I apologize for disappearing for a bit. I was being held hostage by a computer virus and spent the better part of the last couple of days trying to put down its hostile take-over. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people make a hobby out of creating something to waste other people’s time. If you want to waste your own time, by all means go for it, but why waste some stranger’s? Is that entertaining to some people? Though I have to confess, if, in the midst of my virus-inflicted frustration, I had actually followed through with my fantasy of throwing my computer through the window, someone might have found that entertaining. But alas, the computer is still here on my desk, and the mutiny has been laid to rest. So, on to the better things in life…..like magnets!
Kids love magnets! They are intriguing at any level. Whether a child is systematically going through a collection of materials creating and checking hypotheses about their reaction to the magnet, or creating a chain of magnetized screws, or simply watching the magic of an invisible force, magnets are magnificent!
For some great magnet fun, fill your sensory table with something light, such as sawdust. Place a variety of objects like screws, jar lids, paperclips, twisty-ties (there’s wire in the middle!), as well as some non-reactive objects like packing foam, plastic figures, and wooden beads. Have the children use large magnets to find the objects buried in the sawdust. Talk about how the magnet works, and ask why some of the other objects don’t react. Use open-ended questions and really get them involved in the scientific process of inquiry. You could also tie math and science together by building a graph as you go, sorting items that are or are not drawn to the magnets.
I really like using these magnet wands. They’re easy to handle and very safe. You can find them at educational stores, but also at fabric stores like Jo-Ann’s (in the notions section for holding pins). The prices are usually fairly comparable, but I find it easier to come by a 40% off coupon through Jo-Ann’s mailer than some of the educational specialty stores.
If you’re working with younger children and are worried about small paperclips and the like, or if you need a magnet activity for a self-contained science center, or an on-the-go situation, try filling a plastic water bottle with sawdust or small foam beads. Add the metal objects (and a few small plastic ones too if you like) and seal the lid on by super-gluing the inside threads or hot gluing around the outside seal of the lid (or both if you’re compulsive like that). Draw out the metal items using the magnet wands, or for a super-fun spin (which I think I saw in one of the Transition Magician books) sew magnets into the fingers of stretchy gloves (cover with another patch of fabric or sew one glove inside the other to secure the magnets) and allow the children to hold the magnetic power right at their fingertips!