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How to Make Magnets for Kids

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

If you are wondering how to make magnets, this article will show you how to turn a magnetic material into a temporary magnet using the stroking method, the induction method and the electrical method.

What are magnets?

Before we go into how to make magnets, you will need to know a few basic concepts about magnets and magnetism

Magnetism is the pulling force of a magnet. Magnets are special metals that are able to attract other metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt and steel. These metals that are attracted by a magnet are called magnetic materials

All magnets have a north-pole and a south-pole.

Magnets found in nature are known as lodestones. There are also man-made permanent magnets and temporary magnets. Permanent magnets are your horseshoe magnets, bar magnets and magnets in other shapes and sizes that do not lose their magnetism easily over time. Temporary magnets, on the other hand, lose their magnetism easily.

Need a permanent magnet?

Thames & Kosmos Magnetic Science
Amazon Price: $32.95 $26.28 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 26, 2013)
This magnetic science kit comes with permanent magnets in various shapes and sizes. Besides using the permanent magnets to make your own temporary magnet, this kit also comes with 33 fun and interesting magnet experiments and games that you can do at home. This is suitable for anyone aged 8 and above.

How to make magnets with the stroking method

This is an easy way of turning a magnetic material into a temporary magnet. However, it requires you to have a permanent magnet first. If you do not already have a permanent magnet, you may wish to skip to the electrical method of making a temporary magnet.

You will need the following items:

  • A strong permanent magnet (fridge magnets may not work as they are usually too weak)
  • A needle, an iron nail, or another object made from a magnetic material to be turned into the temporary magnet.
  • Either paper clips, thumbtacks, iron filings or other smaller objects made from magnetic materials

How to make a magnet with the above items:

  1. Using the permanent magnet, stroke the needle along its length multiple times (about twenty times should be enough).
  2. Make sure you are using only either the north-pole or the south-pole of your permanent magnet to stroke the needle. Do not switch poles or you'll have to start over.
  3. Also ensure that you are stroking the needle in one direction only.
  4. After stroking the needle for about twenty times, it should be magnetised.
  5. Test your new temporary magnet by putting it near the other smaller objects.

If you have done the above correctly, your needle should become a temporary magnet and will be able to attract the other magnetic objects. You can make your temporary magnet stronger by increasing the number of times you stroke the needle.

Your temporary magnet will lose its magnetism over time. Dropping the temporary magnet from a height, hammering it, or exposing the temporary magnet to heat will also cause it to lose its magnetism quickly. However, you can simply repeat the above steps to turn the object into a temporary magnet again.

Make a compass with your temporary magnet

how to make magnets - floating compass
You will need these items:

  • A needle turned into a temporary magnet with the above instructions
  • A piece of cork
  • A bowl of water

How to make a compass with your temporary magnet:

  1. Place the piece of cork in the bowl of water
  2. Put the needle on the cork
  3. Your cork should turn to the North-South direction
  4. You can spin the cork but it will always return to the same direction as long as your needle remains a magnet

How to make magnets with the induction method

This is another easy way to make a temporary magnet. It also requires the use of a permanent magnet.

You will need the following items:

  • A permanent magnet
  • Paper clips

How to make a magnet with the items above:

  1. Bring the magnet near a paper clip so that the paper clip is attracted to it
  2. With the first paper clip still attracted, move the paper clip closer to another paper clip
  3. The second paperclip will be attracted by the first one.
  4. You can keep adding a paper clip to the end of each magnetised one if your permanent magnet is strong enough.
  5. Try and see how many paper clips you can chain in total!

All the paper clips will lose their magnetism and fall as soon as you remove the permanent magnet from the first one.

Electromagnets for kids - How to make magnets using the electrical method

With this method, you will be making a temporary magnet known as an electromagnet. 

You will need the following items:

  • A battery (or a few of them)
  • An electrical wire
  • An iron nail
  • Either paper clips, thumbtacks, iron fillings, or other small objects made from magnetic materials

How to make a magnet with the above items:

  1. Coil the electrical wire around the iron nail a few times.
  2. Attach the ends of the electrical wire to the ends of the battery
  3. Test your electromagnet by moving the iron nail near the smaller objects. 

If you have done the above correctly, your iron nail should become an electromagnet and the smaller magnetic objects will be pulled towards it. You can make your electromagnet stronger by increasing the number of coils around the iron nail or by increasing the number of batteries used.

The electromagnet depends on the electricity provided by the battery to become magnetised. If you disconnect it from the battery, the electromagnet will lose its magnetism.

Want to find out more about electricity and magnets?

Thames & Kosmos Electricity and Magnetism
Amazon Price: $49.95 $36.25 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 26, 2013)
This science kit allows you to explore the relationship between magnets and electricity. It comes with more than sixty fun experiments and games you can do at home. Also includes a working electromagnet. This kit is suitable for kids aged 8 and up.
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