Magic for Kids
Not every child can get into Hogwarts Academy. But children out here in the muggle world can still reveal their true gifts by embracing their inner magician – and crack up their audience while doing it.
"Magic is very popular right now," says Steve Charney, author of Hocus Jokus: How to Do Funny Magic. "From books to movies to television, it's everywhere."
Charney says children are at the forefront of the interest in sorcery and slight of hand. He adds that just like any child can make people laugh, any child can learn magic.
"Kids want to learn about disappearing coins, optical illusions and other tricks," Charney says. "But they also have a natural drive to amuse people. Put the two goals together, and you develop a highly-entertaining child who will never get bored."
Here are three tricks from Mr. Charney's book guaranteed to amaze your child's audience – or at least make them laugh.
This trick requires a deck of cards, a working phone and a trustworthy accomplice (perhaps you).
To do it, your child invites some friends over to the house. He announces that he wants to introduce them to his mentor, "The Wizard."
With great fanfare, he has one of his friends pick a card. Your child looks at the card and says that he will call the Wizard, who will magically announce to everyone what the card is, even though he is miles away.
Your child then makes a phone call and asks for the Wizard. "Hello, Wizard. Is that you?" he asks when his mentor comes to the line. "Can you tell my friend what her chosen card is?"
Your child then hands the phone to his friend, or even better, switches to speakerphone. Your friend says hello, and the Wizard announces her card on the first try.
How does your child do it? Magic and a little deviousness. The key is that your child and his accomplice have worked out a system. When your child asks for the Wizard, the accomplice starts reciting card numbers (i.e., "deuce," "three," "four" and on up to "ace") until your child says, "Hello, Wizard. Is that you?" when the right number has been said. This tips off the accomplice as to the number of the card.
The "Wizard" then starts reciting suits (i.e., "clubs," "hearts" and so on) until your child says, "Can you tell my friend what her chosen card is?" This lets the accomplice know what suit has been picked.
All that remains is for your child's friend to say hello, and the booming voice of the Wizard will announce the exact card.
A Very Cool Mind-reading Trick
The only prop your child needs for this trick is a willing volunteer (perhaps your spouse).
Your child asks the volunteer to do the following:
- "Think of a number between one and 10."
- "Multiply that number by nine."
- "Add the digits of your answer."
- "Subtract five."
- "Figure out the letter of the alphabet that matches your number. One equals A, two equals B and so on."
- "Think of a country that starts with that letter."
- "Pick the last letter of that country's name."
- "Think of an animal that starts with that letter."
- "Pick the last letter of that animal's name."
- "Think of a color that starts with that letter."
- "Now think of the country, animal and color all at once."
Your child then pretends to read the volunteer's mind for a moment. Then she casually says, "But there are no orange kangaroos in Denmark."
The volunteer is amazed and is forced to bust out laughing at your child's mind-reading powers.
How does she do it? The trick is that for any number between one and 10 that is multiplied by nine, the digits always add up to nine. Doing the math correctly will always give the volunteer the letter D. Most people asked to think of a country that starts with D will think of Denmark. Similarly, most people asked to think of an animal that starts with K will think of a kangaroo. Finally, most people will think of orange when asked to think of a color that starts with O. Of course, if your child runs into that stray odd person who says, "I was thinking of an olive-colored koala in the Dominican Republic," it's time to move on to the next trick.
Your child shows his friend a plain, old washcloth. Then he says, "This washcloth is magic. If we stand on opposite sides of it, you will not be able to punch me in the nose."
The friend scoffs at this, but your child says it's true. So your child places the washcloth on the threshold of a door. He stands on the other side of the door and closes it.
"Go ahead," your child says through the closed door. "Punch me in the nose."
Magic triumphs again. Make that humor triumphs again.