DIY Magnetic Shapes

I’m always trying to find ways to repurpose supplies I purchase for activities. We have a big bag of magnetite powder we use to make magnetic slime, but I haven’t thought of another use for it…until now! By mixing it with glue and baking soda, you can pipe (like frosting) any design you can think of, and it will stick to a magnet. This is perfect for magnet-on-a-pole fishing games. Read on to learn more!

Materials

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Method

Note: Magnetite powder (an iron oxide) is very messy and should not be touched with bare hands as it stains. Wash hands thoroughly after doing this. Older children may help with steps 3-6, but should always be supervised as any large amount of iron is dangerous to ingest. The dried shapes are safe to handle with bare hands, but the shapes and magnets should not be handled by children who put things in their mouth.

  1. In the ziplock bag, measure in a 1:1:1 ratio the magnetite powder, school glue, and baking soda. Since the first two ingredients are so messy, it is totally fine to just eye-ball the amounts. This is a very forgiving goop.
  2. Squeeze out the air and seal the ziplock bag.
  3. Mix the contents thoroughly by squeezing and mushing.
  4. Snip off a small lower corner of the bag and pipe designs onto wax paper like you would if you were decorating a cake. (Though these will not be incredibly fragile, you don’t want any shapes to have lines with less than ~1/4 inch thickness or they will break with typical child’s play.)
  5. Let dry for 24 hours.
  6. Paint the shapes with paint or nail polish.

Discussion

Magnetite is a natural mineral made of iron and oxygen. It is attracted to a magnet and in some cases can be magnetized to become a permanent magnet. Magnetism was discovered millennia ago by observing metal sticking to naturally magnetized magnetite, called lodestone. Though I haven’t been successful in magnetizing the shapes made by this project, it is possible to magnetize magnetite by placing it in a strong magnetic field (eg. very strong magnet or electromagnet).

The shapes you will make are called magnetically soft, in that they become temporary magnets when exposed to a magnetic field (i.e. other iron-containing things will become attracted to it when it, itself, is in a magnetic field), but if the magnet is removed, the shape becomes unmagnetized.

How to Play

  • Alphabet Fishing (learning letters): We tied a magnet to a wooden pole and went “fishing” for magnetic fish shapes and letters covered by dried rice in a plastic bin. You can use this activity to learn upper or lower case letters, or spelling a name.
  • Fishing for Compliments (learning to read): We made magnetic hearts and I wrote adjectives that complimented my daughter on the back of them (eg strong, smart, kind, etc). She fished for them in a tub of dried rice and black beans and sounded the words out as she found them.

As always, let us know if you’ve tried this on Instagram and Twitter @cara_florance. Tag us and include the hashtag #IBravedTheElements for a chance to be featured!

xoxo

Cara

Make your own painting Art-Robot: Inspired by “Ada Lace Sees Red”

One of the best ways to bring a new activity into your kid’s life is to be inspired by a special book. After reading Ada Lace Sees Red, (SPOILER ALERT) which features a robot that can paint (and an intelligent heroine), my daughter couldn’t get enough, so I thought I’d expand her love of the book by helping her make her own art-bot.

This project uses a vibrating motor to wiggle a cup attached to paint brushes. Other variations of vibrobots include bots that vibrate a scrub brush (bristlebots) and bots with markers for coloring!

Anna really likes taping things.

Materials

Note: Instead of using a motor with a nut, you can alternately just buy a vibrating motor. I prefer making it from a normal motor because we can also use the motor for other things that don’t involve vibration, whereas vibrating motors can only be used for vibrating things.

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Procedure

  1. Securely tape the bolt nut to one side of the motor shaft. As the motor spins, the nut will cause it to be unbalanced, making the whole thing vibrate.
  2. Hook up your circuit (including a switch if you would like). Be sure to follow the directions on the motor you purchase, as incorrect wiring can cause things to get hot or spark.
  3. Add the battery and test your motor, making sure the nut is securely affixed so it doesn’t fly off.
  4. Flip the cup upside-down and tape 3-4 paintbrushes around it so it can stand up on the brush ends (see picture above with markers as an example).
  5. Tape the battery terminal and motor to the cup, ensuring the nut has room to move around.
  6. Test out your bot to make sure everything is affixed securely.
  7. Dip the brushes into paint, put it on paper, then turn it on!

This can also be done with markers, which are less messy than paint, or crayons, which are even less messy than markers. After you’re done making art, try attaching your eccentric motor to something else, like a scrub brush or dry mop!

Book Inspiration- Ada Lace: Sees Red

From the publisher:

From Emily Calandrelli—host of Xploration Outer Space, correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World, and graduate of MIT—comes the second novel in a brand-new chapter book series about an eight-year-old girl with a knack for science, math, and solving mysteries with technology.

Ada Lace is building a new robot! She’s determined to beat Milton in the upcoming robotics competition. But she’s distracted—Ada finds her dad’s art class impossible, while Nina is the star of the class, basking in the glory of being Mr. Lace’s star pupil.

When Mr. Lace suggests that Nina put on an art show, Ada becomes jealous and loses her temper. Now Ada isn’t speaking to her dad, she’s falling behind in art class, and she still doesn’t know how to fix her robot. As the competition looms closer, Ada starts to wonder if there might be a way to use both science and art to solve her problems.

Will Ada make up with her father in time to test her hypothesis? Or will her hurt feelings leave her seeing red and without a medal at the end of the day?


Ada Lace Adventures is a series about a girl who uses science to help solve problems and mysteries. It is intended for readers ages 8+, but I read them a chapter at a time to my young daughter. The books are not in-your-face nerdy at all, as Ada is just an ordinary girl who likes science. I like that these books counter the stereotypical dorky science character that we frequently see. They are well written, fun to read, and a great addition to your chapter book library.

How to Make Bendy Bones

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If you ask most kids what bones are made of, they would quickly answer “calcium!” Though it’s not incorrect, years of us telling them to drink their milk for strong bones has hidden an amazing feature of nature, biomineralization by proteins. Calcium is only half the story of bones. Though the semi-crystalline mineral that contains calcium, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorus, called hydroxyapatite, provides strength and rigidity, our bones also need to be elastic to help absorb shock. This is where proteins come in. Your bones are made of living tissue that spew out networks of protein that trap and crystallize the calcium in your body. Together they form the strong, resilient biomaterial we know as bones.

You can feel the flexibility of the protein network for yourself by reacting and dissolving the hydroxyapatite from the bones in vinegar. What’s left are entertaining, wiggly bones the kids will love to play with (except my daughter, who was too grossed out and didn’t want to touch them which is why all these pictures are of my hands ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

Continue reading “How to Make Bendy Bones”

Magnetic-Tile Circuits

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This project is for ages 3+ as it uses small parts which are 
dangerous when swallowed. Supervise young children.

Ready to make an already awesome toy even more awesome? All you need is less than $20 in special supplies (copper tape, LEDs, and button batteries), tape, scissors, and some magnetic tiles to start to snap together basic circuits.

If you don’t have magnetic tiles, you can also use these same supplies to make paper circuits.

Continue reading “Magnetic-Tile Circuits”