Magnets Lesson for Kids: Uses & Types

Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

Magnets are part of our everyday lives. They come in different forms and have different uses. In this lesson, you will learn about some different types of magnets as well as some of the uses for magnets.

What Is a Magnet?

Do you wake up to an alarm clock every morning? And do you use an electric toothbrush, hair dryer, or microwave oven? All of these things can thank magnets for their power. See, magnets are part of what powers electric motors. An even larger magnet is with us at all times of the day. It's inside the Earth we live on! Earth's North and South poles are actually the poles of a magnet.

A magnet is really just a piece of metal that is able to attract, or pull, other things to itself. Most people have the image of a magnet as a metal stick that can pick up nails without the help of a person. Well, this is only one part of the story. Let's learn more by looking at some of the main types of magnets.

Types of Magnets

Magnets can be large or small, strong or weak, permanent or temporary. Permanent magnets always have an active magnetic field. This means that they are always able to attract certain metals with their magnetic power. Temporary magnets can be turned on and off.

Magnets also come indifferent shapes, such as:

Horseshoe Magnet

Horseshoe magnet
magnet

This is called a horseshoe magnet because it is shaped like a horseshoe. The two poles are side by side.

Bar Magnet

Bar magnet
bar magnet

This magnet is a bar magnet. The two poles are on opposite ends.

Bar magnets and horseshoe magnets, as well as the magnet that is within Earth, are permanent magnets. There is no on/off switch for them.

Electromagnets

An electromagnet is a special kind of temporary magnet that is made by combining electricity with certain types of metal (usually iron or steel) to create a magnetic field. This magnetic field, or the force that can attract and repel things, can be turned on and off. In this way, it is different from permanent, natural magnets.

Electromagnet
electromagnet

An electromagnet's ability to be turned on and off (instead of always being on like a permanent magnet) makes it perfect for machinery, because most machines are not meant to run all the time.

Uses of Magnets

Here is a sample of the many ways that magnets are used in our world today:

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