Magic kits that help kids understand the science of illusion

Explain the unexplainable.

guy playing with cards
Is it magic or is it science? (It’s science.)Fengyou Wan via Unsplash

Most kids would love to be wizards, with the ability to levitate objects, pull adorable rabbits out of hats, and an invisibility cloak at the ready when you ask them to do chores. Scientists know there’s no such thing as magic, but using magic as a tool to teach your kids the science of illusion can help them become curious and skeptical adults.

These four magic kits and props promise lots of fun for the whole family—and provide the perfect context to discuss the work of magician James Randi and detective Rose Mackenberg (an associate of Harry Houdini) to debunk paranormal claims.

Ideal My First Magic Show
Make boredom disappear.Amazon

This affordable kit is designed for small hands and doesn’t require incredible dexterity for audience raves. It features 25 tricks that include an optical illusion (a nice segway to talking about our brains), special contraptions (like a box and drawer that makes crayons vanish and reappear), and of course a magic wand. Online tutorials give kids everything they need to know to perform for you. If your child is at an age where they ask tons of questions and offer their own theories for answers, challenging them to explain the tricks to you (after they amaze you, of course), will be fun and a good lesson in logical thinking.

Magic Makers Bicycle Stripper Deck
Pick a card, any card.Amazon

If your kid readily explores their interests without prompting and wants to practice magic “like real magicians,” this trick card deck (called a stripper deck) is an excellent choice. It looks just like a classic 52 card deck, with one key difference: the cards are very slightly tapered. If you subtly flip over a card your spectator chooses and put it back in the deck, you can always find it because part of the card will be wider than the rest of the deck. Kids can learn the fine motor skills that sleight of hand requires, and develop their own tricks based on the concept when they’ve mastered the ten tricks that come with the set. Some of the instructions are online.

The Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit
Grounded in reality.Amazon

The title of this kit says it all: magic is about fooling people for entertainment, not mysticism and pseudoscience. If your older child can handle a little coarse language, get them this magic kit. The kit itself is appropriate for ages 8 and up and contains 200 tricks including a classic ball-in-cup shell game. What sets it apart is that Penn & Teller are skeptics who made a TV series called BS! which is available to stream and covers vaccinations, ESP, psychics, and astrology through the lens of science and fact. (Be aware that not all episodes will be age appropriate.)