Teaching magnets to children is one way you can introduce basic scientific concepts. From using magnets to move iron fillings around in a case to discovering which objects are magnetic, it’s important to incorporate a variety of magnet activities into your magnet lesson plans. We’ve come up with a list of five fun magnet activities you can use to peak your students’ curiosity in science:

1. Is It Magnetic?

What You’ll Need:

  • Horseshoe magnet or another strong magnet
  • Marker
  • Metal objects (paperclip, nail, washer, etc.)
  • Nonmetal objects (crayons, popsicle sticks, plastic top, etc.)
  • Plastic plate with three small sections (one large, two small)

What to Do:

  1. Put all of the metal and nonmetal objects into the large section of the plate. Which objects do you think will be attracted to the magnet?
  2. Write the word Yes on one small section and No on the other small section.
  3. Place an object on the table and try to pick it up with the magnet. If it sticks to the magnet, place it in the Yes section of the plate. If it does not stick to the magnet, place it in the No section of the plate.
  4. Repeat with another object. Place it in the appropriate section.
  5. Continue until you have sorted through all the objects. What is similar about all the objects that the magnet attracts?

Source: The Budding Scientist

2. Push and Pull with Magnets

What You’ll Need:

What to Do:

  1. Glue one magnet to the front and one to the back of each car. Ask an adult to help you to make sure the magnets are lines up in the same direction on the front and back of each car.
  2. Place the cars on the table. Which magnets will push away from each other and which pull toward each other?
  3. Play with your magnetic cars. See how long of a chain you can make that will hold together as you pull the cars along.

Source: The Budding Scientist

3. Create Your Own Compass

What You’ll Need:

  • Cork
  • Cup with a wide mouth
  • Magnet
  • Long, sharp sewing needle (adult use only)
  • Water

What to Do:

  1. Carefully run the side of the pointed end of a needle against a magnet. Rub the needle in only one direction about 30 times.
  2. Have an adult cut a round slice of cork about ½ inch thick.
  3. Have an adult push the needle through the curved sides of the cork. The needle should be balanced; about the same amount of it should show on each side of the cork.
  4. Fill the cup about halfway with water.
  5. Gently set the cork in the water so it floats freely on the surface. Set the cup on a table.
  6. The needle will spin a bit then stop. When it stops, the pointed end will indicate north (or south if you are in the southern hemisphere).
  7. Walk around with your compass to tell the direction of different places. Does the front of your school or house face north, south, east, west, or somewhere in between?

Source: The Budding Scientist

4. Magnet Skaters

What You’ll Need:

What to Do:

  1. Draw a picture of a person or animal on the paper strip.
  2. At the bottom of the strip, fold a tab that is as wide as the paper clip.
  3. Attach a paper clip to the tab and fold the tab so that the paper clip will lie flat against the plate.
  4. Place the figure on top of the plate and hold a magnet underneath the plate so that it catches the clip and makes the figure stand upright.
  5. Slide the magnet against the bottom of the plate to make the figure on top skate and dance.

Source: The Budding Scientist

5. Map the Magnetic Poles

What You’ll Need:

What to Do:

  1. Hold one side of the magnet to the compass and see which direction the needle on the compass is pointing. Then, try the other side of the magnet, so the children can see the needle move.
  2. Write S and N on pieces of masking tape or on sticky dots and let the children stick them on the appropriate poles of their magnets.
  3. Once they have marked both poles, explain that poles will repel, or push away from, each other. Write the word repel on the board and discuss that it starts with the letter R. That means a south pole of one magnet will push away a south pole of another magnet. Poles that are different or opposite will attract or come together. Write the word attract and point out the first letter of the word.
  4. Give the children a chance to practice making their magnets attract and repel. To make it very visual, put one magnet on the table and push it away using the pole of another magnet.

Source: Hands-On Science and Math

If you’re planning science lessons on magnets, be sure to check out our selection of kids’ science magnets in the Science and Health section of our website. When introducing magnets to children, you may want to also consider using nontraditional magnets. For example, we have a great selection of magnetic building sets, such as Magna-Tiles® and PowerClix®, you can add to your classroom to help children learn about magnets while developing their fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and more!