Try these fun magnet experiments with your children.  Then let them experiment with some magnets on their own.  Set out magnets, paper clips, toy metal cars, other small metal objects.


Attach bar magnets to the fronts of small toy cars with masking tape.

Make sure that the magnets are attached, so that some will repel and some will attract.
Let your children play with the cars.
Ask them to roll two cars toward each other.   What happens?
Can they figure out a way to push a car without touching it?

Children will need to take turns with this activity.

Draw a simple race track on a sheet of thin cardboard.
Glue a strong magnet to the bottom of a toy car.
Place the car on top of the race track.
Hold a magnet underneath the cardboard, directly below the car.
Slowly move the magnet along the bottom of the cardboard to make the car move.
Race the car around the track as fast as you can without running off the track.

Put a large glass filled with water on a low table.

Have one of your children drop a paper clip into the glass.
Ask your children to think of ways to get the paper clip out of the glass without putting anything in the water or dumping the water out.
Then show them a strong magnet.
Hold the magnet against the side of the glass until the paper clip attaches to it through the water and the glass.
Then slowly pull the magnet up the side of the glass.
The paper clip will come out of the water without the water being touched.
Let your children take turns putting a paper clip in and getting it out.

Fill a jar with water and drop two or three paper clips into the water.
Tell your children that you can make the paper clips dance up and down in the water without touching them.
Then move a magnet up and down outside the jar to make the clips move.
Let each of your children have a turn making the clips dance.
Explain that the magnetic force from the magnet passes through the glass and water to make the clips move.
Explain to your children that a compass has a magnet in it to make it work.  The north pole has a magnetic field, and the magnet in the compass is attracted to that field.  So no matter where a compass is held, the needle in the compass will point to the north.
Set out several compasses and let your children experiment with them.  Make sure that your children hold the compasses somewhat apart or the magnetic fields will be disturbed.)
Encourage your children to make the needles move around.
Then give them small magnets to hold next to the compasses.  What happens to the needles?  (The magnetic fields from the magnets are closer and stronger than the one from the north pole, so the needles on the compasses will point to the magnets instead of the pole.)

Set out a straight pin, a strong magnet, a piece of cork, and a bowl of water.
Magnetize the pin by rubbing it in the same direction across the magnet at least 25 times.
Push the pin through the cork.
Have your children watch as you place the cork in the bowl of water.
The pin will point north.
Let your children check this with a compass.
Twist the bowl around; the pin will still point north.

Collect items that can be picked up with a magnet, such as a metal paper clip, a frozen juice can lid, a washer, and a screw, and items that cannot be picked up by a magnet, such as a rubber ball, a cotton ball, a small plastic toy, and a piece of paper. Let your child use a magnet to sort the items into two piles, picked up by a magnet and not picked up by a magnet. What did the items the magnet picked up have in common? (They were all metal.)
Collect several refrigerator magnets. Hide magnets on metal surfaces throughout your home, such as the refrigerator, the stove, a file cabinet, the washing machine, and a metal toy. Tell your child that you have hidden magnets all around your home. Help your child think of things in your home that are metal where a magnet might "stick." Then let him or her go on a hunt to find the magnets.
Magnet Games
Collect a variety of novelty magnets or make your own by cutting pictures out of greeting cards and attaching magnets to the backs. Then play the following games with your child.  

I Spy-Describe one of the magnets to your child. Have your child try to guess which one it is. Give as many clues as needed. Then let your child describe a magnet for you to guess.

Patterning-Help your child arrange the magnets in a pattern. For example, you could try a pattern of big-small-big-small or red-blue-red-blue.
Which One Doesn't Belong-Select four magnets, three of which have something in common and one of which is completely different. For example, you might choose three food magnets and a dog magnet. Ask your child to tell you which magnet doesn't belong.