I have always been fascinated by magnets. I loved to play with them as a kid. Shhhh……I still love playing with magnets. And so do my kids.
We have more than a few magnets around our house. The kids enjoy learning about the science behind magnets as much as they enjoy playing with them. I do have to be careful that no one puts magnets in their mouth. They can be dangerous if swallowed. But aside from that precaution, the children are free to play with them as much as they want to.
Teaching young children about magnets
A fun way to introduce magnets to younger children is through play. There are so many great toys and fun objects to use for magnetic fun.
An inexpensive and easily accessible magnetic learning object are the magnetic numbers and alphabet letters available in grocery and discount stores. These are often available for $1 per package. We have quite a large accumulation of these. Some of these letters and numbers are plastic and they have a small magnet attatched to the back. Recently we found some words, shapes, and pictures that were laminated paper glued to a magnet. These are great for spelling practice, matching, and making sentences. The kids can play with these on the front of your refrigerator (unless it is not steal front, unfortunately this house had a “stainless” fridge and magnets don’t stick. The kids have missed playing on our fridge as we have done in the past). We currently use cookie sheets for letter and number magnetic play.
Toy trains are available with magnetized ends. This makes them easy to connect and disconnect. We love using the Thomas The Train products that have these. Some of our trains are going on twelve years of hard use at our house. These are a very durable toy. Check out local garage sales and thrift stores to find good deals on these train toys.
We have a fishing game that has a magnet on one end (the hook) and it attracts the metal on the fish and wallah, your child has caught a fish. You can make a home made version by attaching a magnet on a string and tie it onto a stick to make a fishing pole. Then put paper clips on felt or paper cutouts. This is great to practice shapes, letters, numbers, matching, etc.
Another home made fishing idea is to use a chain necklace like the ones used on “dog” tags/ or chain from a key chain. A magnet will stick to the chain. Then just hold the magnet over other objects by the chain and see what happens.
Another fun magnetic toy we play with are large cylinders, and spheres that have magnets in them. We use these to build funny structures that hold together with the power of magnets. I love these because they are brightly colored and can be used by kids of all ages. Even the younger kids understand the power of magnets using these construction pieces. Read about my toddler’s funny “Happy Birthday” magnet line up.
You can make a homemade version of construction items by hot glueing or super gluing magnets onto craft sticks, popcycle sticks, paint sticks, foam shapes, blocks, or recycled items (lids, boxes, cans, bottles, etc). I plan to make a version of these soon. I have seen an adorable magnetized construction set all made with recyclables such as juice lids, tin cans, slinky, and more. Set out a big tray of these items and let the kids use their imagination to build with.
Travel Games & Busy Bags
We have several wonderful magnetized travel games. These come in many varieties such as: bingo, checkers, chess, funny faces, mazes, matching, and more.
These are just as fun to play with at home as they are on the road. We use them for quiet activity time in the car, at appointments when the kids need to stay quiet, and at home.
My toddlers and preschoolers love to play with “dress up” the magnetic dolls. They are similar to the idea of paper dolls, but they are made of wood, and are a whole lot sturdier and can withstand years of use.
We gave them each a set of wooden magnetic dress up dolls for Christmas.
The girl doll came with dresses, skirts, shirts, pants, and shoes. The boy set came with various costumes for fireman, policeman, super hero, pirate, construction worker, and a knight. Both sets come with a wooden stand so the figure can be upright. But you can also dress and play with it laying flat too.
They have had lots of fun playing with these and using their imagination. These are great for developing eye hand coordination and gross motor skills as well as cognitive skills. Both of these sets have been great for teaching about clothing, dressing habits, color coordinating, role play, and used when we talk about community helpers, and for free play. We also like to get them out when a quiet activity is needed (like when the baby is napping), and when we read stories.
I would like to get them each a new set this year with more boy and girl figures and with more dressing options. I will be looking for clothing for the boy with different outfits, costumes for the girl, and clothing for more community helpers and dress up clothes for cultures around the world.&n
bsp; I would also like to find some pets like cats, dogs, and horses, etc. to play with. I hope that by having more than one boy and one girl, we can do some fun role play with quick costume changes too. Eventually I would love to create a space with a large magnetic board low on a wall with a small shelf at the base for using these wonderful learning toys, and also for using letters, numbers, and other magnetized objects.
Take two magnets and place two ends of them together. What happens? Now, turn one of the magnets around and place the two ends together again. What happens?
Describe it in your own words ( if you place a south pole and a south pole together (or a north and a north), the magnets push away from each other, but if you place a south and a north end together, they pull together).
Collect various objects from around the house to test. We collected pipe cleaners, keys, leather, cotton, crayons, pencils, paper clips, yarn, money, small toys, metal spheres, glass cup, plastic cup, and metal objects.
Have the kids hypothesize what will happen when they place the magnet near different objects. Which objects will be attracted to the magnet?
Have kids investigate their hypothesis by placing the magnet near the object.
Did the object move toward the magnet?
Did the object move away from the magnet?
Did the object move at all?
Through play and investigation we learn and demonstrate that
magnets have positive (north) and negative (south) poles
opposite polls (one positive and one negative) attract each other
like polls (two positives or two negatives) repel each other
you can feel the force of attraction (pulling) and the force of repelling (pushing)
Want to know more? Check out these fun videos:
Did you know the earth is like a great big magnet? The earth has a magnetic field and this holds it in place in the universe, the orbit with the sun, and a whole lot more.
At our house, we think playing and learning with magnets, no matter what shape or form, (and no matter how young or old you are) is a lot of fun.
Question: What magnetic toys do your children enjoy playing with? We love to hear from you, thank you for leaving your comments below.
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No Time For Flash Cards
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I think exploring magnets is one of my favorite units of all!
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