Magnets for Kids: 5 Activities to Try at Home

Playing with magnets provides scientific fun for kids of all ages, and it also improves coordination and fine motor skills. Here are five unique activities to try at home.

Child holding a magnet
Photo: Rubberball/Mike Kemp/Getty Images

You don't need fancy supplies to promote science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM education at home. Indeed, your child can experiment with simple household items such as magnets. Playing with these intriguing objects promotes fine motor skill development, improves coordination, and teaches scientific principles.

For older kids who want to know more about magnets, check out this great kid-friendly introduction to the world of magnets by How Stuff Works.

Parental Caution About Magnets

Before getting started, parents should know that magnets can be very dangerous for kids—particularly the loose, high-powered ones often found in magnetic building sets and other toys. Swallowing those types of magnets can lead to "serious injuries to the stomach, intestines, and digestive tract and even death," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That's because the magnets can pull together inside the body. Therefore the APP recommends adult supervision for young children and avoiding larger sets of magnets because you might not realize if some have gone missing.

Here are eight activities that help kids understand the amazing properties of magnets. It's time to start exploring—with adult supervision, of course!

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1. Introduction to Magnets

magnetic hedgehog diy gift idea
Michael Piazza

Have your kids gather random items from around the house—paper clips, plastic toys, a spoon, a pencil, eraser, etc. Hand them a magnet and let them play with the items. Once they realize that some objects are attracted to the magnet and others are not, they can sort them into two sections: magnetic and non-magnetic. What do the groups have in common?

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2. Magnetic Discovery Bottles

Pack the bottle with uncooked rice
Photograph by Adam Voorhes

Fill an empty bottle with rice or beans, add magnetic and non-magnetic items, and shake it up. Your child can use a magnet by running it along the outside of the bottle to move items inside it.

For an added challenge, try creating a scavenger hunt list and see how many objects they can find in the bottle.

It's like a mini treasure hunt for hidden objects!

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3. Paint with Magnets

Magnet Painting

Put a piece of paper at the bottom of a shoe box. Place a few drops of paint and a paperclip on the paper. Move a magnet around underneath the box and watch the colors blend together!

For an extra challenge, try these ideas:

  • Create line drawings and see if your child can follow the lines or fill in the spaces of fun shapes with the dollops of paint.
  • See if your child can spell their name in paint.
  • Give your kids hilarious instructions like "paint a cat with a top hat," and see what happens.
  • Use this project as an opportunity to look up modern artists like Pablo Picasso or Piet Mondrian and see if they can create their own art in the style of a famous painter.
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4. Magnetic Maze

Magnet Mazes

Using a marble to follow a maze is fun for kids of all ages. If you don't want to make your own maze, Google "free printable mazes for kids," where you can find hundreds of fun options at different challenge levels.

Here is how to get started:

  1. Create a maze on a piece of paper; the difficulty level should depend on the child's age. Older kids can create their own.
  2. Glue one button magnet to a popsicle stick or wooden dowel to make a "magnetic wand."
  3. Place a separate button magnet on top of the maze, hold the wand underneath the paper, and steer the magnet through the twists and turns!
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5. Fishing for Magnets

Fishing for Sight Words Letters Numbers

With this magnetic activity, younger kids will begin to recognize letters and numbers. Older kids can practice doubling or adding the numbers they pull up and create words out of the letters!

  • Download these images of letters and numbers.
  • Cut them out with scissors (an adult's job), color them in (a child's job), and glue paper clips to each one.
  • Then make a fishing pole by attaching a button magnet to string, then tying it onto a wooden dowel or popsicle stick. Your child can use the pole to "fish" for paper cut-outs!
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