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Playing With Magnets: 8 Powerful Activities For Toddlers

Playing with magnets or magnetic building toys is a fun thing to do with toddlers. Magnet play introduces not only scientific principles but also increases fine motor development and coordination.

Open-ended and versatile magnetic toys for toddlers will spark imagination and creativity. So, whether you are engaging in block activities or science experiments for toddlers, enjoy these magnetic activities for toddlers at home.

playing with magnets-fun activities for toddlers-girl playing with smartmax magnetic building toys

Playing With Magnets 

Magnet play is ideal for introducing your toddler to science experiments with magnets. You do not need elaborate and expensive supplies to engage in STEM activities for toddlers. Just simple household items and safe children’s play magnets are all that you need to get started.

Learning with magnets is fun, easy, and just plain magic! Imagine your toddler’s surprise when they can magically attach and lift all sorts of items.

An Introduction To Magnets 

You might be asking, “How do you introduce magnets to your toddler?” It is quite simple: don’t talk about them, but use them, work with them, show them, and just let them explore.

Magnets and magnetism are so tangible that your toddler will feel the pull and recognize when something is magnetic or NOT.

What’s more, magnet activities are a brilliant way to get your toddler experimenting, thinking, and problem-solving, all while playing.

What Is Magnetism?

National Geographic defines magnetism as the force exerted by magnets when they attract or repel each other. 

Fun Facts About Magnets For Kids

  • A magnetic field is an invisible area of magnetism that surrounds a magnet. 
  • Magnetic objects must be relatively close to the magnet and within the magnetic field to stick together.
  • Magnets can pull together (attract) magnetic objects or push them away (repel).
  • Magnets only attract certain types of metals. Different materials like plastic, glass, paper, concrete, or wood are not attracted.
    • Magnets will attract metals such as nickel, iron, and cobalt.
    • Most metals, such as gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminum, and more, are not magnetic.
  • The two ends of a magnet are called “poles,” one is the “north pole” or north-seeking pole, and the other is the “south pole” or south-seeking pole.
  • One magnet’s south pole attracts the north pole of a second magnet. Additionally, the south pole of one magnet repels the other magnet’s south pole. We say: “Opposite poles attract and similar poles repel.” (i.e., north-north will repel; north-south will attract).

Smart Facts About SmartMax® Magnetic Building Toys

SmartMax® poles are color-coded.

  • The cool colors (blue, green, purple, and white) have their north poles facing out.
  • While the warm colors (orange, pink, red, and yellow) have their south poles facing out.
  • All cool bars will connect to warm bars. Any other combinations will repel.

SmartMax® magnetic balls will attract all bars regardless of color. As a matter of fact, one magnetic ball can connect to more than 20 bars.

The strength of the magnets is proportionate to the length of the SmartMax® rods. That means that the longer bars can make stronger connections and lift more weight than the short bars.

SmartMax magnetic discovery -longer is stronger demonstration
SmartMax Magnetic Discovery- ” Longer is Stronger”

SmartMax® magnetic rods are strong enough to carry up to 60 times their weight!

Magnet Safety 

Safety is crucial when playing with magnets. The following activities may use small parts that could pose a choking risk. Please know your child and use discretion when selecting materials for these activities. 

Furthermore, magnets can be extremely dangerous if swallowed, especially the loose high-powered ones not intended for children under 3.

Always supervise toddlers under three or who still put things in their mouths when playing with magnets. Most importantly, seek medical attention immediately if your child swallows a magnet.

SmartMax Magnetic Building Toys are recommended for children ages 18+ months and provide a safe, unique, and worry-free experience.

Their magnetic rods and balls are large and made from high-quality materials glued and ultrasonically welded, making it impossible for your toddler to get to the magnets. Finally, SmartMax® parts are larger than 3cm, which means your toddler cannot swallow them.

Magnet Play For Toddlers

Toddlers love to play, and what is more fun than magnets to play with? They inspire the exploration and discovery of magnetism.

We have compiled lots of fun activities with magnets using SmartMax® Magnetic Building Toys or other magnets for toddler’s activities. So, let’s get exploring!

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Magnetic Play Bottles

Magnetic play, sensory, or exploration bottles are simple and fun to make. You can make them even more exciting by adding small magnetic items and a large magnet to your sensory bottles.

We have provided several versions to try, so let your toddler explore with these magnetic play bottles.

What you will need:

  • A clear empty container, like a water bottle. Use plastic if you are concerned about breakage.
  • Water, mineral oil, baby oil, or solid substance like rice, red lentils, or small beans.
  • Magnetic materials: magnetic bingo discs, nuts, bolts, washers, pipe cleaners, colored paper clips, and more.
  • Non-magnetic materials: glitter, sequins, beads, or feathers (optional).
  • A strong magnet like SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large horseshoe magnet.
  • Hot glue (optional).

How to make Magnetic Exploration Bottles

  1. First, add your magnetic materials to your bottle no more than 1/3 full. You can choose to use just one material or a variety. 
  2. Next, fill the bottle ¾ of the way full with water, mineral oil, or solid substance. 
  3. For a little sparkle, try adding some glitter, feathers, or sequins.

Hint: If you want to use the magnetic bottles repeatedly, you will need to fill them with mineral oil, baby oil, or rice and then hot glue the lid closed. If you choose to use water, remove all the metal pieces when finished to avoid rusting.

activities-curiosity-red icon Activities And Science Experiments For Toddlers

Using the strong magnet on the bottle’s outside, complete the following activities.

  • See how the elements follow the magnet. 
  • If using non-magnetic materials, let them explore the differences. 
  • How far away can they hold the magnet and still make the pieces move? 
  • Test the different-sized rods and magnets. Which works better?
  • Do the pieces stick to each other in the bottle? For example, “Can they make a paper clip chain?”
  • When using solid materials, shake up the bottle and let your toddler look for buried treasure with the magnet.
  • How do magnets travel through liquid and glass or plastic?
  • If using the temporary water or solids bottle, exercise their fine motor skills and problem-solve how to remove the magnetic materials from the bottle with just the magnet.

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Magnetic Sensory Bin

It is easy to add magnet activities for toddlers to sensory bins you already have on hand. As a hands-on activity that incorporates learning through play, they will explore some magnetic magic! Let’s get started and introduce this magic with a magnetic sensory bin. 

playing with magnets-magnetic sensory bin supplies-magnetic tiles-magnetic letters-bins of colored dried rice-nuts-bolts

The materials you will need:

  • A clear plastic container (we recommend a larger one with a lid for storing afterward).
  • Filler like dried rice, beans, corn, or lentils.
  • Magnetic items: pipe cleaners, bobby pins, washers, bolts, nuts, magnetic tiles, bells, paper clips, brads, magnetic letters, jingle bells, SmartMax® balls, and more.
  • Non-magnetic items: small blocks, plastic animals, erasers, and other things from around the house.
  • A strong magnet like SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large horseshoe magnet.

Making Your Magnetic Sensory Bin

  1. Place the magnetic and non-magnetic items into your bin. 
  2. Next, pour your filler material into the container and stir everything up.
  3. Finally, give your toddler a SmartMax® rod or magnetic wand and invite free exploration and experimentation with no preset expectations. It is incredible what they can learn when allowed to discover and learn on their own by immersing themselves in the amazing world of magnets.

activities-curiosity-red icon Science Activities for Toddlers To Try

  • Explore magnetic versus non-magnetic objects.
  • Dig for buried treasures.
  • Lift the items from the container hands-free.
  • Encourage your toddler to roam around the house, finding more magnetic objects to add to the bin.

Be sure to keep one of these quick and easy magnetic sensory bins ready for on the spot play and exploration.

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Cool Things To Do With Magnets And Pipe Cleaners

Pipe cleaners are one of those craft items that are so versatile and readily available. Even better, they are magnetic, making them colorful and fun in magnet activities for toddlers!

See how we used pipe cleaners in these Fine Motor Activities For Preschoolers

Supplies Needed:


  1. Cut up the pipe cleaners into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Add them to a magnetic sensory bin, magnetic play bottles, magnetic art activities, or other magnetic games for toddlers.

activities-curiosity-red icon Activities To Do With Toddlers Using The Pipe Cleaners 

  • Put them in an empty water bottle and move them around with the magnet. 
  • Use only the magnetic rod or wand to remove them from the bottle exercising your toddler’s fine motor skills.
  • Using the magnetic bowl or tray, let your toddler “fill” it up with the pipe cleaner pieces. Then watch their amazement as they all stay in place when they dump the bowl or tray.
  • Create “mosaic” art. Using a magnetic bowl or tray as the background, have your toddler “draw” with the pipe cleaner pieces. The magnetic properties of the pipe cleaners keep them in place to hold the “mosaics” together!

Magnet Games for Toddlers

Simple indoor activities for toddlers using magnets are perfect for rainy day fun. What makes them ideal is that they can happen in the spur of the moment or when you need a little less chaos.

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Rainy Day Activities For Toddlers

Create a fun “stuck indoors day” with these activities. Make them as simple or complicated as you want.

Materials you need:

  • A SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large magnet for toddlers. Please make sure to choose a magnet that does NOT pose a choking risk.
  • Various magnetic household items. We love our magnetic wooden blocks for this activity. Also, magnetic letters and numbers work well. For some holiday spirit, use jingle bells in a variety of colors and sizes.

Setting up the Activity

  1. Create various “challenges” and level up as your child masters their skills. Enjoy the creative process and let your toddlers help build the various “challenges” or “levels.”

activities-curiosity-red icon Sample “Levels” Or “Challenges” To Inspire You.

  • Dump all the magnetic objects onto the floor. Place a bin, bucket, or bowl in the middle of the floor. Next, have your toddler pick up all the pieces and put them in the bucket using just a magnetic rod or wand.
  • Have them remove the magnetic objects from the bucket two at a time or three at a time. Of course, using just the wand.
  • Pick up all the magnetic pieces and put them back in the bucket, this time standing on one foot. Depending on your toddler’s gross motor coordination, they may need to switch feet often.
  • Put all the magnetic wooden blocks in the bucket. Have your toddler remove only the square blocks and build a tower with them. You can do several variations on this “challenge,” like removing only one color of blocks (all blue blocks) or one shape of blocks ( all rectangle blocks).
  • If using the jingle bells, they could sort by color or size hands-free using just the rods or wand.

activities-curiosity-red icon This Activity Is More Advanced And Requires Your Toddler To Know Their Numbers

  • Put all the magnetic objects and numbers into the bin.
  • Each turn, have your toddler remove one magnetic number.
  • Next, they have to remove the same number of magnetic blocks and pieces. For instance, if they chose number three, they have to gather three blocks and magnetic elements this time.

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol What Do Magnets Attract?

“What do magnets attract?” is full of fun, science magic, and playful hands-on learning for toddlers of all ages. Your child will explore magnets and what’s magnetic or NOT with these magnet STEM activities.

magnet play-what do magnets attract game supplies-pipe cleaners-horseshoe magnet-muffin tin-plastic eggs

You will need the following materials:

  • A muffin pan, cookie sheet, or pie tin.
  • An assortment of magnetic and non-magnetic items.
  • A SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large magnet for toddlers. Please make sure to choose a magnet that does NOT pose a choking risk.

Easy Setup For this magnet play activity

  1. Start by going on a treasure hunt to grab various magnetic and non-magnetic items from around the house. For example, a spoon, keys, a pencil, plastic toys, toy cars, paper clips, washers, nuts, bolts, magnetic wooden blocks, and plastic blocks are all good choices to start.
  2. Place the items in a muffin pan, or spread them out on a cookie sheet or pie tin.
  3. Place it all on the floor with SmartMax® rods or large magnets for toddlers and let them explore.

activities-curiosity-red icon Ways To Play “What Do Magnets Attract?”

  • Watch your toddler feel the pull of the magnet.
  • See how many things at a time they can pick up with the magnet.
  • Encourage them to guess which items the rod “will attract” and which ones it won’t before they try picking them up.
  • As they begin to determine which ones “attract” and which ones don’t, try sorting magnetic and non-magnetic items into two groups.
  • For a super fun variation on things attracted to magnets, place the items into plastic eggs. It makes for a cool surprise as your toddler tries to see which eggs the rod will attract.

One easy and simple version that requires no set up is to let your toddler wander around the house with their magnet and find magnetic things.

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Magnetic Maze 

How much fun would it be to race through a maze or racetrack? This magnetic activity provides indoor fun for toddlers.

Supply List:

  • Large magnetic tray, plastic lid, or piece of paper.
  • Dry-erase marker, tape, or other material to create the maze.
  • SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large magnet for toddlers. Please make sure to choose a magnet that does NOT pose a choking risk.
  • SmartMax® ball, a magnetic toy car, or another magnetic object.

How To Create Your Magnetic Maze

  1. Choose a large magnetic tray, plastic lid, or piece of paper.
  2. Create a maze using dry-erase markers or tape. Gear the obstacles and difficulty to the age of the toddler.

activities-curiosity-red icon How To Play

  • Place the magnet rod or wand under the tray, lid, or paper.
  • Add a magnetic car, ball, or other magnetic object and steer it through the maze from underneath with the rod.
  • Another fun version would be to have your toddler draw a race track and “drive a car” around the track. You would need a small toy car that is magnetic or glue a magnet to the car’s bottom. Then let the racing begin!

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Magnetic Games For Toddlers – “Fishing”

This game is a fun home version of “fishing,” an all-time favorite carnival game for kids. With these super fun magnet activities for toddlers, you can tailor them to your child’s interests. 

Materials needed:

  • Wooden dowel, ruler, or other “pole.”
  • String.
  • SmartMax® magnetic ball or another strong magnet.
  • Cut out “fish” or other shapes. Switch out the fish with animals or vehicle types. You could also try planets, stars, and the moon. The possibilities are endless. 
  • Paper clips.
  • Bucket or bowl.
  • Glue (optional).

Creating Your Fishing Game For Toddlers

  1. First, you will want to make your fishing “pole.” Use a wooden dowel and string to tie a SmartMax® magnetic ball like a lure to the end of a fishing pole.
  2. Now, create your “fish” or other shapes. This is where you can get creative. You can make magnetic fish by cutting out paper fish and clipping or gluing paper clips to the cut-outs. 

Want to make it even easier and not cut out the shapes? Buy a bag of foam shapes and add paper clips.

activities-curiosity-red icon Play “Fishing For Magnets”

  • Place all the “fish” in a bowl.
  • Using the fishing pole, “fish for magnetic items. Try a variety of “challenges”, for example, “fish” by color, size, or shape.
  • Do you also have an older child who may want to join the fun? Try letters and have them “fish” and spell their name or words. How about numbers to “fish” and count?

discovery building sets-play-icon-symbol Make The Magnets Touch Or “Jump”

This engaging science activity for toddlers measures how far a magnetic object will “jump” to touch the magnet.

Supplies You Will Need

  • Painter tape or another surface-safe tape.
  • Magnetic items: such as jingle bells, paper clips, SmartMax® magnetic balls, magnetic marbles, Tegu Magnetic Blocks, nuts, bolts, and washers. Anything your toddler would like to test and see “jump.”
  • SmartMax® rod, magnetic wand, or large magnet for toddlers. Please make sure to choose a magnet that does NOT pose a choking risk.

Setting Up Your Game

  • Place a long piece of painter’s tape on the floor or table.
  • Add a colored dot to the end of the tape, creating the starting point.
  • Gather up your magnetic items and magnetic rod.

activities-curiosity-red icon Playing “Make The Magnets Touch Or “Jump”

  • Place a magnetic item on the dot. Lay the magnetic rod on the tape away from the starting point.
  • One by one, slowly push the rod along the tape toward the magnetic thing.
  • As soon as the magnetic object “jumps’ to touch the magnet rod, have your child mark the spot on the tape.

Try several objects to see which ones jump the shortest and farthest distance. Try a long rod versus a short rod to see if it makes a difference in the space “jumped.”

We love our magnetic blocks! They are so versatile and have been a family favorite for years! Not only have we spent countless hours engaged in frustration-free building, but we have also enjoyed magnet play and these fun activities for toddlers. 

Exploring magnets and magnetism with your toddler can be so much fun! Seeing them discover which things “stick” and which don’t for the first time is a moment to cherish. These magnet STEM activities can be completed using our SmartMax® magnetic building blocks or other large magnets for toddlers. 

Grab a set of  SmartMax® Magnetic and spend some quality time together, capturing those special moments.