We’ve been playing with magnets again! This time we explored the concept of magnetic force through an object, and how we could use this force to create a little magnetic maze game!
Only try this activity if your child no longer puts things in their mouth. 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 magnet maze
- a paper plate (or thin piece of cardboard)
- Items to decorate (crayons, pencils, markers)
- a strong magnet
- small steel balls (or other small metal objects that are attracted to a magnet)
We used Geomag magnetic rods and steel balls (*affiliate link) as that’s what we have at home. Other similar products would also work as well. The key is you need one magnet magnet, and one small metal thing that is attracted to a magnet.
What to do:
- Design your maze! It doesn’t really matter what shape, as long as there is a clear path to follow. A squiggly line works well, as does a spiral. (Or you could print off one of our free maze templates. See below.)
- 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!
It’s actually quite tricky for young kids to move the ball along the path, because they can’t see their actual hand moving, only the ball. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few tries before they get the hang of it.
My 3.5 year old daughter Bumble Bee and I tried a few different maze designs – a colourful squiggly line one with markers, and this rainbow spiral with crayons.
See how she’s holding the plate with one hand, moving the magnet underneath with the other, to make the ball move on top?
We noticed that when we stood the mazes down on the tables, the magnets acted as a little stand. Then Bee started to draw a face. I wasn’t sure where she was going with this idea at first, until I realised her plan was to incorporate the ball as a dimple feature in her face design.I love how she took my initial idea, and gave it entirely her own twist!
I especially love the green and blue eyebrows!
(You may need to click ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ on your printer settings. There are 4 maze options, which should print out on 4 pages).
As an optional extra step, Jewel chose to trim the outside of her printable maze. This wasn’t what I was originally intending, but it still works either way.
Extension Idea: Older kids might be able to use IT to design their own printable mazes – which would be a great way to incorporate technology into this activity, another of the STEM pillar subjects. There are a number of IT programs you could use to design mazes. I made ours using Picmonkey, by creating concentric circles, adding horizontal lines to split the circles into sections, and then adding small white overlays to create gaps.
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.
- this easy magnet science sorting experiment where kids can predict which items are attracted to magnets, and test their hypothesis.
- create science ‘magic’, with this fun refraction of light idea
- make your own balance scales for some preschool maths and physics play
- design a basic pulley for the loungeroom stairs – a great one for a rainy day!
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* This post contains affiliate link(s). An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you so much for your support. Note: I was not obligated to write this post or mention any particular product. All opinions are my, or my kids’ own.