Fun facts about magnets and magnetism for kids
“Magnets and magnetism” is a funny topic full of magnificent facts. Let’s find out how magnets work, thanks to simple explanations and activities. It’s time to cut to the chase!
Let’s look at compasses, high-speed trains, and fans. What do they have in common? The anwer is magnetism! All three objects use magnetism to function. You also use a magnetic force to close the refrigerator door. How does it happen? Thanks to magnets that are capable of attracting certain objects. The force of attracting different objects without physical touch is called magnetism.
Magnets are truly magnificent objects. They consist of materials with magnetic forces. How do they work? Magnets create special areas around them that can pull various objects. This area is called magnetic force. It’s a pity, but we can not see this force with the human eye. How do magnets attract other objects? When one object is in the area of a magnetic force, it begins moving forward to the magnet. They do that without any physical contact! Looks like magic, doesn’t it?
Magnets strongly attract iron, nickel, cobalt, steel towards themselves. Such materials are called ferromagnetic because of their strong attraction to magnets. However, magnets can not attract every kind of metal. For example, it can not attract aluminum cans. Simply put, they don’t contain iron. That’s why the power of magnets doesn’t work on them.
If you push one magnet to the bottle, nothing will happen because magnets attract only objects with magnetic pieces. They can’t pull non-magnetic materials. Plastic, rubber, water, paper don’t possess magnetic forces. Many metals are non-magnetic — gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminum, and many others.
Let’s explore what subjects the magnet will attract. Take a magnet and various objects. Answer the question: What does a magnet attract? You can use the following things:
- a basketball;
- a pencil;
- a mug;
- a coin;
- a ring;
- a flower;
- a battery;
- a bell;
- a feather;
Try to hold the magnet in the air. You will see that it points in the north-south direction. The one end of the magnet looks at the North. It is called the north pole. The other end will look at the direction of the South. That’s why it has the name the south pole. Why do magnets have two poles? Every magnet has the strongest point. Usually, the strongest point is on the end of the magnet. A line of magnetic force goes out from the one end of it and goes back into the second end.
Experiment with magnet’s poles
Here is a fun experiment that kids like. Take two magnets and try to push two south poles together. What do you see? Right, they are repelling each other. The same will happen if you push two north poles of two magnets. But what if we push the north pole of the first magnet to the south pole of the second magnet? See? They attract each other! Magnetic force flows from one pole to another around the magnet. Like poles repel each other. Unlike poles attract each other. That’s how it works!
How to see a magnetic field
A magnetic field flows from North to South. We can not see it with the naked eye. But we can do it with certain materials:
- Place a piece of paper on the top of the magnet;
- Sprinkle fine iron powder on the top;
- Look how the shape of the invisible magnetic area is becoming visible thanks to the iron powder.
Interestingly, every magnet has a different shape of the magnetic field. For example, the shape of a bar’s magnetic field looks like an apple.
Kids aged 4-10 years will enjoy this activity. Tie a magnet to the end of a stick. Then put different objects in the shoebox. Ask a kid to call out the object he thinks is magnetic. Let him fish for it to see if it sticks to a magnet. You can include objects that have both magnetic and non-magnetic parts — for example, scissors with a plastic handle. Ask your kid to think about this object. What part is magnetic and why?
Man-made magnets vs. original magnets
People use the force of magnetism from ancient times. The original magnets are called lodestones. They are used to manufacture man-made magnets. Most magnets that you see around are made by people. They are weaker than original magnets. They gradually lose their strength. Besides, they lose their quality a little bit if you damage, drop or heat them.
You may also be interested in other “Physics for kids” topics :
- States of matter: solids, liquids and gases
- What is gravity?
- How does electricity work?
- Force and motion
What are magnets made of?
The natural magnet is a lodestone, as it attracts iron. Any other magnets that you see are artificial. How do people make them? They use magnetic materials such as cobalt, iron, and nickel. All these materials can be “charged” by a magnetic field using an electric current. This current goes through magnetic materials. Electrons inside them are polarizing or lined up. This process is called polarization.
Types of magnets
There are three main types of magnets: temporary, permanent, and electromagnets. Temporary magnets are such kinds of objects that gradually lose their magnetic forces. Permanent magnets can hardly lose their magnetic powers.
Unlike permanent magnets, we can switch on and off electromagnets. They consist of wires that carry a current. At the same time, electrons that flow through a wire create magnetic force. If we let electricity flow through a wire made of magnetic metals, it will create a magnetic field around the wire. If we wind a wire around an iron core, we can create an electromagnetic force.
Create own electromagnet: activity for kids 8-16 years old
To create it, we need electricity and magnetic material:
- a length of copper wire;
- a nine-volt battery;
- a large iron nail;
Wind the copper wire around the nail, beginning from its head. Attach the rest of the wire to two ends of the battery. Sprinkle some paper clips on the table. Move the nail assembly towards the paper clips and see how many it can pick up!
Electricity and magnetism
A moving electric charge creates a magnetic force. Magnetism can not exist without electricity, and vice versa, electricity can’t exist without magnetism. The relationship between them is called electromagnetism. That’s why scientists believe that electricity and magnets are two sides of one aspect.
The biggest magnet on the planet
Do you know that our Earth is one massive magnet? The core of our planets is made of iron and nickel. They give the planet a weak magnetic field. Technically, the Earth is the biggest magnet on our planet!
Compass is a magnet that moves around freely and points in any direction. The Earth, like a huge magnet, affects other magnets on our planet. That is why if you suspend the magnet in the air, it will point in a south-north direction. People used this property in magnetic compasses. The first who applied such kinds of compasses in navigation were the Vikings. It is thought that they keep magnetic compasses under secret for many years.
To measure magnetic force, scientists use a special tool called a magnetometer. Thanks to it, we can measure the strength and direction of the magnetic field. We can make the simplest magnetometer in a kitchen. People use advanced devices in space exploration. Magnetometers help to find iron, shipwrecks, and other magnetic objects. We can see them in everyday life because every metal detector is a magnetometer.
Why is magnetic force so Important?
Today we can not imagine life without magnets. We use magnetic forces everywhere. How do they help us in everyday life?
- Modern trains can float and run more efficiently thanks to magnetism. Magnets lift trains and help to reduce friction between trains and rails.
- Magnets store data in computers.
- They are in all electronic devices.
- If an object has a motor, it always has a magnet.
- Magnetic objects have no power over distance.
- Unlike poles repel each other, but like poles attract.
- Magnets can not pull mon-magnetic materials.
- Every magnet has two poles, the South pole and the North one.
- If you take two magnets and try to push two South poles together, they will repel.
- What will happen if we “split” one magnet into two parts? Don’t worry! We can not “break” it. We will have two new magnetic objects! Each of them will have both the southern and northern poles. Magic!
- A strong magnetic field can pull objects even underwater.
History of Magnetism
- 1000 BC: The Vikings began using magnetism for practical aims. They invented the first compass that helped them in sea navigation.
- 600 BC: The Greek shepherd, Magnus by name, found a lodestone in the northern area of Greece called Magnesia.
- 1100 AD: ancient Chineese use magnetism for navigation and enterteinment.
- 1600 AD: the physicist William Gilbert found out that the Earth is a huge magnet
- 1820 AD: Hans Christian Orsted made an accidental discovery of leads to the electric motor and electromagnet.
- 1997 AD: scientists invented a resistive magnet for the International Space station.
Magnificent facts about magnets
- Many scientists believe that birds have the magnetic sense that helps them find their way home during distant flights.
- If we could look inside the magnet, we would see that it consists of little magnetic atoms that are very tightly connected and look in one direction.
- The magnetic field is light as a magnet exposures protons. Unlike ordinary light, the light of magnets is virtual. We can’t see it with the naked eye.
- What is the most powerful magnet in the world? They are in Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Florida State University (FSU). These magnets can lift cars!
- Can magnetic fields relieve pain? There is no evidence that it can. Iron in our blood consists of atoms. But these atoms are too far from each other. The magnets can’t affect them.
- The biggest magnet in the Universe is a star. It is called “magnetar” — the stars that had a supernova explosion.
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