Kids love learning about magnetism! Building a magnetic car is simple and packs a big punch with science learning. Plus children have a great time! Magnets? Cars? Sign me up!
This post includes steps on how to build a magnetic car.
What is Magnetism in Simple Terms?
Magnetism is defined as “a physical phenomenon produced by the motion of electric charge, resulting in attractive and repulsive forces between objects.”
How a Magnet Works:
- A magnet has two ends called poles, a north pole or north-seeking pole and a south pole or south-seeking pole.
- The north pole of one magnet attracts the south pole of a second magnet, while the north pole of one magnet repels the other magnet’s north pole.
- So we have the common saying: like poles repel, unlike poles attract.
- A magnet creates an invisible area of magnetism all around it called a magnetic field.
- The north pole of a magnet points roughly toward Earth’s north pole and vice-versa. That’s because Earth itself contains magnetic materials and behaves like a gigantic magnet.
- If you cut a bar magnet in half, it’s a bit like cutting an earthworm in half! You get two brand new, smaller magnets, each with its own north and south pole.
- (This is, of course, a joke. You don’t get two worms if you cut a worm in half. But you do get two magnets.)
- If you run a magnet a few times over an unmagnetized piece of a magnetic material (such as an iron nail), you can convert it into a magnet as well.
Materials Needed for Magnetic Car
- Two magnets (you can use two bar magnets, or in our case, we used a round magnet and a magnetic wand)
- Small box
- Straw or Dowel
- Toothpicks (not needed if you use a wooden dowel)
- Wheels (we used lego wheels but you can use cardstock cut into circles, too)
Related Read: Science of Flight Activities for Kids
How to Make a Magnetic Car
- Tape a magnet inside the small box
- Cut the straw or the dowel into two pieces to match the size of the box
- Tape down to the outside of the box
- If you are using cardstock to create the wheels, cut out four circles at this point, then push the toothpicks through the straw and attach the cardstock wheels onto the ends
- We used lego wheels so we attached the wheels to the dowel
- Place the car onto a flat surface and use your second magnet to pull and push the car
My sons were enamored with this car! They had a blast making it go backward and forwards, creating a road, obstacles, and experimenting with the magnets.
We placed magnets in different spots and used different sized magnets varying in strength, too. Lots of science learning!
Additional Resources on Magnetism
A great way to introduce this science concept is with a traditional Montessori magnetic/non-magnetic work. I created these Magnetic/Non-Magnetic worksheets to supplement the hands-on sorting and experimenting activities!
Montessori Services has magnetic/non-magnetic work with everything you’d need for the lesson. I tried to use objects easily accessible at home or in a classroom.