Exploring with Magnets- How to explain to kids

Mar 22, 2012

As magnetic force is not visible, letting young children explore the concepts of magnets is a great way to introduce the idea of the nature of science.
On top of learning about reactions and attractions, it will help them to see (perhaps subconsciously) that there are processes and understandings that are not always tangible and that science involves questioning, testing, experimenting and revising.

Here we did some free construction and exploration with magnets using a couple of sets of magnetic balls and rods.

 This is the invitation to play

 The balls kept repelling one another so she had to attach the rods in order to make them "stick together"

 Using every piece to link together

 "I made a bar for her to swing from"

 Testing the strength of the magnets. How many pieces could hang from one magnet before it became too heavy?

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To extend this activity I gave her a metal tin (empty Milo tin) so that she could build in a different way and discover the magnetic property of the metal. She noted that the magnets stuck to the tin, but not to the mat. Different materials!

Some tips:

- Young children need to be supervised with magnets, especially ones as small as these

- You can use all different types of magnets in order to play, explore and learn about them

- If there are objects in your house that should not be touched with magnets (computers etc) be sure to explain this to your child first

- Talk with your child about what they are experiencing. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. "Wow, look at that bar repel the ball" etc

- If you feel your child is ready/interested, explain to them the basics of the 2 poles that each magnetic bar has and that like poles will repel one another and opposite poles attract. Let them test this using 2 of the bars.

- Play games with the magnets. Have a race to see who can "push" a ball from one end of the mat to the other, without touching it, using the end of a pole that will repel the ball.

Debs :)

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