Harvard Medicine

More... Share to Twitter Share to Facebook
How to Perform Magic for Kids

CASTING A SPELL: Medical student Eric Zwemer enchants five-year-old Elichannel with a series of magic tricks in her room at Children’s Hospital Boston.<br/><br/>Photo by Suzanne Camarata

Magic can be a wonderful distraction, especially for hospitalized children. With a little practice—and simple props—you too can become a caring conjurer. Here’s one of my favorite tricks, a variation on the classic saw-the-magician’s-assistant-in-half trick that you can easily perform at a child’s bedside.

Photo by Mattias Paludi

The envelope, please:

In advance of the performance, seal an envelope, then snip off its ends to create a hollow tube. Squeeze on the folds of the envelope and gently flatten it. Cut two slits in the back of the envelope several inches apart, then smooth the envelope back into its original shape.

Now, the magician’s assistant:

Cut a full-length silhouette of a man or woman from a magazine, or print the doctor image we’ve provided on the Harvard Medicine website, taking care to ensure that the figure is longer than the envelope. In a pinch, simply cut a long strip of paper and draw a stick figure on it. You can even ask the child to do the drawing.

The performance:

Show the paper figure to the child, then slide it into the envelope, keeping the side with the slits facing you. As you slide the figure in, thread it outside of the envelope through the first slit and back in through the second. Keep up a patter to distract the child. Then, while holding the envelope by the top with one hand, cut the envelope in half with the other, ensuring that the scissor blades stay between the envelope and the figure.

The reveal:

After you’ve finished snipping the envelope, slide the figure out to show, with great flourish, that it survived the operation intact!

Eric Zwemer ’11, a fifth-year student at HMS, has performed magic for children with life-threatening illnesses since his college days.

For additional tricks, read More Magic Tricks for Pediatric Patients.