Here are some ideas you can try at home with the whole family when you explore magnets. To record our observations, everyone should have a science notebook. If you are going to complete more than one experiment, use a notebook. If this is going to be your only exploration or young child, feel free to fold a piece of paper in half so it looks like a book.
In addition to your notebook/paper, you will need:
Crayons or pencils
Magnets - button magnets (round magnets avail at Michaels) are a must, bar magnets are even better
About a dozen things to test with - some that might stick to a magnet and some that won't (ideas are paper clips, washers, pom poms, tooth picks, rubber bands, beads, small toys, pipe cleaners)
A number of paper clips and washers
A number of tooth picks and rubber bands
What does a magnet stick to?
Using a button magnet find some things that your magnet will stick to and things your magnet won't stick to. Record at least 5 of each category. What is the same about the things that your magnet sticks to? What is the same about the things your magnet won't stick to?
At the top of one page in your book (or paper) write: I think the magnet will stick to...
At the top of the next page write: I think the magnet won't stick to ...
Now take your pile of goodies (pom poms, washers, paper clips, etc.) and divide into two piles - those you predict will stick and those you predict won't stick to your magnet. Record these in your notebook.
It is time to test. Grab your magnet and see if you were correct. (note: pipe cleaners and toys/beads that look like metal but are plastic are both great ways to really get discussions going as they will often get put in the wrong category.) Record your answers either by circling the ones that turned out to be in the wrong pile or writing them on a separate page.
What was the most surprising find?
Make a small chart with pictures or words that looks like so:
Make a predition of how many of each object your magnet will pick up. When you are done predicting, you should test with your magnet. Write down the actual answer. Were you right?
There are three kinds of metal that magnets will attract: steel, pure cobalt, and pure nickel. Test a U.S. five-cent coin to answer the question “Is a U.S. nickel coin made of pure nickel?” What about coins from other countries?