What you’ll need
- A robot with several detachable bottoms. You could make a 3D robot from boxes or a 2D robot from cardboard or our print out.
- Scissors for a 2D robot
- Something metal (washers, nuts or large paper clips) to attach to the body.
- Magnets to attach to the bottom. Check your metal objects are strongly attracted to the magnet.
- Other materials to attach to the other bottoms (wood, plastic, fabric, cotton wool, cardboard etc)
- Glue or glue gun
- Paint if you want to decorate your robot.
- The magnet engineer poster
- 30 minutes to create your robot plus drying time for glue and paint
- 10 to 15 minutes to complete the activity
Discover that magnets are attracted to some metals by finding the correct bottom for the robot.
Early Learning Goal links
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
Characteristics of effective learning
Our EYFS units provide enabling environments with teaching and support from adults. Reflecting on the characteristics of effective teaching and learning, children will have opportunity to learn and develop by:
• playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
• active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements
• creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things
Taken from Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage.
© Crown copyright 2023 licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0.
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Materials, magnetic, not magnetic, pull, stick, attract, metal, wood, plastic, fabric, paper, cotton wool etc
Before you start – making the robot
Draw or print out your robot if you are making a 2D robot. You could make your robot moveable by attaching the limbs, hands and feet using split pins, making sure you have space to attach its bottom later. If you are making a 3D robot, assemble this, leaving a space for the bottom.
Stick your metal objects to the robot where you want the bottom to be attached. Stick the magnets to one of the bottoms, making sure it will stick to the metal on your body. Attach the other materials to the spare bottoms in the same position as the magnets on the first bottom.
What to do
Show the children the magnet engineer poster and tell the children that they are going to be magnet engineers for this activity.
Ask the children if they know what a magnet engineer does.
Magnetic engineers design magnets, or machines and devices that contain magnets. Magnets are in many of the systems that make modern life possible. For example they are used in computer data storage, alarm systems, microphones and speakers, motors, electrical generators and transformers. Magnet engineers are:
Curious – about how they can use magnets in different machines.
Creative – when they use magnets in their designs.
Observant – when they look closely at what magnets can do.
Tell the children that they will be magnet engineers and will be curious about which materials No-bot’s bottom is made from.
Show the children the robot. Ask the children what they think it’s body could be made of. Ask one of the children to come and examine the metal objects you have used. Agree with the children that No-Bot’s body is made of metal.
Ask the children if they know anything that might stick to metal.
This activity is more effective if you leave the bottom with the magnets until last. Choose children to come and test the bottoms with materials attached.
You could ask:
What material is attached to your bottom?
Is plastic/wood/fabric/paper/cardboard/cotton wool attracted to metal?
Ask the child with the magnets to try his bottom.
You could ask:
Which material is attached to your bottom?
Are magnets attracted to metal?
Why did No-Bot’s bottom stick to the swing in the story? What about his hand?
Explain to the children that magnets are metals that attract other metals, but not all metals are magnets, and not all metals are magnetic!
Other things to try
You could make robots with bodies with magnets attached and limbs with metal attached to leave out for the children to investigate.
You could make robot hands with magnets attached and investigate where they are attracted to in the classroom.
Remember to refer to the children as magnet engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been curious and observant like magnet engineers and discovered that magnets stick to metal…”
The science of magnets
We have put together some useful information about the science of magnets to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
What are magnets?
A magnet is an object that produces an area of magnetism all around it called a magnetic field. This is the area in which magnetic material will feel a force from the magnet. The magnets we use in school are permanent magnets. This means the magnetic field they produce is there all of the time and cannot be turned off. Magnets can only be made from magnetic metals. Magnets repel and attract other magnets, and attract magnetic substances.
Which materials are magnetic?
Only metals are magnetic, but not all metals!
Iron, nickel and cobalt are the only pure metals that are magnetic and can be turned into a permanent magnet. Steel is an alloy of iron and so is magnetic and can be made into a magnet.
What is magnetism?
Magnetism is the name for the force applied by magnets when they attract or repel each other.