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.

By Liesl
Updated June 17, 2020
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You don’t need fancy supplies to promote STEM education at home. Indeed, your child can experiment with simple household items such as magnets. Playing with these intriguing objects also promotes fine motor skill development, improves coordination, and teaches scientific principles.

It’s important to note, though, 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 of 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! 

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?

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 to move items around inside the bottle. It’s like a mini treasure hunt for hidden objects!

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!

Create a maze on a piece of paper; the difficulty level should depend on the child’s age. Glue one button magnet to a popsicle stick or wooden dowel to make a “magnetic wand.” 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!

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!

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 they can also create words out of the letters!

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