KS1/2 Science: Magnets

Activity: Discovering which items are magnetic, and which are not.

Resources needed:

  • Large magnet per pair/group of children
  • Lots of small-sized materials to test (fabric, foil, coins, plastic bottle tops, hair grips etc.)
  • 2 x Paper and pencil per pair/group.
  • Iron filings
  • Smaller magnet
  • Sheet of paper




  1. Introduce the activity by showing a large magnet and saying the following:

‘A magnet is an object that is made of materials that create a magnetic field. Magnets have at least one north pole and one south pole. Magnets attract a certain kind of everyday object and we’re going to investigate which ones using the equipment you have in front of you.’

Discuss possible outcomes with the children, explore any misconceptions but don’t give too much away at this stage!

  1. Now ask the children to explore which items are attracted to the magnet and which are not, and to keep a note of this using the two pieces of paper.

Teaching Point: Some children may assume that all metal objects are attracted to the magnet, so be sure to have a selection which will not be, such as aluminium foil or coins.

  1. Let the children examine and explore with the magnets and then gather everyone back together to discuss and share what they have found.
  2. Establish that only items made from certain metals or alloys are actually magnetic.
  3. Show the children the ‘field’ of the magnet by laying it under the paper and gently scattering the iron filings over the top.



Further activity:

Make a list of where magnets are used to help us, e.g. in a motor, to slow down a roller coaster, in a compass.

Find magnets in use at home: a microwave oven, to close a fridge door.

Set the challenge of finding out more about electromagnets and their uses.

Make a compass using a cork in some shallow water and a magnetised needle.

Explore what happens when you place two magnets together.


Curriculum Areas covered:

KS1 Science: During years 1 and 2, pupils should be taught to use the following practical scientific

methods, processes and skills through the teaching of the programme of study content:

  • asking simple questions and recognising that they can be answered in different ways
  • observing closely, using simple equipment
  • performing simple tests
  • identifying and classifying
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions
  • gathering and recording data to help in answering questions.


Y3 Science:

  • observe how magnets attract or repel each other and attract some materials and not
  • others
  • 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
  • describe magnets as having two poles
  • predict whether two magnets will attract or repel each other, depending on which
  • poles are facing.


Also covers elements of writing, Speaking and listening and non-fiction work.