Magnets are fascinating objects for children to play with as they attract certain materials (1). They come in different shapes and sizes. Every magnet, irrespective of the size, produces magnetic force. Certain materials that come within this magnetic field are attracted to it. Iron, nickel, and cobalt are strongly attracted, while materials such as glass, plastic, cloth, and wood are not.
Magnets and magnetic fields are interesting concepts that children would like to explore and discuss. Take the opportunity to enhance their knowledge by reading this post with facts about magnets for kids.
How Do Magnets Work?
A magnetic field cannot be seen and can only be felt. For years, magnets have been a source of curiosity for scientists and researchers.
After extensive research over several centuries, scientists have discovered unique atomic structures as the reason behind the magnet’s actions. Every element is made up of atoms, and each atom contains protons, electrons, and neutrons. Electrons are negative ions that orbit the nucleus (center of the atom). When these electrons spin in the same direction, the object becomes a magnet. As an element is made up of millions of atoms, each atom’s magnetic fields add up to make a big magnet (2).
Magnets are usually made of iron or metals similar to iron, such as steel. There is a natural rock called lodestone that serves as a magnet, too.
What Is A Magnetic Field?
Take a bar magnet and place iron nails near it. There will be a powerful attraction between them at certain places. Move the magnet slowly and find the nails jumping across to it. The area in which the magnet’s force is the strongest is called the magnetic field. It is invisible, but you can see it using a simple experiment.
- Place a bar magnet on a sheet of paper.
- Sprinkle iron filings around the magnet on the sheet of paper.
- Lift the paper and shake it gently.
- The iron filings will arrange themselves in a particular arc-like pattern around the magnet.
Electricity And Magnets
While lodestone is a natural magnet, we come across human-made ones in our daily lives. The magnets can be made in different ways, but the most common and effective ones are electromagnets created by combining electricity and magnetism.
These electromagnets are widely used everywhere, from home appliances to wind turbines. They are temporary magnets that get magnetic only when electricity passes through them. They come in the form of iron rods with copper wires coiled tightly along their length. When the wires are connected to an electric supply, the iron rod works like a magnet.
Electromagnets are commonly found in doorbells, radios, headphones, loudspeakers, motors, and generators. They are used when you need the magnetic field to work for only a certain time (3).
Types Of Magnets
Here are three major types of magnets explained.
1. Permanent magnets
These magnets do not lose their magnetism once they are magnetized. There are four types of permanent magnets:
- Ceramic or ferrite
- Samarium Cobalt (SmCo)
- Neodymium Iron Boron (NIB)
2. Temporary magnets
These get magnetized only when they are in the presence of a magnet. When the magnet is removed, they lose their magnetism. Iron nails or paperclips are ideal examples of temporary magnets.
Electromagnets are commonly used in appliances that we come across in our daily lives (4). They are made by coiling metal wires tightly around metal bars, which become magnetic the moment electricity passes through the wires. These magnets are used where you do not need magnetism continuously but only for a certain period.
Facts About Magnets
There are some fun facts about magnets that children would like to know for trivia quizzes.
- The Earth is a huge magnet.
- Every magnet has two poles called the North Pole and the South Pole.
- Two opposite poles attract each other while two similar poles repel.
- Magnets can lose their properties if placed in the presence of a stronger magnet for extended periods. They can also lose their magnetic properties if you drop them, heat them, or damage them in any way.
- If you tie a string to the middle of a bar magnet and suspend it in mid-air, it will always come to rest in the same position. The magnet’s the North Pole would align to the Earth’s North Pole. It is the reason why magnets are also used in a compass.
- The Earth’s magnetic field helps birds migrate to warm lands every year.
- Monorails and metros run on strong magnetic fields. Magnetism helps reduce friction and thus increases speed.
- Depending on the strength of the magnet, it can pull through various objects. That’s why you can attach a piece of paper to your fridge using a magnet.
- Several metals are not attracted to magnets.
- If you cut a bar magnet in half, each half has the North Pole and the South Pole.
- Scientists use an instrument called a magnetometer to determine the age of rocks. These rocks get magnetized to some extent by the Earth’s magnetic field, and the magnetometer helps scientists determine the levels of magnetization.
While children play with magnets right from a young age, they do not realize that they are among the first scientific objects that pass their hands. Magnets are objects of great fascination to children. As magnets are an inseparable part of our daily lives, teaching them about magnets helps develop an interest that would prove beneficial in the long run.
2. Magnetism, National Geographic Society
3. Magnets for Pain, NCCIH
4. Electricity Explained – Magnets and electricity, U.S. Energy Information