Simple magic tricks to amuse kids

Occasionally I meet up with friends who have kids (e.g. at Xmas.)

As a retired teacher, I’m comfortable chatting to them. But it really goes well if I can do some very basic magic. (And the parents enjoy having their kids being amused!)

So here’s my request - I’d appreciate Dopers giving me simple magic tricks to do. My requirements:

• no need for manual dexterity (I’m too old )
• preferably no magic props (it’s great when the audience can examine things afterwards and get no clues
• easy to remember (I’m getting on a bit, you know )

Here’s the two I currently use:

1. Show a normal deck of cards. Invite child to select one, memorise it (but not show it to me.)
2. Replace card on top of deck.
3. Cut deck.
4. Return cards to me.
5. I spread the cards, look into the child’s eyes and claim I am reading their mind. (Cue remarks like “you’re thinking - can he really read my mind?!”)
6. Announce card.

Of course this is straightforward. When you show the deck, memorise the bottom card. After they replace it on the top and cut, the chosen card is next to the bottom card…

1. Write each line of the following numbers on four bits of paper:

1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15

2 3 6 7 10 11 14 15

4 5 6 7 12 13 14 15

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Ask the child to secretly think of a number between 1 and 15 (inclusive.)
Then they look at the four bits of paper and indicate which one(s) have their number on.
I then ‘read their mind’ and immediately announce the number.

It’s binary, folks!

So please can Dopers suggest a couple tricks more along those lines…

Deal out 16 cards, face up, in 4 piles (I make each pile a little cross). Have the kid think of one of the cards. Tell the kid to point to which pile the card is in.

Gather up the cards and deal again face up. Kid again points to pile. Now you know which card it is (but don’t say it yet, or imply that you know).

Deal the cards face down, remembering which card is the kid’s. Tell the kid to point to any two piles. Either the kid picks piles with the card, in which case you say “ok, we’ll keep those” and remove the other piles; or the kid picks piles that don’t contain the card, in which case you say “ok, we’ll remove those two”.

Repeat procedure with one pile, then two cards, then one card. Remaining card is the kid’s.

The tricks you describe are examples of the section of magic tricks known as mentalism. You could do a lot worse than to research these by name.

Although you suggest no props or dexterity requirements, keeping a thumb tip in your pocket and knowing a few of the basic tricks with one would be a great addition.

That’s exactly what I wanted - thanks!

Just to get it clear:

• the first deal is ‘vertical’; the second ‘horizontal’ if you see what I mean
• the second phase is constantly halving the number of cards in play

I’m sure you meant well, but:

• a search for ‘mentalism magic’ returns 600,000 results (I was hoping for a simple trick description, like Dr. Strangelove did)
• I prefer no magic props (it’s fun when the kids see I have no magic aids at all)

I do a lot of these. My favorite one:

Place the four sevens in different locations. For example: seven of spades at the bottom of the deck, seven of clubs at the top, seven of diamonds face-up a third of the way into the deck, seven of hearts in your breast pocket.

Set the deck down in front of the child.

“I’m gonna show you a trick called ‘eliminations.’ ‘Eliminate’ means to get rid of, and you’re gonna choose a card by eliminating cards. Let me show you: I’m gonna eliminate all the face cards. That leaves us ace through ten. Now your turn. Which do you like, odd or even? Oddoreven oddoreven oddoreven?”

If the kid says “Even,” you say, “Great, eliminating the even cards leaves us ace, 3, 5, 7, 9.” If the kid says “Odd,” you say, “Great, that’s ace, 3, 5, 7, 9.” You do this quickly, not giving them time to think.

“I’ll eliminate the ace, leaving 3, 5, 7, 9. Which do you like? 3579? 3579?”

Same deal: if they say 7, skip the next couple steps, otherwise say, “Eliminating the 3 (or whatever) leaves us 5, 7, 9. I’ll eliminate the 5 (or whatever), and you have a big choice: 7 or 9? 7or9 7or9 whaddya want?”

If they say 7, you say, “Great, but there are four sevens: spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts. Which do you want?” Give them a chance to switch. Remind them that they chose the card. Do a big reveal: tell them to pick up the whole deck to reveal the spade (the lamest one IMO), or the top card for the club, or spread the cards for the diamond, or my favorite, pull out the heart with a dramatic flourish.

This one does take a little dexterity but it is well worth it.

I fool adults with it regularly. The beauty is that you can do it repeatedly and nobody will catch on as to how it is done. My favorite response was a dumbfounded look and a simple “F you”.

NOTE: Click first in the box that allows you to watch the trick performed first before seeing how it is done.

In this case the children were young – three and four. I palmed a few M&Ms and did the old “What’s this in your ear?" trick.

Not only were they astounded, but later we found the four year old banging his head on the couch cushion. He was trying to get more M&Ms to come out.

To make it even better:

Hold the deck out to them in your fingers (fingers on top about 2/3rd of the way down). Have them slap the deck hard until there’s only one card left. That will be the bottom card.
In another variation, take out the deck announce the card and have them slap it.

There’s also “one ahead.” Take the deck in your hand and look at the bottom card. Put the deck behind you and move the card to the top, flipping it over. Announce the card, while noting the next bottom card. Repeat a few times.

Since this involves entertainment, let’s move it to Cafe Society.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

I do this one with a little razzle-dazzle on the way I pick the cards up. I make sure that the row the victim selects is picked up left to right as the third card of every group of four cards. When I lay the cards face-down, I know that the selected card is the third card in row 3. Then I use The Force (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Here’s a simple one. Pre-load a deck with the nine of hearts on the bottom and the top three cards, in order, nine of diamonds, ten of hearts, ten of diamonds. Do a false shuffle or two (very easy to do) that preserves those four cards. Deal off the two top cards, one each, to two victims, let them show their cards to each other, then fan the deck and have them put their cards in anywhere. They will have gotten the nine of diamonds and the ten of hearts. This leaves the ten of diamonds as the top card and the nine of hearts as the bottom. Do some razzle-dazzle, then hold the deck and drop all the cards except the top and bottom. Show them very quickly to the victims, say “Voila!”, then real quick gather up the deck and shuffle your cards in.

Since they only get a glimpse of the cards, all they see is a buttload of hearts and diamonds and red 9s and 10s and they think you pulled their cards out of the deck by magic.

There’s a trick you can do if you have a deck of fiftytwo 8s of spades, but that’s only good for one trick. On the other hand, there’s a lot you can do with a shaved deck, but you’ll need to have a shaved deck handy. I got mine at a joke/magic shop years ago, but I bet they’re not too difficult to find online.

Oh, there’s the old “rubber pencil” and “pulling your thumb off” tricks.

Yep, you’ve got it. I generally deal out the cards like a bridge hand, with NESW positions. Then, each pile has a card in the NESW positions.

If you want to make things super-easy on yourself, just gather up the chosen pile last (i.e., the top of the deck), and the card will end up in the N-N position. But it looks better if it’s in a more “random” position, which you can force with the order that you gather the piles in. Make sure to make it look messy! Put the piles in one large pile and then straighten them out.

Second half of the trick is all about the razzle-dazzle, as Clothahump puts it. Whatever seems natural.

I love to do various magic wand tricks and little kids love it and fall for it every time. There is no skill involved. You just plant a quarter or dollar bill under something when they aren’t looking. Then, you make a big show of using your “magic wand”, looking around and then pointing it at where you planted the money. Tell the kids that you think it malfunctioned but they need to check because maybe it worked. They find the money and are astounded. Ta da!

I did that yesterday with a 4 year old that got toy magic wand for Christmas. It worked a little too well. She was still trying to get it to work again herself when I left. I told her that it took a long time to recharge and you have to get the spell just right.

If you can snap your fingers, hold a paper bag in between the thumb and middle finger and throw an imaginary ball into the bag, and when you snap it will “fall” into the bag.

The kind of card tricks OP describes fall in the general category of “mathematical card tricks” that work because of some mathematical principal and not by any sleight of hand. I knew dozens of these when I was a kid. I had a friend who did too; we collected and traded card tricks.

As I recall, I got a lot of them from the various publishing of Martin Gardner – his Mathematical Games column in Sci Am, or his books.

Try googling: Martin Gardner Card Tricks
and I think you’ll find more than you’ll know what to do with.

ETA: Googling that myself, I see under “Related Searches” at the bottom of the first page:
Martin Gardner Magic Tricks
Martin Gardner Impromptu Magic

among others. You might find good stuff with some of those searches too. Gardner was much more into tricks that worked on some mathematical or scientific principal than he was into sleight-of-hand tricks or tricks that required specially prepared props.

An easy one to do with kids old enough to add and subtract. The only props needed are at the end of your wrists.

Tell child you have 11 fingers. They won’t believe you. Here’s how you ‘prove’ it.
Say, “Look, I’ll show you.” Start counting your fingers backwards from 10 on one hand, like so: “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…” Hold up the other hand and say, “and 5 is eleven!”

Blows their little minds.

Trick for sitting at a table:

Show a coin and drop it on the table, pick it up, knock in on the table to show everything is legit, and presto, you suddenly push it through the table and bring it out from below the table.

How it works… you put a quarter on the table for everyone to see and then “pick it up” by sliding it towards yourself with your left hand and off the lip of the table, but instead of actually picking it up, you let it fall into your lap. Pretend you have picked up the coin with your left hand and hold it as if it were between your fingers in front and your thumb in back. Kind of like you were going to drop it into a slot. You’re going to pretend to knock the rim of that pretend coin against the top of the table so hold it appropriately.

After you “pick it up,” extend your arm and move that hand forward with the pretend coin while at the same time, you use your right hand to pick up the coin in your lap and follow your left hand forward but under the table.

Now you have your left hand holding the pretend coin over the table and your right hand is underneath the table, holding the real coin directly under the pretend coin.

Now you can use your left hand to “knock the coin” on the table but you’re really just tapping the table with your finger tips, but at the same time, you really knock the table from underneath with the coin in your right hand.

This knocking sound business is what sells the illusion. It “proves” that the coin is still in your left hand. They see the action and hear the appropriate noise and that’s how it works. No one suspects that the sound is coming from under the table.

At this point, I usually pretend that I’m pushing down on the coin and then suddenly my hand collapses flat and I slowly lift it up (still flat) to show the coin is gone and the hand is empty and now you lean back, and slowly pull your right hand out from under the table to reveal the coin laying on your open palm.

If you want to add some drama, you can have someone sign or mark the coin with a magic marker first to prove that the reveled coin is the same one used all along.

It sounds more complicated than it is and the “pretend to pick up the coin while sliding it off the table into your lap” move is extremely simple to do if you practice it a couple of times. You want to do the whole “pick it up” off the edge and then bring it back over the table for the knocking move as one fluid motion.

Of course you can play with how the coin goes through the table. Sometimes I knock it three times but when I try to knock it a fourth time, the knock is silent and my hand flies open in surprise to see that the coin is gone.

You can take it to the next level with a better vanish. I use the french drop instead of the table edge drop. It’s the most basic “sleight of hand” trick there is and is very easy to do, but it does require a couple of hours of practice to really master. The table edge drop only requires doing it a couple of times to master.

Practice the whole illusion a couple of times and you’ll have it down. It’s a surprisingly strong illusion for something so simple and will fool adults just as easily as kids.

For young kids I would avoid any and all card tricks.