introducing other props such as magic pens that can jab through $5 notes or trick decks of cards.
Move On To Simple Card Tricks
At around age nine, kids can get into simple mathematical card tricks, says Anthony Orciuoli, a magician in Santa Clara, California. He tells me a good jumping off point is the 21 Card trick.
“Many experienced magicians hate it because it’s overused, but it’s fairly easy to do and requires no sleight of hand,” he explains.
The Chicago Opener is another easy one that always gets great reactions from the audience, Orciuoli says.
Other tips for supporting your kid’s interested in magic:
- Orciuoli recommends the series Junk Drawer Magic by DreamWorksTV. “It has some really cool and fun DIY tricks that kids of all ages can do.”
- Magic for Dummies by David Pogue is a good beginner’s handbook. It includes a lot of trick that kids can do with everyday items. There’s a section on how to turn a restaurant into stage with tricks that involve utensils, mugs and food. (Warning: While your children will love this, your servers may not.)
- Take your kid to see local magic shows. Talk to them about what they liked and didn’t like about the tricks and performance.