Thaumatrope Snow Globes

First of all, what is a thaumatrope?

A thaumatrope, roughly translated from ancient Greek as “wonder turn,” is the most basic of paper movies.  By simply moving a handle, a thaumatrope creates the optical illusion of two images merged into one.

Since it’s a cold January day, but there is no snow in sight, we decided to make our own paper snowmen with a (mechanical) twist.  Using our hands, or better yet with the help of our handy Snap Circuits Jr, we created a simple snow globe using this optical illusion concept.



  • White and blue construction paper
  • Colored Pencils
  • Tape
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Drinking straw (We found that a sturdy paper straw works best – similar to these.)
  • White paint pen (optional)
  • Snap Circuits Jr (optional)





Directions for a Manual Thaumatrope Snow Globe:

  1. Cut two large circles from the blue construction paper (about 6″ in diameter).
  2. On one circle, build a snowman.  We used a 1″ circle cutter and white paper to make our basic snowman.  Then, we cut out a small snow hill and a hat from scraps of paper, adding details with colored pencil.
  3. On the other circle, use a white colored pencil and/or white paint pen to draw snowflakes.  We also added “background snow slopes” to ours.
  4. Center one end of the straw on the back of the snowman disk, so that the straw runs down the center of the image.  Tape securely in place.  Glue the snowflake disc to the back of the first so that the straw is sandwiched between the two disks and images and edges are aligned.
  5. Spin the straw between your palms and watch the images merge making a snowman in a snow-filled snow globe!


Directions for an Electric Thaumatrope Snow Globe:

  1. For an even more impressive snow globe (and a bit of circuit-building science), follow steps 1-4 above then proceed with following steps.
  2. Using Snap Circuits, build “Project #2 – DC Motor & Switch” (a basic circuit using the motor M1).
  3. Cut off the thaumatrope straw leaving about 1″ exposed at the base of the discs.
  4. Align the straw base with the top of the motor shaft and mark the location of the three brackets on the straw.
  5. Cut narrow slits at the bracket locations so that the straw fits snuggly over the motor shaft and tape the open base of the straw together under the bracket protrusions to secure in place.  (You’ll need to cut a piece of tape in to a thin strip.)  See image below.  Be sure to tape the straw notches together rather than tape the straw to the motor shaft.
  6. Make sure the disk is level, centered and secured on the motor.
  7. Turn it on and watch it spin!


If the disk wobbles or tips, turn off the circuit and make sure the base is secured and the disk is centered over the motor.

You cannot fully capture the magic of the Thaumatrope Snow Globe in a photo so to see it in action, see the video on the Design In Play Facebook page or click on the link to the Instagram video above!

Looking for more fun snow-themed activities?  The snowman images below are shown in order of complexity starting with toddler/preschool activities and progressing through elementary/middle school STEAM concepts.  Links to posts below!

Snowman Progression Preview

To further explore art, math and science concepts through snowman-inspired activities, go to the following links:

Looking for more snow and winter-themed activities that include more complex math and science topics?  The images below display snow-themed activities incorporating elementary through middle school STEAM concepts.  Links to posts below!

Snow Project Preview

For more winter-themed art activities above that include math, science and engineering concepts go to the following links:


For more artistic fun using Snap Circuits, check out Spin Art as shown below!

Spin Action



8 thoughts on “Thaumatrope Snow Globes

  1. Pingback: Do You Want to Draw a (Perspective) Snowman? | Design in Play

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  6. Pingback: Snow Crystal Geometry | Design in Play

  7. Pingback: A Blank Canvas of Snow | Design in Play

  8. Pingback: Spin Art with Snap Circuits | Design in Play

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