From a very early age, most kids see magnets in action, especially on refrigerators or whiteboards at home and school. Being literal thinkers, they frequently conclude that magnets “stick” to paper because magnets hold papers onto the fridge. Here's a way for your kindergartener to expand that knowledge and find out more about what magnets really do and don't do. This simple science experiment also helps children to practice following directions, make predictions about events, and draw conclusions. Not to worry about that fridge, of course—the magnets will still hold those papers up for years to come. But now, your young scientist will have a better understanding than ever of why that is so.
What You Need:
- Collection of refrigerator magnets
- Strong magnet (you can find really good magnets in the science section of most toy stores)
- Assorted metal objects such as nuts, washers, bolts, or nails (look for objects made of aluminum or iron at your local hardware store)
- Aluminum foil
- Aluminum paper clips
- Can tabs from soft drink cans
- Small piece of paper
- Cotton ball
- Wooden block
- Piece of plastic such as the lid from a marker
- 2 large pieces of construction paper in two different colors
- Pencil and/or markers
What You Do:
- Use the construction paper pieces and the markers to make two recording sheets. Write the heading “Magnets Attract” on the top of the paper. Divide the piece of paper into two columns, label one column “Yes” and label the other column “No”. Repeat the same process for the second piece of paper. Select one piece of paper to represent the prediction page and the second color to be the results page.
- Show your child the refrigerator magnets and ask him to tell you what types of things he thinks the magnet will "attract" (stick to).
- Show your child the assortment of objects you've collected and tell him that he is going to experiment to find out which objects are attracted to magnets.
- Show your child the first recording sheet and tell her to predict which objects will be attracted to the magnet. Allow your child to place the objects on the recording sheet. If needed, help her write the names of the objects in the correct column on her recording sheet. For example, if your child placed the paper in the "Yes" column, she would write the word “paper” in that column on the recording sheet.
- Give your child a strong magnet and tell him that now he will test each object to find out if his predictions were correct. Show him the other recording sheet and tell him that he will place each object in the correct column after testing it. Once the experiment is finished, have your child write the names of the objects in the correct columns on the recording sheet.
- Allow your child to compare his predictions with the results of the experiment. After testing the objects, your child will notice that all of the objects on the “Yes” side are made of metal. Ask your child if magnets are attracted to all metal objects. He will notice that there are some metal objects on the “no” side of the recording sheet. Tell your child that magnets are only attracted to metal objects made of iron.
Latrenda Knighten has spent 19 years teaching in a variety of elementary school classrooms, from kindergarten through fifth grade. For nine of those years, she taught kindergarten. She also served as an elementary school math and science specialist. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.