Children will discover that magnets exert a force that can cause some things to move. We call this pull magnetism. In the infant and junior classes children will notice that some objects move towards the magnet before it touches them. They will also discover that some materials are not attracted to magnets. In the junior classes children will sort materials into sets: a set of magnetic objects and a set of non-magnetic objects. Children will discover that the magnet attracts only metallic objects.

However, they will notice that not all metallic objects are magnetic. Children should observe that the pull of a magnet can pass through certain materials, such as water, glass, plastic and paper. In a magnet the force of attraction is concentrated at two points, known as the poles. Children can experiment to discover that magnets attract and repel other magnets. Similar or ‘like’ poles repel each other, and different or ‘unlike’ poles attract each other. The north-seeking pole of a magnet is referred to as the north pole, and the south-seeking pole is referred to as the south pole. Children will discover that they can make a magnet by stroking a steel sewing needle with the pole of a magnet. When a magnet can move freely (sewing needle placed on a cork in a basin of water) it will come to rest with its north pole pointing towards magnetic north.

Children can observe the pattern of a magnetic field of one or two magnets by using iron filings. Place the filings in a transparent plastic box and place the magnet on the box.