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Fun with Science: Magnet Activities for Preschoolers

written by: Rebecca Mayglothling • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/20/2012

Preschoolers enjoy playing with magnets, and teachers can integrate this interest with science lessons by organizing fun and educational activities. Through preschool magnet activities, young children can learn how magnets of varying strength adhere to certain surfaces.

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    Preschool teachers who are seeking educational and fun ways to familiarize their students with how magnets work can organize several classroom science activities. Many young children are visual learners who are able to grasp new scientific concepts through the use of various magnetic items that stick to a number of metal surfaces. These preschool magnet activities, which involve several different types of magnets, can be done in large or small groups as a supplement to early education science lessons:

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    Preschool Science Activity: Moving Magnets Throughout the Classroom

    When introducing preschool students to magnets, teachers can explain that magnetic objects will attach on their own to some, but not all, types of surfaces. Children can discover for themselves the surfaces that attract magnets by participating in this group activity:

    • Hand each student a magnet, and lead the preschool class in testing different surfaces throughout the room to see where their magnets will stick. Examples of surfaces that can be used in this experiment include wooden table tops, steel doors or walls, carpet, and metal chair legs.
    • Each time a new surface is tested, ask the children to reply to the question "Does the magnet stick to the ____?". After the experiment is finished, briefly explain to the preschoolers how and why magnets are attracted to types of metal.

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    Experiments with Wall or Refrigerator Magnets

    Refrigerator and wall magnets are sometimes strong enough to hold several sheets of paper, but often are only capable of keeping one piece of paper attached to a metal surface. These preschool magnet activities allow children to explore the concepts of strength and weakness:

    • Gather the students around a magnetic board, and provide magnetic items of varying sizes and styles (examples include letter or number magnets, flexible magnets, and decorative magnets).
    • Give each child a few pieces of paper, and allow the preschoolers to stick the paper to the board with a magnet, starting with one piece of paper and gradually adding more. Guide the children in observing the ability of the different magnets to keep papers adhered to the board without slipping. Ask the preschoolers which magnets are the strongest and whether or not the size of the magnet is important in determining strength and weakness.

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    Testing Magnetic Strength With Toy Trains

    Many preschool students love playing with small toy trains that attach to one another through magnets on their fronts and backs. These science activities demonstrate how magnets can either attract or repel each other, as well as further examining the concept of magnetic strength:

    • Provide some sets of magnetic toy trains for the children to use in an experiment. Ask the students what happens if they try to stick two trains together in either a front-to-front or back-to-back position. Next, instruct the children to line the trains up back-to-front to see if the magnets will stick together. Explain that some types of magnets are drawn to one another, while other types push each other away.
    • Allow the children to take turns suspending a "chain" of magnetic trains in the air. Instruct the preschoolers to keep adding trains one by one until the chain breaks. Are the magnets strong enough to sustain a large "train chain"?

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    Preschool magnet activities offer opportunities for young students to develop an understanding of basic science that they will use throughout their school years. These activities allow preschoolers to have fun experimenting with magnetic surfaces while retaining information on the properties of magnets.