Activity for ages 5 to 8.
Remember the Wooly Willy magnetic board? C’mon, I know you do. As a child I spent hours working to get his facial hair just right. The simple, engaging kids’ science toy was a mesmerizing way to learn about magnetism. Guess what?! Now you can make your own DIY magnetic board just like the Wooly Willy.
This post contains an Amazon affiliate link for iron filings.
My main issue with Wooly Willy was always that I wanted a blank page to do my own decorating on the paper. This easy version will give your children a lot more creative license to design a piece of (temporary) artwork to their own unique personality and talent.
I grabbed an old frame from our closet, a piece of paper (any color your little creators would like to use!) from our art center, the iron filings from our pantry (I bought our iron filings from Amazon), and a few fun magnet tools for my boys.
Safety note: Please be careful with magnets and little ones. A swallowed magnet is bad news for choking hazards and otherwise. So, please keep a close eye on your children.
DIY Magnetic Board
Take the frame apart so that you can place the piece of paper into the frame. Once you have placed the paper into the frame, turn the frame with the glass facing up. Lift the glass up so that you can shake your iron filings onto the paper. You actually don’t need many filings to have a great working board!
Secure the frame. Test the board with the magnet tools. Get creating!
Inquiry Based Approach
- Ask the child about the iron filings. Have her examine the tiny filings and describe them. Explain that iron filings are tiny magnets.
- Ask, “I wonder what will happen when we place this big magnet over the iron filings?”
- Ask if she knows about north and south poles. Explain the north and south poles within the magnets.
- Discuss what might happen if you combine the iron filings with another substance, like sand.
The Science Behind It
When you move the magnet across the frame, the iron filings create a pattern. The iron filings are attracted to the magnet. Magnets have a magnetic field – a force field that attracts various substances. Iron is one example. Each tiny iron filing has its own magnetic field. So, when the magnet is brushed across the frame, the filings’ north and south poles line up in the same direction as those poles within the magnet. Really, the small iron filings become little magnets that attract them to the large magnet.