Magnets are one of those magical toys that everyone loves.  Children love them because they are intriguing, yet easy to master.  Parents love them because they can use magnets to help their children develop a variety of skills.  I especially love them because they involve children in active, hands-on learning activities.  Whether you use ready-made magnet kits or homemade magnets, you can rest assured the lessons your child will learn will be ones that stick.


LANGUAGE SKILLS:  As children play with magnets, parents can emphasize names, shapes and other characteristics.

COORDINATION SKILLS:  Magnets are a fun manipulative.  As children attach and remove them from a metal surface, magnets help them develop their small hand and finger muscles, essential for learning to draw and to write.

THINKING SKILLS:  Magnets teach “cause and effect” and other important problem solving skills that are so essential for developing early brain connections.

MATH SKILLS:  As children play with magnets, they will be adding and subtracting them from a surface.  They’ll learn concepts such as more and less, on and off, and size and shape.

CREATIVE SKILLS:  Magnets are open-ended toys.  Children can manipulate them in various ways.  Your child will be gaining experience in design, composition and color.


Many refrigerators today cannot hold refrigerator magnets.  For these activities you will want to give your child a large cookie sheet or baking pan, on which to manipulate the magnets.  You may also consider hanging a cookie sheet on the wall or placing one on an easel.

You may want to buy or make large shape magnets from sheets of colored magnet material you can buy from a craft, office or teacher supply store.


Set out a variety of simple number and shape refrigerator magnets.  As your children play with the magnets, use the time to reinforce the following concepts.

  • Numbers:  Ask questions such as;  “How many red triangles can you find?”
  • Shapes:  Ask your child questions such as;  “Can you to find a circle magnet?”
  • Size:  Ask which magnet is the largest, or the smallest.  Which magnet is the tallest, etc.
  • Matching:  Pick a magnet and have your child find another one that looks like yours.
  • Color:  Ask questions about the colors of the magnets, such as:  “Hand me a red magnet”.
  • Creativity – have your children use the magnets to create pictures and designs.
  • Stories – Encourage your children to use the magnets to tell stories.


  • Place various magnets around the house on metal surfaces.
  • Give your child a basket and have him go on a magnet hunt.
  • When he is finished, give him a metal cookie sheet and have him place the magnets on the sheet, counting them as he goes.  How many did he find?


Puzzles help children develop small muscle skills, as well as early problem solving skills.  Below is a magnet puzzle activity using shapes cut from a sheet of magnet paper. Heavy Magnet paper can be obtained from an art or craft store.

  • Using magnet paper, cut out a large shape such as a bear or a pumpkin.
  • Then cut it into 3-8 pieces, depending on the ability of your child.
  • Show your child how the pieces make an object, then mix up the pieces.
  • Give the pieces and a metal surface.
  • Have your child reconstruct the picture by moving the pieces on the metal surface.

Your child will love this game.

  • Cut several fish shapes out of construction paper and attach a metal paper clip to each one.
  • Scatter the fish shapes on the floor or in a box “pond”.
  • Make a fishing pole by attaching a piece of string to the end of a wooden spoon and tying a small magnet to the other end of the string.
  • Let your child “fish” by dangling the magnet over the paper clip on each fish shape.
  • You may need to help him at first or you could also put more than one clip on each fish to make it easier.
  • As your child catches each fish, help him count how many he has caught.

Alternative:  You could also make the fish different colors and have your child fish for certain colors.


  • Give your child a large magnet and a variety of other small items, some metal and others not.
  • Examples:
    • Metal Items:  small metal toys, metal lids, small baking pans, a pancake turner, etc.
    • Non-Metal Items: plastic cups, plastic spoons, a small rubber toy, etc.
  • Show your child how to test each item.
  • If it attaches to the metal, have her put it in one pile.
  • If it does not adhere, have her place it in another pile.
  • After your child has classified some of the objects, see if she can “guess” or predict which items will adhere from then on.