During a recent visit to the Witte Museum, I was reminded of an animation unit I used to teach. The Witte currently has an exhibit of magic lanterns (through June 2014) which are the predecessors of slide and movie projectors. They were an extremely popular form of entertainment - especially during the second half of the 19th century. There were even toy lanterns for children. The exhibit features many different types of magic lanterns, slides, and captivating lantern shows.
You can learn how to make one at PIE (Playfully Inventing & Exploring with Digital & Other Stuff), a website that integrates art, science, music and engineering.
Thaumatropes, phenakistoscopes, zoetropes, and flip books are other "persistence of vision" toys children can make while learning about the history of animation. To learn how, click
Learn even more with The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's Animation Teacher's Guide that includes the history of animation and a zoetrope template. Additionally, the V&A Museum of Childhood website has a thaumatrope template and other fascinating things to create for children of all ages. Needless to say, once children learn how to make these toys, it's amazing what they produce.