The Bats Are Watching You: Moving Eyes Optical Illusion

Also known as Mona Lisa eyes, these bats’ eyes follow you no matter what angle you look them. It is an optical illusion, which according to instructables.com works by:

…receding the eyes below the surface of the picture. The depth of the eyes allows the edges of the eye sockets (which are not receded) to hide the whites on the side it is being viewed from, just as would happen if an actual person was turning their eyes toward you.

Interestingly enough, while many claimed that Mona Lisa’s eyes follow you, there are also those who claimed that it’s a myth. That is not to say the illusion does not work, it was just that Da Vinci did not apply the technique to his famous work. After staring at the famous painting at different angles on my screen until my eyes hurt, I am more unsure than ever!

What do you think?


To create the Mona Lisa eyes in our bats, we “puffed” up the head to create depth needed to replicate the illusion.

Materials


Print and color the template. Please note that we did not color the head on Figure B so that the sclera (which according to Google is what the white part of the human eye is called) would be white. My two year old, who made the bat on the lower right, unfortunately did not get the memo…


Cut out Figures A and B. In Figure A, also cut out the eyes and the two slits on the cheeks.


Overlap the slits to puff up the bat’s head in Figure A. Add glue where indicated and gently glue together the slits to create the “puff”.


Glue the head from Figure A onto Figure B. Dab glue on the chin and ears as indicated on Figure B. Align the head cutout from Figure A with the chin in Figure B and gently pressed down to glue. Then glue down the ears.

Please note that the head in Figure B is smaller than Figure A, so it is important to align the chin first. The ears from Figure A will not align with Figure B, but that is okay.

Here’s a look from the back. As you can see, the ears do not line up and that’s ok!

Do not flatten the head; it should remain raised. That little “puff” we made on the bat’s head created the depth needed for the optical illusion. Now no matter which way you look, the it is always looking at you!


The Dumpling and I made a similar craft last Halloween with a cat which can be found here.

Christmas Tree Lighting

We inaugurated the holiday season by putting up our Christmas tree, so it was only fitting that we kicked off our crafting with that as well.

Behold…my paper version of it:


Materials


Print and color the template. Note that the tree insert (page 2) does not visually make sense when viewed on its own; color only the sections where the tree is visible.


Fold the tree (page 1) vertically in half, then cut along the solid lines. Start cutting from the fold but do not cut all the way across to the edge of the paper.


Cut out the tree insert (page 2) and weave it into the slits of the tree (page 1). I started from the bottom, so the insert went over, then under, over under, etc.


Using the dotted lines on the insert as reference, align the insert so that the ornaments are hidden behind the slits of the tree.


Pull the insert down to “light” the tree.

My kids’ Christmas trees: my 15 month old only wanted to paint in purple, while my five year old wanted a rainbow tree.

Journey Into Our Solar System: A Tunnel Book

As part of our homeschooling curriculum, the Dumpling and I have been learning about space the last few weeks. When I say homeschool, I really mean watching YouTube videos on the subject…the same ones over and over and over again. Repetition is key, folks! Even better if the information is in a song.

For the art and craft portion for our theme, we made a tunnel book of the solar system. I was inspired after seeing one on Pinterest, but it had no tutorials so I’m sharing mine.

According to Wonderpolis.org:

“Tunnel books are made up of a series of pages that are held together by folded strips of paper on each side. In fact, the sides of a tunnel book might make you think of an accordion. The overall effect of a tunnel book is to create the illusion of depth and perspective.

Tunnel books are “read” through a hole in the cover. Each page features openings that allow the reader to see through the entire book to the back cover. The images on each page work together to form a three-dimensional scene inside the book that helps to tell the story.

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-tunnel-book
The 3D format made us feel like we were traveling into our solar system as we flipped through the pages.

Making one is actually easier than it looks. My version, however, differs from the traditional form because it is only bounded on one side. I left the right side open so that we could flip though it like a book.


Materials

  • Cardstock (8.5″x 11″):
    • Blue cardstock (10x): we used a mixture of different shades
    • White (1x)
  • Scoring tool (alternatively, an old credit card, ruler and towel would work as well)
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Coloring materials (we used craft paint)
  • Scissors and/or X-Acto knife (recommended)

Print out the templates — “solar system” template on white cardstock and “orbit” template on blue cardstock.

* Please note that while the templates include a page for the sun, I decided to exclude it from my book (I used my phone’s flashlight to represent our star instead), so you will not see it in my pictures.


Color and cut. We used craft paint and also splattered/smeared some white on the blue cardstock to represent faraway stars. Only cut the shaded circles from the middle of each page on the “orbits” template (an X-Acto knife is recommended). Mark the page number, which are in brackets, for each cut item with a pencil for future reference.

DO NOT CUT OUT THE CIRCLE FOR THE SUN on page 9 of the “orbit” template.

We explored textures while painting the planets by using sponges, plastic wrap, and brushes.

Glue the planets onto the orbit circles by matching the page numbers. Play around with placement — spread them around so that they are not bunched together and have at least 50% of each planet “stick out” of the circle cutouts. The goal is to have all eight planets visible from the front page.

Glue the sun cutout in place as indicated on page 9 of the “orbit” template.


Create the spine. Using the last blue cardstock placed in portrait orientation, draw vertical lines that are 0.5″ apart and score along the lines. Scoring is extremely important when working with heavier paper because it helps create clean, crisp folds. If you do not have a scoring bone, place the cardstock on top of a towel, align a ruler along the lines, and run an old credit card along the ruler to create a score.

Make accordion folds along the scored lines.


Glue each page onto the spine. Start with Neptune on the first page and work your way back. Imagine each accordion fold as a hill, and glue the pages onto the downward slope.

Since I omitted the page for the sun, I have an empty slot on my spine.

No Waste, Biodegradable Easter Eggs

I always bear a tinge of guilt whenever we use food for play because it feels so wasteful. My mind goes through an internal debate, taking into consideration such things as how much food is used, what the alternatives options are, and whether there is replay value, before I either move forward or pass up such activities.

Decorating real Easter eggs has never made my “move forward” list because the eggs normally go straight to the bin after the egg hunt — I personally would not eat them since not all dyes are edible and the eggs may not be safe for consumption after sitting in room temperature for so long. As alternatives, we have used plastic and styrofoam eggs in the past, but they are not the most environmentally friendly options either.

This year, we moved onto no-waste, biodegradable Easter eggs by decorating just the egg shells. We poked a small hole into raw eggs with a pointy scissor, emptied the contents with a few shakes (which we kept for cooking later), and rinsed the insides of the shells.

Due to their fragility, we opted for a gentler decorating method that did not require too much handling. I did not want to just soak the eggs in food coloring so we dyed them with bleeding tissue paper instead. Bleeding tissue paper is colored tissue paper that “bleeds” its color when wet. This is not some fancy art material as many regular tissue papers do this.

Tip: Stand the eggs on bottle caps to keep them from rolling around.

The Dumpling cut up strips of tissue paper and layered them onto the shells.

We occasionally coated the shells with a light spray of water so the tissue papers stuck on better and continued wrapping until the eggs were completely covered with several layers.

We waited overnight for everything to dry and unwrapped the tissue paper to find beautifully dyed eggs!

The shells endured under the hands of my four year old better than expected because only one broke after several rounds of egg hunting.

Two-Ingredient Faux Stained Glass Paint

The Dumpling and I have experimented with several methods of making faux glass paint, and this simple two-ingredient recipe has consistently been my go-to. It is easy to make with materials readily found and is washable, which is always a plus when working with young children.

The mixture tints clear plastic or glass a with translucent layer of paint that glows with gorgeous colors under direct light. Originally used in a project to make sea glass bottles, the Dumpling and I have applied this “glass paint” to create lanterns and sun catchers as well.

Our “stained glass” mermaid tails and their colorful projections from our window.

So what are these two magical ingredients? Elmer’s glue and food coloring!

Materials

The “stained glass” glue consist of only two ingredients: Elmer’s glue and food coloring.

Trace image onto the plastic sheet with black fabric paint or sharpie. Print out the mermaid tail or draw something of your own. If the latter, start with an image without fine details because the viscous consistency of the paint mixture makes painting small areas difficult. It is like painting with Elmer’s glue…because we are painting with Elmer’s glue!

Either fabric paint or sharpie could be used to trace the outline. I prefer fabric paint because the raised outline helps contain the paint. (Hint: Draw thicker lines for younger children to help them “color within the lines”.)


Mix glue with food coloring. I used one drop of gel food coloring for about a tablespoon of glue. The more food coloring used, the more intense the color. You want the paint to dry opaque so do not go overboard.


Paint the image with colored glue mixture and let dry. The color will lighten/fade — this is normal.

Mermaid tails when the colored glue was wet. The Dumpling’s mermaid tail (right) had so much paint, the colors bled into each other and covered the outline — this fixed itself once everything dried.
Once the glue dried, the colors faded and became opaque. Even if the paint covered the outline, just flip the plastic sheet over.

Place the images in direct sunlight or under a flashlight in the dark.

The “stained glass” under direct sunlight.
The “stained glass” under a flashlight in the dark.

Salt Dough Eye Balls

Salt dough is one of my favorite DIY play materials because they’re so easy and quick to make. The classic recipe of 2:1:1 parts plain four, table salt, and water has never failed me.

We recently made a batch for a project and had bits of leftover dough. Not wanting to waste it, we rolled it up into little balls. Once dried, we turned them into eyeballs with markers.

These things actually gross me out a lot but were a big hit with the Dumpling.

The Cat Is Watching You: Moving Eyes Optical Illusion

This kitty is watching you…its eyes always following you no matter which angle you look at it.

Relax! It’s not really creepy witchcraft, but an optical illusion created by adding a 3D element to a 2D picture with eyes.

According to instructables.com:

It works by receding the eyes below the surface of the picture. The depth of the eyes allows the edges of the eye sockets (which are not receded) to hide the whites on the side it is being viewed from, just as would happen if an actual person was turning their eyes toward you.

To replicate a similar effect in our cat, we “puffed” up its head to create depth with a simple technique.


Materials


Print the template.


Color the cat. Please note that the color applied on the cat’s head on Page 2 will be the color of the cat’s eyes.

We colored the cat’s head yellow on Page 2 to give our furry creature yellow eyes.

Cut out the cat’s head, eyes, and the slits on the side of each cheek.


Overlap the slits to puff up the cat’s head. Add glue where indicated and gently glue together the slits to create the “puff”.


Glue the head onto the body. Dab glue on the tip of each ear and chin as indicated on Page 2 of the template, align the head cutout onto the dotted lines, and gently press only where glue is applied. Do not flatten the head; it should remain raised.

That little “puff” we made on the kitty’s head was enough to create the depth needed for the optical illusion. Now no matter which way you look, the cat is always looking at you!

Agamograph of Trees Changing Color

Even though fall is here, it still feels like summer in Hong Kong. The temperature swelters around the 90s and there are no hallmarks of a typical New England autumn — gradient colored leaves, apple picking trips, Halloween decorations, or pumpkin spiced anything!

Despite living in a foreign land, it is important that the Dumpling is still exposed to American traditions and celebrations, so I took it upon myself to make the leaves change color…with an agamograph!

Agamographs are pictures that show a different image depending on the angle that they are viewed. They make versatile projects because the process can be adapted for different age groups — from coloring for the littlest ones, to cutting and gluing for pre-schoolers, to applying math for school-aged kids.


Materials

  • Agamograph tree template (with guidelines or without guidelines)
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scoring tool (optional, suggested if using cardstock)
  • Paper 2x (if using template without guidelines)

Print the template. The version with the guidelines is a straightforward color, cut, and glue activity while the version without guidelines will require additional math and ruler work later.

Download template with guides
Download template without guidelines.

When printing, select “actual size” under the ‘Page Sizing & Handling” section.


Color the trees — the first page with the hues of summer (ex: shades of green) and the second with those of fall (ex: shades of yellow, orange, red, or brown).

We used a combination of our fingers, brushes, and sponges to color in the leaves.

Cut the trees into strips. Cut along the solid lines in the version with the guidelines (pages 1 and 2). Cut and discard the excess strips located on the left and right margins of each page.

If using the version without the guidelines, divvy and mark the pages into equal parts (I used “0.75”) with a ruler before cutting. Label the back of each strip chronologically, using the alphabet letters for one page and numbers for the other. See the guideline template version for reference.


Create the base backing. In the guideline version, place the base pages (pages 3 and 4) in landscape orientation and tape them together. In the version without guides, tape together two pieces of paper in landscape orientation.

If using heavier paper stock, score along the dotted lines or the same width as the strips. This would make folding the paper easier later.


Arrange the strips in alternating order and glue them onto the base.


Fold the base like an accordion. In the guideline version, fold along the dotted lines. On the version without guides, use the strips as reference for the fold.


Blinking-Winking Owl Craft

My latest project with the Dumpling is to make trendy animals (ex: llamas, flamingos, narwhals, etc.) from the past and present. Owls, of course, made the list because they were everywhere back in the early 2010s due to Harry Potter mania. The birds were inescapable, being featured in clothes, home decor, and toys and even becoming popular household pets.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about owls are their eyes, so the Dumpling and I made ones that blinks and winks…among other expressions.

Materials

  • Owl template (click here to download)
  • Card stock
  • Thin wire
  • Tape
  • Hole punch (1/8″)
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife (optional)

1. Print the owl template on card stock and cut.

Tip: It is easier to cut out the eyes from the owl with an X-Acto knife!
We colored our owls by stamping them with bubble wrap.

2. Glue two pairs of eyes together. Select two pairs of eyes from the template (or draw your own) and hole punch where indicated. Position one pair in front of you, then vertically flip (very important!) the eyes over to glue the second pair onto the backside.

3. String a thin wire through the eyes and tape the wire in place on the back of the owl. (I only had floral wire…that’s why it is green!)