Fun with magnets

This is a guest post by Nanny Dee. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Most children are fascinated by magnets and their seemingly magical abilities to attract other objects. Little M (26 months) had a great time playing with this basic magnet kit I assembled for him:

Basic Magnet Kit for Toddlers and Young Preschoolers

These objects are large enough and smooth enough to be safe for small children. There are just enough items to be fun without being overwhelming.

Large wand magnet (can be found at Sewing/Craft stores in the notions department)

Assorted LARGE metal objects (to avoid choking dangers):

  • cover from a holiday tin
  • empty almond tins

(Blue Diamond tins have smooth edges with the added bonus of using them as stacking /building toys at another time)

  • caps from glass bottles

(mine are from Knudsen Very Veggie Juice, but many pasta sauces and glass juice bottles have metal caps; also perfect are the metal ends from frozen juice concentrate container)

Young children like to explore new objects without a specific goal in mind, so let them do their own thing while you are close by. If they don’t seem interested, demonstrate how the wand picks up or sticks to one of the metal objects. Introduce new words like magnet, metal, and attract.

As with all activities, if children are not interested, it may be too soon. Children grow and develop rapidly, so try again next month!

Magnet Kit for Older Preschoolers and School-age Children

For older children who are no longer in danger of putting small objects in their mouths, nose, or even ears (it’s been done!) add smaller magnets and assorted household objects to those in the basic kit:

Small craft magnet discs (under $2 for stack of 8 at Wal-mart or craft stores)

Additional Metal objects:

  • paper clips
  • hair barrettes
  • binder clips

It is fun to let older children experiment with objects that look like they might be attractive to a magnet, but are not. For preschoolers this is an important sorting and classifying exercise.

Help young grade school scientists make predictions about which items will be attractive to the magnet and which will not. Record the results on a handmade chart divided into two columns: attracts and does not attract.

This activity may lead you to the library or internet to find out more about magnets and why some materials attract a magnet and some don’t. Introduce words and concepts like repel, south and north poles, opposites attract, magnetic energy, and magnetic field.

Non-attractive metal objects:

  • keys
  • coins
  • aluminum foil

Non-attractive objects composed of other materials:

  • rubber bands
  • plastic pens
  • wooden sticks
  • wooden spools
  • plastic dice

Other activities to try with your magnets:

  • House hunt for magnetic objects – (keeping away from computers and televisions, which may be damaged by magnet contact), hunt for items that are attractive to your magnet – metal legs of a chair, file cabinet, treadmill handles, and so on.
  • Using a shoebox lid or plastic container cover, put a paper clip or other magnetic item on top and hold the magnet underneath to make your top item move around and back and forth. This demonstrates how magnetic energy flows through other objects depending on the strength of the magnet and thickness of the item between them.

Nanny Dee blogs about early childhood topics and activities at New England Nanny. In addition to being Little M’s nanny, she’s also a 47-year-old college student with one semester to go before completing her BA in Early Childhood Education. By next year she hopes to be an elementary school teacher.

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  1. adventureskids says:

    RT @playactivities: Fun with magnets

  2. adventureskids says:

    RT @playactivities: Fun with magnets

  3. What handy magnet tool kit ideas, a great resource, thank you.
    Christie – Childhood 101 recently posted..The Universe is Made of StoriesMy Profile

  4. Randa :: Kids Activity Search Engine says:

    LOVE this magnet idea. Both of my boys will really enjoy it.

  5. Great idea! I’ve never used magnets much with my little ones because they are both still so young. I love the idea for using the larger items and the magnet wand. We’ll def. be trying this!


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