An investigation that allows children to understand the properties of magnetism and grouping materials by properties i.e. magnetic and non-magnetic.


  • Bar magnet
  • Paperclips
  • Wooden blocks
  • Paper / card objects
  • Plastic objects
  • Hoops
  • Post it note
  • Pens
  • White boards & pens
  • Aluminium cans
  • Steel cans

Programmes of Study:


Working scientifically Lower KS2

  • Use results to draw simple conclusions

Forces and magnets – Year 3

  • compare and group together a variety of everyday materials on the basis of whether they are attracted to a magnet, and identify some magnetic materials


1. Split the children into groups. Give each group a set of magnets and a variety of objects from the list.

2. Set the following question – What does your magnet do to the objects supplied?

3. Give the groups time to play with their magnets and see how they react with the materials they have been provided with.

3. At the end of a set period of time, ask the children to stop and feedback what they have found out so far. Introduce the term attraction if they have not used it.

4. Set up two hoops at the front of the classroom and label them ATTRACTION and NO ATTRACTION. Explain to the children that they are going to work in their groups to go on a magnetism hunt. They must test objects around the classroom to see which objects the magnets are attracted to and which objects the magnets are not attracted to. Each time they test and object they must write its name on a post it note and place it in the correct hoop.

5. After a set amount of time stop the children and draw them back to the front of the class to look at the hoops. What do they notice about the objects in the ATTRACTION hoop? They should notice that all the objects are metal. If there are any that are not retest them and prove that it is only metal objects that attract magnets. Ask the children in their groups to write a conclusion on their white boards based on their findings and feedback.

6. Discuss as a class these conclusions and come up with an agreed conclusion, aiming to get something along the lines of – Magnets are attracted to metallic objects.

Extension Ideas:

  • Look at the second hoop NO ATTRACTION. What do the children notice about the objects? It should be a mix of non-metallic objects and some metallic objects that are not iron or steel (ferrous). Introduce the idea of different kinds of metal – Iron (steel – iron based metal) and others such as aluminium. Show the children labelled cans (different metals). Allow the children to experiment with these cans and the magnets. Repeat the sorting activity. What do the children discover?
  • Amend the group conclusion to make sense of this new knowledge. Magnets are attracted to ferrous metal objects.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure the magnets are working before using.
  • Ensure that you have a variety of different cans/objects of different metals (labelled) for the extension activity.