Investigate magnets by making this fishing game.
Early Learning Goal links
- Mathematics ELG: Numerical Patterns
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World –
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
Download the progression document which includes statements from Development Matters (birth to age five) and the relevant ELGs in full for the magnetic fishing game adult led activity here.
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Magnet, magnetic, not magnetic, pull, stick, attract, push, away, repel, material, metal, wood, plastic, fabric, paper, north pole, south pole
Before you start
What to do – making the fishing rods
Cut a 50 cm length of string. Attach your string to the magnet. The most effective way to do this is to use glue (from a glue gun if you have it) then cover the glue with tape when it is dry.
Attach the other end of the string to the rod. The fishing rods get tangled easily so leave about 20 cm of string between the magnet and the rod to avoid this.
Cover the end of the rod in glue and wrap the string around it ten or so times. Cover the string with tape when it is dry.
What to do – making the fishing game
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.
Magnet engineers design magnets or machines that use magnets. These may be used in computers, compasses, doorbells and alarm systems, microphones and speakers, motors, or in medical equipment such as MRI scanners. 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 creative and make a game using magnets. They will be curious about how they can use magnets in their game and observant, noticing which materials are attracted to magnets.
Show the children the fishing rods and paper clips. Ask them if they can pick up the paper clips using their fishing rods.
You could ask:
- How did you pick up that paper clip without touching it?
- What do you think is at the end of your fishing rod?
- Which materials do you think magnets attract (pick up, stick) to?
- Can you think of any materials that magnets do not attract (stick) to?
Tell the children that they are going to be making a fishing game. As they children to all draw a sea creature and cut it out. Depending on the stage of development and attention span of the children in your setting, you may want to have some sea creatures prepared. Attach a paper clip to the sea creatures and put them into the container that represents your water. Ask the children to fish for the creatures.
You could ask:
- Could you catch your sea creature with your fishing rod?
- Why does the sea creature attach to the rod?
- Does your rod stick to anything else? (The children’s rods will stick to each other during the game!)
Decide with the children whether they want all of the sea creatures to be magnetic, or whether they want some of the creatures not to be caught. You might want to decide to add some other objects that shouldn’t be in the water, like tyres, shopping trolleys or old boots that are not magnetic.
Play the game with different or the same children!
Other things to try
You could stick non-magnetic materials to some of the sea creatures to reinforce magnetic and non-magnetic materials.
Remember to refer to the children as magnet engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been creative like magnet engineers and made a game using magnets…”
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 invisible area of magnetism all around it called magnetic field (the area around a magnet that has magnetic force). 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 magnet and can be made into a magnet. Every substance is made up of tiny units called atoms. Each atom has electrons, particles that carry electric charges. Electrons circle the nucleus (core) generating a electric current and causing each electron to become a magnet. In most substances, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, cancelling out their magnetism. In iron, cobalt, and nickel, most of the electrons spin in the same direction and are strongly magnetised. These substances can become magnets if they enter the magnetic field of an existing magnet.
What is magnetism?
Magnetism is the force applied by magnets when they attract or repel each other. Magnetism is caused by the movement of electric charges. In a magnet, the north-seeking poles of the atoms in the magnet line up in the same direction. The force generated by the aligned atoms creates two poles in a magnet, a north and south pole. The magnetic force or charge in a magnet flows from the north pole to the south pole. This creates a magnetic field around a magnet. The magnetic fields created by magnets fill a space around them where magnet forces work to attract or repel magnetic materials.
What you’ll need
- Small magnets
- Rods – dowl or cane cut to the correct size, thin plastic rods or long paint brushes
- Paper clip or other small magnetic objects
- Paper- white or coloured
- Glue and/or a glue gun
- A container to represent the water for the children to fish in
- The magnet engineer poster
- 10 – 15 minutes to prepare the rods
- Drying time if you are using glue
- 15 to 20 minutes to complete the activity