What is Magic to a Child?
As amazing as this sequence of events seems, it is still more magical when a magician pulls a playing card out of the air with his hand.
Five years ago, this computer sequence might have appeared to be a magic trick. But today, we know the capabilities of technology and the internet, and so we know it is not magic.
When a bird flies, it is normal. But when David Copperfield flies, it is magic. We know that birds can fly, and that people canít. Thatís how we define what is magic and what is not. Just like our technology story, when we witness something which we understand completely, it is commonplace. And when we witness something that breaks the laws of nature as we understand them to be, it is magic.
As a child experiences the world, there is so much that he doesnít understand. Most of the experiences a child has must be accepted without questioning. When a parent turns on the television and flips through the channels, the child does not ask himself, ìHow do these picture get into this box?î Since the experience of watching television is presented as ordinary, the child accepts it as being ordinary.
Most of what a child witnesses is not understood completely. However, there are some things that even a very young child comprehends fully. For example, a child knows that if you pick up a crayon and rub it against a surface, it draws. If you hold a cup of water, and turn it upside down, the water spills out. If you put small items in a bigger container, and carry the container from point A to point B, the items will still be inside.
The best magic for children relates to concepts that the child understands completely. This is perhaps why pulling a coin from a childís ear is so deeply magical. At a very young age a baby learns that sounds are heard through the ear. The baby - turned - child feels he knows all the natural qualities of an ear, and money retrieval is certainly not one of them. So when a coin is pulled from a childís ear it does appear to be magic.
This is why the Needle Through Balloon trick is also effective with children. Children know that if you push a needle into a balloon the balloon will pop. So when the balloon doesnít pop this breaks a natural law, and appears to be magic.
In fact, if we look back at my examples of the simple concepts children understand completely, we discover that there are in fact magic tricks that tap into this very basic knowledge.
Drawing with a crayon -- A child knows that when you press a crayon to a surface and move it, the crayon draws. This very basic understanding is what makes the Magic Drawing Board such an effective trick for children. The effect of the Magic Drawing Board, by Steve Axtell, is that the magician draws a face on a large board. Suddenly the eyes start moving, the mouth opens and closes, and the face becomes animated. Then this face has a conversation with the magician.
Spilling a cup of water -- Children know that when you turn a cup of water upside down, the water spills out onto the floor. This principle is what makes the Milk Pitcher such a powerful trick for children. The magician makes a cone out of a newspaper, and pours milk into it. After he says the magic words, he unfurls the newspaper and the milk has disappeared.
Items placed in a container are always in the container -- But when a magician places an object in a Change Bag and says the magic words, suddenly the object is no longer in the bag.
All three of these magic tricks break a law of nature that very young children understand fully. When performing magic for children, the best tricks will relate to, or challenge, a natural fact that children understand completely.