My kids really enjoy repeating an activity with minor variations. It gives us a chance to play around with a concept, and perhaps think a little deeper about it than we may have the first time round.
This Christmas tree magnet maze activity explores the physics of magnetic force through an object, and how we could use this force to move a ball along a particular path.
The artistic element of kids being able to design and decorating their Christmas tree any way they like, helps this activity cross the curriculum to incorporate both science & art. Incorporating art into STEM subjects is a great way for kids to use both sides of the brain, and encourages creative kids to enjoy and engage with STEM subjects.
Only try this activity if your child no longer puts things in their mouth, as the small balls are a choking hazard.
Either way, I recommend using a large-sized magnet. The ones we used here are a few inches long, and not easily swallowed. Smaller magnets that could potentially be swallowed are particularly dangerous if swallowed concurrently with other magnets, or items attracted to magnets, as they can attract each other inside the gut and cause all sorts of nasty problems.
You know your child. Use your best judgement, and please supervise at all times.
How to make A Christmas Tree Magnet Maze Game
- paper plates (or thin cardboard)
- a large magnet
- small steel ball (or other steel object)
What to do:
- Design and decorate your Christmas tree!
- Put a steel ball on the maze side of the paper plate, and the magnet on the other.
- Move the magnet underneath. Magnetic force will make the ball move too!
I drew a Christmas tree outline onto a paper plate, to give Bee an idea of what she could do. I encouraged her to draw her own. But, rightly or wrongly, Bee decided she didn’t want to draw her own, and instead adopted the tree outline that I’d drawn as hers. (I didn’t insist, as then I would have had a battle on my hands!) She did happily decorate ‘her’ tree though, with lots of purple baubles!
Once her decorations were complete, she carefully placed the ball on the top side of the plate, whilst holding the magnet underneath, until the ball was ‘caught’ in the magnet’s magnetic field and stopped rolling around.
She then held the plate in one hand, and moved the magnet underneath to make the ball move along the Christmas tree outline.
It’s actually quite tricky for young kids to move the ball along a set path, as it requiring kids to use their sense of proprioception (or awareness of their body in space), which is one of our seven senses.
(Yes, we have seven senses! Read briefly about them here.)
In order to move the ball around the maze, kids need to use their sense of proprioception to judge where to move their hand, and how much force to use to push the ball along the path, without actually seeing their hand moving, only the ball.
Don’t be surprised if it takes some children a few tries before they get the hang of it.
Gravity is a force. It pulls objects towards the earth. It’s an invisible force, but you can see the affect it has on objects. Normally if you have a metal ball on a paper plate, and you tip the paper plate up, the ball will roll off the side of the plate and onto the floor.
A magnet is something that produces another force, called magnetic force. This magnetic force is also invisible, but you can see the affect it has on objects. If you bring a metal ball near a magnet, the magnetic force will attract the ball and make it move towards the magnet. Magnetic force works through some objects, like paper plates. If you have a metal ball on a paper plate, and a magnet on the other side, and you tip the paper plate up, the ball has two forces working on it: gravity, which is trying to make the ball fall to the floor, and magnetic force, which is trying to attract the ball to the magnet. If your magnet is strong enough, magnetic force will win.
Extension Idea: Older kids might be able to use IT to design their own Christmas Tree mazes, which they could then print out and glue onto a paper plate or cardboard. This would be a great way to incorporate technology into this activity, another of the STEM pillar subjects.
For more physics fun, you might like:
We also have lots more Christmas science ideas, including:
If you’re on Pinterest, check out our Christmas Science Projects for Kids board.
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