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Properties of Magnets: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

Magnets are very useful tools that we use every day without even realizing it. All magnets have certain scientific properties. Here you will learn about the three main properties of magnets.

Everyday Uses

When you're watching your favorite show on television, listening to your favorite song on the radio, or talking to your friend on the phone, did you know you're using magnets? Even when you turn on the light in your bedroom, you are using a magnet that creates electricity. Let's explore the three main properties of magnets that make them such useful tools.

What Do They Attract?

Let me introduce you to Magnet Girl. She was a normal kid just like you until she took a shortcut home from school and passed by a magnet factory. The next morning she woke up with magnetic powers!

One day her father accidentally dropped an entire box of 500 nails. Magnet Girl to the rescue! She placed her hands just above the pile of nails and they seemed to leap off the ground onto her hand. She was able to do this because the nails were made of a metal called iron.

If those nails were made of wood, plastic or glass, Magnet Girl would not have been able to pick them up with her magnetic powers. One property of magnets is the type of metal they attract, or stick to. These metals are iron, cobalt, and nickel. Even though gold and silver are pretty metals, they are not attracted to magnets.

The large magnet at the end of this crane is picking up metal.
Picture of a tractor using a magnet to pick up metal

Opposites Attract

Magnet Girl wanted to show her powers to her friends. She was using another magnet, but instead of it sticking to her, it acted like it wanted to get away! She couldn't figure out what she was doing wrong.

She didn't realize that magnets have two poles: a north pole and a south pole. The poles are simply the ends of a magnet. The same poles of two magnets will go away from, or repel, each other. Opposite poles will stick to, or be attracted to, each other. The ends of a magnet also have a stronger magnetic force than the middle.

Once she turned the magnet around and touched the opposite pole, she was able to show her friends her new powers!

A bar magnet showing the north and south poles.
Picture of a bar magnet

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