Magnetic Puzzles

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Here’s a clever way to combine puzzle play with magnet play. It’s the perfect activity to engage any kid who loves to play with magnets at the fridge!

For the first round of the game, I took an old jigsaw puzzle and adhered a square of magnetic tape to the back of each piece. You could also set this up with regular magnets, but you’ll need to use hot glue to attach the magnets to each piece.

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Arrange on the fridge and let your little puzzlers go at it!

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It was readily apparent, though, that the jigsaw puzzle was much too complicated for Veronika, even though she liked moving the pieces around, so I quickly thought of an alternative that was more toddler-friendly.

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I encouraged the kids to draw their own puzzle on pieces of cardboard from a leftover cereal box. They both had fun drawing current favorite characters. Your kids can get quite creative with this part of the craft, using paint, stickers, glitter, or more!

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When the drawings were done, I cut each picture into 4 pieces, then added strips of magnetic tape to the back.

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Veronika loved that she could slot these puzzles together much more easily than interlocking jigsaw pieces.

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Puzzle solved!

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Christmas Tree Magnets

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Veronika loves to stand at the fridge and reorganize the alphabet magnets I keep there year-round, so I thought she would enjoy this Christmas spin on the activity! I saved up lots of baby food jar lids for this game, but frozen juice can lids would work, too.

I wanted to cover the majority of the lids in green felt to form the outline of a Christmas tree, but also added a few in shades of blue for ornaments and one brown (for the tree trunk).

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Trace the lid onto your various colors of felt and cut out, then attach to the underside of each lid with hot glue.

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Next, use hot glue to attach magnets onto the top of each lid. I cut these from a strip of magnet tape, which you can purchase online or in craft stores.

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They were now an instant mix-and-match puzzle for her on the fridge! I started with the lids in the shape of a Christmas tree so she could see the possibility, but of course she soon had her own agenda.

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She loved sorting the lids by color.

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Or just mixing and matching them.

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I love that she can return to these for the rest of the holiday season any time she trots by the fridge. Have fun seeing how many different kinds of tree you can design!

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Ice Skating Rink

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This special holiday crate from Kiwi Co. is a fantastic way to fit in a STEM activity this holiday season, whether you’re currently home-schooling, or school has gone remote once more, or you just have extra hours to fill indoors now that cold afternoons are here!

To start, Travis screwed the provided table leg pegs into bolts so that the wooden base of the skating rink stands sturdily just above the ground.

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That quickly, it was time for wires and batteries… The good stuff! Travis loved helping insert batteries into the provided case and attaching to the bottom of the table base with sticky foam. The provided motor sticks on next, and he then helped connect the wires: red to red and black to black.

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Turn the table over and add the center gear on the peg above the motor. Additional gears then slot in between this central one and the outer frame.

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The hardest part of the whole project, oddly, was the background decorations that came next. The provided snowy backdrop and trees are supposed to fit into slits in the felt, but it’s very hard to get them to stay put. This is a minor quibble, since the decor is cute but not necessary for the rink to work.

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So we moved on to the real excitement! The “skaters” are tiny felt figures (gingerbread men, penguins, and snowmen) who each slot into a metal nut. These are placed on the plastic that covers the gears, which each have magnets. So once kids switch the motor on, the gears begin to spin and the magnets on the gears are attracted to the metal of the the nuts, making those little felt figures skate around.

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Truth be told, the contraption is very temperamental and the felt figures easily snap out of their metal nut. Likewise, the magnets come off of the gears very easily, so we had to do lots of fixing and problem solving in between rounds of having the motor on. But here’s an adorable clip of the rink in motion!

I loved the way Travis quickly learned to troubleshoot these glitches. He had his head bent over the skating rink along with little sister Veronika, both of them delighting as they watched the figures snap onto the magnets to skate, then laughing at how quickly everything tumbled apart, then fixing it and starting all over.

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In sum, a great STEM project. Plus, the booklet had in-depth explanations about why ice is slippery and about precisely how the gears and magnets work to make the contraption move.

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Create a Compass

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This quick hands-on experience lets kids make their own compass with just a few household objects!

Cut a circle from a piece of craft foam, just a bit bigger than a paper clip. Set aside.

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Rub a metal paperclip with a magnet about 20 times, being sure to scrape in the same direction each time. Travis proudly counted this out! This step will charge your paper clip with a magnetic charge.

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Tape the paper clip to the foam circle, then place in a dish of shallow water. You’ll notice it wobble at first as the water settles, but slowly it will come to point true north. Test it against a real compass for the official results. Getting there…

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….North!

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Travis was thrilled this worked, all the more so because it stayed oriented north even hours after we left the dish on the windowsill. A simple but great way to show off the pull of magnetism.

 

A Magnetic Polka Dot Sensory Bag

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The inspiration for this sensory bag was the book Press Here, one of big brother’s favorite books from a young age, and one that never gets old.

Today I read the book with Veronika for the first time, and although she is on the young side for it, she delighted in the actions: tapping on dots, blowing on pages, and especially clapping at the end.

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But we weren’t finished when the book was done; the fun had only just begun! Using magnetic discs and a wand from a magnet set we have, all I needed to complete the activity was a gallon-sized zip-top bag. I added just a little water to the bag, and then sprinkled in the discs. In keeping with Press Here‘s primary color scheme, I used only red, yellow, and blue ones.

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Note: If you’re playing this game with a preschooler, this is a great chance to color sort, first, before adding the discs to the bag!

I showed Veronika how the wand attracted the magnets when waved over the bag (yes magnets work in water), and she loved the seeming magic of this.

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This sensory bag interested her for much longer than previous activity bags we’ve made, and she returned to it throughout the day for more magical wand waving.

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Again, you can engage big kids further with the activity. See if your child can separate the magnets by color in the bag. Or get silly by tapping them or moving them in ways that mimic the art on each page of Press Here.

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This game was so simple to put together, and I know we’ll play it again as Veronika grows!

Magnets on a Cookie Sheet

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Veronika is finally old enough that I’m comfortable letting her play with magnets; I hesitated even to give her large ones, previously, since she liked to put everything in her mouth. Now, it’s her hands that are busy, and this is a classic toddler activity that will entertain your little one for ages!

I set out a round cookie sheet and gave Veronika an assortment of magnets. These included a set of letter magnets as well as some chunky fruit-and-vegetable magnets we have.

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Picking up the magnets is great for exercising little finger muscles. Then there’s that element of magic for kids when they feel the pull of the metal cookie sheet attracting the magnets back on.

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She had fun simply taking the magnets on and off for a while. You can also make things a little educational by spelling out a few simple words, or sorting magnets by color.

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But mostly, I just let Veronika have free reign with this one.

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Big brother jumped in to helpfully spell out some words, too!

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How do you like to play with magnets at home? Please share in the comments!

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Magnetic Hearts

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This quick craft not only teaches about the topic of symmetry, but is also a fantastic way to explore the properties of magnets!

To cut out symmetrical hearts, fold cardstock in half and draw half a heart; cut out.

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I thought to only have Travis help cut out the accompanying two long rectangles we would need from each color of cardstock, but he insisted on cutting out the heart himself – great practice along curves!

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Open up the paper to reveal a symmetrical heart, then cut it in half.

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Fold the rectangular strips you’ve cut out accordion style to form 5 pleats.

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Fold this strip around itself to form a square and use tape or glue to adhere shut.

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Tape a magnet to one side of the square, facing towards the center of your heart.

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Tape down onto the heart and repeat on the other side.

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Now, your two heart halves will snap together!

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The other fun way to do this is to deliberately set up the magnets to repel each other. Travis loved chasing halves of hearts around the play room this way!

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As you play, have a quick talk about attraction and repulsion in magnets, and you’ll have thrown a little learning into the fun.

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Magnetic Fishing Game

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Travis and I played a game like this quite some time ago, but with a focus on numbers and letters more than the fish. Today, we just needed some silly fishy fun, and it turned out to be an interesting lesson in magnetism, too!

First, I cut out a fish template. Travis helped trace these onto construction paper and cut out.

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Instead of hammering home preschool skills with letters and numbers this time, I invited him to draw on the fish. Silly smiles and scales soon turned into him being a fish doctor.

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Oh no, some fish had polka dot flu! Or squiggle-itis!

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For the fishing rods, tie yarn around one end of a dowel, and secure with masking tape. I tied a small magnet onto the other end of the yarn.

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We set up our fish in the ocean, and raced to rescue them as fish doctors. I loved that he came up with this imaginative element to the game all on his own.

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When he tried to rescue more than one fish at a time, he was disappointed the second one fell off from the small magnets we were using.

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Hmm, would one of the bigger magnets we had around the house rescue more fish faster? Whoa, look how many we could pick up with this magnet!

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Pretty soon, we were testing relative magnet strength in all kinds of ways, so all-in-all I’d say this was a great activity to help pass a rainy morning!

What’s the Weather? Frame

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Chances are, if your child is in preschool or kindergarten, circle time in the morning involves checking the weather and talking about what it’s like outside that day. This make-at-home frame, care of High Five magazine, is a great way to keep up the routine on weekends or holidays.

To start, peel the backing off 2 magnetic sheets (available at craft stores), and cover with paper, trimming the edges of the paper to fit if necessary.

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Cut one sheet into 4 long strips. These will be the 4 edges of your frame. Travis and I sat down and talked about different kinds of weather. He enjoyed drawing a “sun,” and what he decided was a “purple storm cloud” and some “raindrops” before hurrying to affix them to the fridge. (Kids will love the magnetic component of this project!)

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A quick confession: I was briefly disappointed that Travis didn’t take more care in his coloring, perhaps trying to draw ovals for raindrops, or more of a proper cloud or sun. That said, he was proud of his work, and it was a reminder that “imperfect” art projects are still a great source of learning and creativity for our kids.

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Meanwhile, I drew 4 pictures on the other magnetic sheet with different kinds of weather we might see. Travis asked for: sun, storm, rain, and snow.

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Cut out the weather magnets, and then head to the nearest window to see what it’s like out there. Hang the right magnet inside your frame for the day. Don’t forget to check the weather tomorrow!

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Moving Dollar Trick

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We always love to find new spins on our magnet play, so I thought Travis would enjoy the humor behind this little trick. It’s fun on any random afternoon… or file this one away for April Fools!

To set up, you’ll need two neodymium magnets, the small metal silver ones. I have no idea if our fridge magnets are actually neodymium, but they worked just fine! Tape one magnet onto a dollar bill.

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Tape the other to a piece of string; make sure to tape securely, as these magnets are strong.

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Now place your dollar on a table, and clip the magnets together underneath the tabletop. To fool any passer-by, ask them to pick up the dollar, then gently tug on the string to move it away from the other person’s hand. The key here is to tug gently or the magnets may pull apart from each other.

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Travis loved the trick! He had to move our dollar around the table in all directions and loved snapping the two magnets together again from underneath the table.

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We weren’t truly trying to trick anyone, so a piece of blue twine worked just fine. If you’re in it for the trick, make sure you use a clear-colored thread that will be nearly invisible, and act as casual as possible.

Either way, this is a neat method to show how strong magnetic attraction can be, even through a tabletop!