It’s a kinda magic! 

This week I proved there is no better magic than science. We did three science tricks just for the fun of it – no questions, a few keywords, a couple of predictions and lots of wow’s.

Trick one – The disappearing herb:

What you need:
Bowl (half filled with water)
Pepper/dried mint/mixed herbs
Washing up liquid

To do:
Fill the bowl with water (halfway will do) and sprinkle on top the pepper/dried herbs so that a layer is formed.  That’s it!

Now with a finger, give the surface a tap/poke. Observe. Then place a dot of washing up liquid on your finger and repeat. Watch the magic!

The science bit:
When you add the soap to the water, the surface tension is reduced which allows the water to “spread out”. Whatever is floating is carried with the water whilst it spreads.

Trick two – The spinning can:

What you need:
Fizzy drinks can (empty)

To do:
You need to fill the can with around a third full of water. Fill and try to balance it on a tilt/on its side. It will look like it is about to fall! If it does, adjust the amount of water as necessary. Once it balances on a tilt, gently poke and it should spin. Watch the magic!


The science bit: 
It all has to do with the centre of gravity. A tilted object will not fall over as long as the line through its centre of gravity does not fall past the base of the object. When spinning, the point that’s touching the table has an equal amount of twisting it over and pulling it back. It only looks as though it’ll fall as it overhangs more on the one side but that is all due to the weight distribution of the can.

Trick three – The flying teabag (involves fire!):

What you need: 
A piece of foil
A teabag (the ones with a staple and string – but not the ones which are also pressed in the middle).

To do:
Make sure your little ones are a safe distance away – they should be able to see it but not too close as there is fire involved. Also, ensure that you do this away from anything flammable.

Remove the staple and string from the teabag and empty out the contents. Open it out into a cylinder shape. Stand it upon the piece of foil – it is important you have a a non flammable base . It is best to set this up on the floor, unless you have high ceilings. With a lighter/match light the top of the teabag to set on fire and sit back and watch. This is definitely a wow magic moment!


The science bit: 
Think hot air balloon. The flame is heating the air inside and as it gets warmer, the air expands, becoming less dense and push up through the cylinder to the colder air (which is more dense. This convection current that is created sits inside the cylinder until the teabag burns down enough so that it becomes light enough for the convection current to launch it.


Hope you give these a go. Quick, easy and you most probably, if not definitely, have all the resources needed in the kitchen. Your little pip squeaks will be wowed and will ask a lot of questions – much better than the repeated: ‘Why is it bedtime if its still light outside?” Forehead smack.


More with magnets….

Just in case this beautiful weather does not continue (oh please let the sun shine over the Easter holidays!) here are some more activities using magnets that you can do easily, quickly and with items in the home.

Simply fill a plastic bottle with magnetic items with non magnetic items. I filled a bottle with tack nails and broken uncooked spaghetti. You could use lentils, cereal, pasta, water etc. and fix the top down with sellotape if you need to. Give them a magnet and off they go trying to fish out the magnetic materials. A perfect, peaceful busy activity.

I also showed the kids another magnetic “magic” trick. This activity also allowed me to introduce gravity.


To start,  I asked a few questions to work out what was known and introduce the concept of gravity. After grasping that ‘whatever goes up must come down’, I set up the trick. For this you need a box, a magnet, string, sellotape and a paperclip.

Stand the box up and secure a magnet to the top. You can tape it on the inside or on top. Then attach the paperclip to the string (tie on) – the length of the string depends on the size of the box, so hold the base of the string at the bottom of the box and move the paperclip up to the magnet to the point at which it stays in mid air by itself. This is the length needed!
What you will see is the paperclip ‘defy’ gravity.


The kids were amazed even though they understood it was the magnet that allowed the paperclip to ‘defy gravity’. They had fun and, as the magnet was on top of the box, enjoyed moving the magnet about and seeing the paperclip move. The little one was chatting away, repeatedly saying ‘magnekik’. Well done my budding scientist! 

What impressed me happened much later. A few hours after this activity my eldest came to me to say that things in space did not stay in the ground and this was because there was no gravity in space. I found that he had been watching something on Cbeebies which had informed him and I was so proud that he had independently built on his knowledge that he gained with me……he really was listening!! 🙂

If you do purchase some magnets then make sure you get something similar to these:


These are brilliant! I bought these almost a year ago and had kept them hidden to give as a pressie when they kids were older but what with all the magnet fun we have been having, I could not leave them hidden for much longer.  They are very powerful and make a fabulous noise when thrown in the air – they are drawn to each other and rattle as they hit each other. They came in handy for the investigations too. Just keep them away from electrical items!



Key questions:
What happens when you jump?
What will happen when you throw this (item) in the air?
What will happen when you throw this paperclip in the air?



Have fun!

Magic Magnets

Well, this post has taken a little longer to write. Not because I didn’t know how to – but entirely because it has taken me longer than anticipated (much longer) to recover from a night out! I do not know what has been worse on my body…..the drink or the heels?! Day 4 and though I am still tired, I am finally starting to feel like myself. I may even manage a run in the morning! Here’s hoping. Well, I really ought to. Filling myself with warm pizza, cold pizza and 300 million biscuits is beginning to show itself around my middle.

[Update – I did in fact manage a run this morning!]

This week we have had fun, a whole variety of fun with magnets. With two horseshoe magnets that I bought from Wilko’s for £3, we have managed to occupy 3 days so far!

My kids are familiar with magnets. We have the standard fridge magnets, magnetic phone and tablet chargers and a magnetic picture/puzzle board.  They also have a magnetic building block set but yet with two large horseshoe magnets they have managed to really explore and learn with them. They went nuts as I pulled them out of the bag. I thought it would keep them still (maybe even actually sitting). Who was I kidding? It only fuelled and gave even more purpose to the constant running around the house. The first activity was to run around testing which bit of furniture the magnet ‘stuck’ to. For children, magnets really are magical. I was really impressed that something that cost me £1.50 and bought on a whim inspired instant investigation and wonder. Why was it not ‘sticking to that’? Why was it ‘sticking’ to this? I decided to not supply with answers immediately but urged them to explore, test even more and repeatedly nagged them to stop dropping their magnets.

Whilst they did this I found a box and filled it with small random items of household junk. Think of that drawer you have (everyone has it) the one in which you throw all the stuff you have no idea to put anywhere else. Yep, that drawer.  That random stuff is about to come in handy.

Fill a box/tray with the random stuff making sure you have a good selection of magnetic items in there too. To help you out here, items such as a fork, spoon, screw, nut, allen key, keying, paperclip, staple, jar lid, tweezers, safety pin, double/triple A batteries etc.  I will make a note here about basic health and safety – obviously ensure that the items you have chosen are age suitable and that your kids are aware how to hold them, not put them in the mouth etc. Small magnets which can be swallowed are also very dangerous and can lead to serious injuries. So please, be safe and supervise your children if you chose to play and explore with magnets.

I also quickly drew on a piece of paper: a horseshoe magnet and another with a cross through it (which I later cut into two). With some masking tape, I divided an area of the floor into two. We were going to do a basic sorting activity.

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Quite simply, the kids pulled out an item from the box and tested if it was magnetic or not and placed it into the correct category. This activity really did keep them busy. To encourage thoughts and discussion we went through the names of the items, described them (they also asked me a few questions here) and before testing I asked if it would ‘stick’ or not. Initially we stuck with this word for the first few items before introducing the word ‘magnetic’. Once this was grasped and association was made, even the youngest preferred using the technical term – or in her case ‘magnekik’.

I did do this activity individually with the kids. I wanted to ensure the youngest was getting a chance to explore and speak independently. It also gave me the opportunity to challenge the older one. With my older one I was able to talk about the materials the were made from, the similarities and differences between the magnetic items and even get him to consider if all metal items were magnetic. The older one, whilst sorting, also saw that with some items e.g. clothes peg, part of them were magnetic and other parts were not. This opened up a new sorting group and he began placing these sorts of items in the middle of the two established categories. I was pretty impressed! I was even more impressed when the lazy fart stopped physically picking things from the box and instead simply hovered his magnet over the box to see what would be attracted to it!!

After establishing that not all metals are magnetic we talked about the main magnetic metal, Iron. I know there are others, but I felt that right now that is all he needed to know. Plus, Iron is an easy one to remember when you love the superhero Ironman. Though this was a simple sorting activity, it was great for developing predictions. It was not a simply case of ‘yes/no it will be magnetic’ but I encouraged the older one to think about why he made a particular prediction.

This was not the end of the magic magnetic experience. Not only do I have a few more activities lined up this week but I decided to do one more cool thing with magnets.

I took a glass and dropped a paperclip in there and asked if they thought the magnet could work through the glass. Once amazed by this, I filled the glass with water and asked if the magnet would work in water. Watch out for bright eyes and open mouths. Easily pleased at this age!

And some more playing with magnets….

The science bit:

Magnets can attract other magnets but they can also attract magnetic materials. All magnetic materials are metals however only a few metals are magnetic.
Iron IS magnetic, so any metal with iron in it will be attracted to a magnet. Steel contains iron, so a steel paperclip, for example, will be attracted to a magnet. Most other metals, for example aluminium, copper and gold, are NOT magnetic.

Keywords used today:

Key questions:
Do you know the name of this magnet?
Will it stick?
Is this magnetic?
Why do you think it is/is not magnetic?
How do you know it will/will not be magnetic?
Were you right?
What is the same/different in the magnetic items?
Are all things metal, magnetic?

There are an abundance of activities you can do with magnets and many are perfect for preschoolers. For example, the paperclip in the glass of water could easily be lots of paperclips in plastic bottles filled with lentils, sand, rice etc. I will be doing a few more activities with magnets and will keep this blog updated.

Have fun with an activity that takes less than a few minutes to set up but entertains for hours!