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Nutcracker Thaumatrope Spinning Picture

We are back with another Nutcracker themed activity for our Storybook Advent today. The nutcracker in the Christmas story The Nutcracker transforms from a nutcracker to a prince. Your children will have fun creating this Nutcracker-themed thaumatrope. It will allow them to transform the nutcracker into a prince and then back to a nutcracker again.

Nutcracker Spinning Thaumatrope for Storybook Advent on Rainy Day Mum
Christmas STEM for Storybook Advent on Rainy Day Mum

The Nutcracker Story

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Let me tell you a little bit about the story of the Nutcracker. It starts with a little girl named Clara and a special gift from her godfather gives her on Christmas Eve at a family gathering. That special gift is a nutcracker.

Her brother Fritz is jealous of the gift she is given and breaks its jaw when he tries to grab it away from her.

Her godfather is very handy and he repairs it with a handkerchief.

Clara can’t sleep and goes to check on the nutcracker. Clara ends up sitting by the tree holding the nutcracker. After a short time, she finally falls asleep holding it near the Christmas tree.

At midnight the tree, toys, and the nutcracker transform. The toys and the nutcracker come alive.

A battle with a rat king and his followers starts when mice and rats arrive on the scene. It looks like the Nutcracker and his soldiers are going to lose the battle. Clara saves them by throwing a shoe at the Mouse King. After the battle, Clara is taken to visit the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets by the Nutcracker. What a wonderful time she has exploring the foreign lands!

When she wakes up in the morning, she finds herself beside the Christmas tree holding the nutcracker. It has transformed back from being a prince.

nutcracker thaumatrope with straw coloured in

What is a Thaumatrope?

A thaumatrope is an optical toy.

prince side of the nutcracker thaumatrope
nutcracker side of the thaumatrope

It features a different picture on its front and its back. 

It is a straw or chopstick is glued between the two pictures.

When children spin a wooden dowel or chopstick placed between the pictures, the pictures seem to blend together.

It will look like one of the pictures has joined the other to form one picture or is transforming from one thing to another.

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How does a Thaumatrope Work?

The retina or the thin layer of tissue at the back of your eyes sends images to your brain.

The images sent hang on in our brains for about 1/10 to 1/20 of a second. This hanging on in called the Principle of Persistence of Vision.

The thaumatrope confuses or tricks your eyes by switching pictures faster than the 1/10 of a second limit.

It causes the two images to look like one or looks like they are transforming. 

The Nutcracker Thaumatrope Printable Activity

Getting Ready to Put the Thaumatrope Together

You will need to gather a few things together before your children start this activity.

nutcracker thaumatrope printable

The first thing you will need to do is download a copy of the Nutcracker Thaumatrope set.

nutcracker thaumatrope printable coloured with marker pens

The second thing you will need to do is decide if you want your children to work with a pre-colored version of the thaumatrope pictures or the set of pictures they can color.

nutcracker printabled coloured

Next, you will need to print out as many copies of the thaumatrope as you need on cardstock or thick copy paper.

Then you will need to buy straws or chopstick for each thaumatrope.

Finally, you will need to gather glue and scissors.

You will also need coloring tools (crayons, markers, or color pencils) if your children are working with the pictures they can color.

Putting the Thaumatrope Together

Your children will need to cut out each of the circles on the printable.

Next, they will need to color the pictures if they are working with the pictures they can color.

Then they will need to glue a wood chopstick to the back of one of the circles.

Finally, they will glue the back sides of the design circles together.

Exploring the Thaumatrope

spinning thaumatrope

Children will need to place the chopstick between their hands.

Then they will need to rub their hands together.

Rubbing their hands together will cause the thaumatrope to spin around and around.

Your children will have to experiment with how fast they will need to spin for the two pictures to blend together.

They will want to spin the pictures fast enough for the pictures to blend together. They will also need to make sure they aren’t spinning it to quickly.

If they spin it too quickly, they won’t be able to see the pictures transforming.

More Nutcracker Activities for Kids

Storybook Advent The Nutcracker Gross Motor Activities
Create your own puzzles with this simple DIY Nutcracker-Inspired activities for families. Make and then play mixing it up and making again.
Recipe for a sensory dough based around the Christmas Story of The Nutcracker. This Sugar Plum sensory dough is soft and easy to make.
Christmas STEM a spinning thaumatrope Nutcracker
Deirdre from JDaniel 4's Mom

Deirdre is the founder and author of JDaniel 4’s Mom. A teacher from South Carolina. She has 1 son JDaniel 4th. He is ten years old.

A specialist in Technology Integration as well as Early Elementary teaching she can be found sharing hands-on learning over on her blog.


  1. Jessica A Rogers says:

    trying to download this and it says there is an error. think this is the neatest idea.

    1. Thank you for letting me know I’m now investigating. I have sent you over the copy via email though so hopefully you can try it out.

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