I found a relatively child-safe way to explore magnetism. I saw on a kindergarten website a great idea to safely house magnetic and non magnetic items.
Safety note: I would supervise children under four with anything magnetic or small objects.
Quarter sized coin tubes are great for this purpose! For around $4, I picked up 5 quarter sized coin collector tubes at a local hobby shop (I’m going back to get at least one more set). You can place small objects inside and superglue the lids shut for added safety.
The tubes in the below picture contain (in order): water, pearlescent powder, and diluted food coloring (which by the way has nothing to do with magnetism – it was just in the picture); polished gems, shaped vinyl coated paper clips (found at Target), staples; and beans. The yellow thing is a magnet “wand” which is a very very strong magnet encased in plastic. I suggest you buy 2 of them. The reason being is that when you stick try to stick two of them with the poles opposite to each other, you really can feel the feel them repel each other very strongly. It’s very neat-o science magic. They are strong enough to pull and push things without being very close at all.
Also, you can use the coin tubes for other purposes, like observing currents (using water, food coloring and pearlescent powder as in the picture above – and if it’s not superglued shut, it will probably leak), or simply as collection jars for polished stones, shells, acorns, or other small items.
Very, very cool.
Update: We liked this a lot, and I decided to visit my local school supply store and found some more magnets and supplies and decided to put things together on an old metal cookie sheet I have. They love playing with the magnets. Of course, I have to be very diligent that those magnetic marbles aren’t used by the youngest one without supervision. They came included with the horseshoe magnet but I might put them up for a while until she’s older (I don’t want to take any chances).