Magnet Experiments and Games for Preschoolers!
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Do you remember playing with Wooly Willy? Wooly Willy is a classic magnetic game where children (or adults) manipulate the metal fillings with a magnetic wand to give funny facial features to Willy. Children can play to see who can create the funniest beard and eyebrows! If your preschoolers have not experienced the magic of magnet play, this is a great introductory game to offer!
What items are Magnetic?
To help preschoolers understand what objects are magnetic, go on a scavenger hunt around the classroom (or house) and find items to test.
Lay the assorted items out on a table or the floor. Help preschoolers write down the names of the items on the recording sheet. Pick out an item to test and ask the children whether they THINK the item will be magnetic or not. Test the item with a magnet to find out. The children can circle YES on the recording sheet if the item IS magnetic (or circle NO if the item is NOT magnetic). Repeat the process above for each of the items the children found.
Magnetic or Non-Magnetic Sorting Bin
Place all of the items found on the scavenger hunt into a bin or drawer. Make two containers: one labeled “MAGNETIC” and one labeled “NON-MAGNETIC.” Preschoolers can use magnets to sort the items into the appropriate containers. Add different items to the bin daily for the children to test.
Exploring Magnets and Water
Have your preschoolers pick a couple of items from the scavenger hunt. Fill a glass half-way with water and insert one of the items. Let the children take turns trying to get the item out of the glass with the magnet. Have the children try different positions with the magnet to see if one postion works better than the other. Our class chose paper clips and pipe cleaners for our water experiment. The paper clips worked great in water, but the pipe cleaners absorbed the water and made them too heavy for our classroom magnets to pick up.
We tried the pipe cleaners in a DRY glass and our magnet worked!
Discovering a Compass
Preschoolers can even explore a compass and a map with a compass rose. Show the children the map and explain that there are 4 main directions on a map: North, South, East, and West. Point out the compass rose and see if the children can find the N, S, E, and W letters. Help the children locate where THEY live on the map. Find cities/states/countries or other points of interest on the map that are North, South, East, and West of where the children live. Show the children a compass and have them locate the N, S, E, and W letters on the compass. If desired, have the children make a simple compass: draw a circle (or use a paper plate) and have the children put the letters N, S, E, and W on the circle.
Explain to your preschoolers that a compass has a magnet inside that makes the compass work. Let the children experiment by using a magnet to try and move the needle inside the compass. What happens to the needle when the children move the magnet around the outside of the compass? What happens to the compass needle when the magnet is set on a table below or above the compass? While very young children may not fully understand how to use a compass, offering them tiny seeds of knowledge and discovery will go a long way toward future explorations!
Large Motor Directional Game: Make signs with the letters N (North), S (South), E (East), and W (West). Ask the children to perform different large muscle movements to “travel” in one of the directions (for ex: Hop to the East, Jump to the South, Tip-Toe to the North, etc.) Play the game outside if the weather permits!
Move the “Caterpillar” Magnet Game
Materials needed: Bar Magnets and Ball Magnets (the “Caterpillar”)
*Note – DO NOT let preschoolers who still put objects in their mouth play with magnet balls without very close supervision as they pose a choking hazard!
Have the children line the magnet balls up to form a “caterpillar.” Preschoolers will discover how they can “push” or “pull” the caterpillar around a table or the floor using a wand or bar magnet.
Our kids had a blast playing with magnets. We hope that your children enjoy some of the activities, too!