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Early Learning with Magnets

Updated on January 5, 2013

Marvelous Magnets

One of my favorite teaching tools are magnets. I've found that kids are fascinated with magnets. There are abc magnets, number magnets--in fact, anything you print can be turned into a magnet. Because of the multiple uses and creative ways they can be used, magnets are a staple in my teaching tool-box. Magnets are so versatile!

I clearly remember my kindergarten teacher telling me that I would have to learn how to spell my real name, not just my nickname, Mo. That seemed like such an impossible task---my real name was seven whole letters long while my nickname was only two. Now that I have a couple children around that same age, I want to help them learn their names, letters and numbers in fun and engaging ways. One way I do this is by switching up the types of materials used for teaching. I often turn to magnets to do the trick. You find ideas on using magnets for spelling, creative play, science, math and more.

One thing I enjoy about magnets are all the different types of ABC letters that are available. The set above came in a teaching kit. Some mornings I write my daughter's name on the board with the magnets. Then we count how many letters are in her name. The next day I might use a different ABC alphabet, just so she can get used to seeing her name in various font-styles. You can purchase wooden letters, paint them and adhere letters to the back for a custom DIY alphabet. Try making a set using clear glass pebbles and scrapbook paper Or...

Jenn, from Mama, shares a DIY tutorial on creating your own set of magnetic phonogram tiles. These can be used for letter recognition, spelling practice and other words games.

For this activity, I used the magnet board and letters as categories. My daughter had to sort the items in the basket and place them in the appropriate column.

Another magnetic favorite in our house is the Leap Frog Fridge Phonics set. I love the chunky letter-size which make it easy for toddler hands to grasp. I also like that it says the sounds the letters make.

More DIY ABC Magnet Ideas

The scrapbooker in me loves pretty things! Here are some more ways to make your own alphabet eye-candy.

Portable Magnetic Board

Little Red Tool Box: Magnetic Tabletop Learning Easel
Little Red Tool Box: Magnetic Tabletop Learning Easel

I love this tabletop dry-erase and magnetic board. It is easy for two children to work at the same time and it folds up for easy storage. It's not too big nor too small--just the right size.


I cannot remember ever using math manipulatives in school when I was a kid. I bet I would have had more success in math had I been able to use them. Even now, math is a subject I don't feel confident teaching. Because of my experience with math, I try to come up with hands-on ways for my daughters to explore numbers.

I added magnets to the back of erasers to help my daughter with some one-to-one correspondence counting. I drew garages (yes, I'm not an artist) onto the fridge with a dry erase marker. She had to park the cars in the garages. Then we counted the garages and counted the cars. We also used the eraser-magnets for patterning practice. They would also be perfect for telling word stories and illustrating number sentences. I love when I can use something for multiple uses!

During Christmas time, I printed out this nativity set from Musings of Me and ran the printed cardstock through my Xyron 900 machine to make the images magnets.

Once again Mama Jenn has another great use for magnets--- adding them to pom poms. These puffball magnets can be used in so many different ways-- color sorting, patterning, math manipulatives, game pieces and more. Be sure to check out her DIY puff ball magnet tutorial for ways she uses them in her homeschool.

Officeship 100 Pieces Power Magnets, 3/4 inch Diameter, Assorted Colors, Gift Idea
Officeship 100 Pieces Power Magnets, 3/4 inch Diameter, Assorted Colors, Gift Idea

There are so many free early-learning printables that go along with these power magnets. You can use the magnets on do-a-dot pages, for pattern activities, as counters and more.


Every time I look at this picture I smile. I had been working on a project and my young daughter wanted to be near me. I had a magnetic tin on my desk that held all my paperclips. She accidentally knocked it on the ground and spilled all of the paperclips. She found though, that the back of the tin made the paperclips stick. She then spent quite a bit of time spilling and picking up the paperclips with the magnet. I love that she discovered this on her own.

I feel so honored to be a part of the Totally Tots team because they inspire me so much! I love this magnet/not magnetic experiment Cindy set up for her tot. Check out the full post to see the game she played with her tot using these tools.

Every year our city has a Farm Festival. Kids (and adults) are invited to come see various farm animals and equipment and learn about life on a farm. It is a big highlight for my young girls. Before going, I created a farm magnet set so that my little ones could learn the names of the animals.

We played several different games with the set. For one game, I placed all the animals on the tray. Then I had my daughter close her eyes and I took one away. She then had to guess which animal was missing. She also matched the words with the animals (she was able to do this because I included a small photo on the word-card. She was not at the age to read, but I wanted her to realize that each picture had words that made up their name.) My daughters enjoyed using the set.

By turning photos or clipart into a magnet, children can easily retell a story. For a couple of months, my daughter's favorite book was the Itsy Bitsy Spider. I created some printables to go along with the story and song and turned them into magnets. My daughter could then sing the song on her own and move the pieces while I was reading the story. It was a nice hands-on way to involve her with the song. Try creating your own Itsy Bitsy Spider magnet set with this free printable download.

Building with Magnets

Guidecraft Jumbo Magneatos For Toddlers 24 Piece Set
Guidecraft Jumbo Magneatos For Toddlers 24 Piece Set

Here's a set of magnetic blocks! Use these for all types of imaginative play.


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      Early2ReadMom 4 years ago

      Great lens.

      I got my kids started early to readâ¦before they ever entered kindergarten. I canât overstate how much it helped their overall confidence level in all subjects. My boy started reading at age 3. As he entered first grade and they told me he was reading on the 5th grade level. Kids love reading when they can learn with no pressure.

      For more info on my favorite program on early reading by phonics

    • curious0927 profile image

      curious0927 6 years ago

      I also did a page on Magnets. This one is clearly a great article. I need to spruce mine up and add your link to my page! Very nice. Blessed!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      I always long for a little one to entertain and teach when I read your lenses, Maureen. Such bright images and creative ideas!

    • heehaw lm profile image

      heehaw lm 6 years ago

      great idea for kids to learn alphabets and numeric. never thought of that. we could teach kids just by using our fridge as a board to learn. magnet will not cause floor or walls to get dirty.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Very clever ideas for learning using magnets. I love magnets and had the typical alphabet & letters sets on the refrigerator for years. It made a great playtime board for tots and preschoolers in the kitchen while 'mom' was cooking a meal. I could cook and keep an eye on them at the same time -- and encourage them with word & letter games while I was at it. Today I'm at the 'grandma' stage and enjoy crafting, so often create magnets from plastic canvas & yarn -- my 'playtime' magnets. :-).

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      How I miss having little ones and a refrigerator full of colorful magnetic letters for spelling, and words for making phrases, so fun! Keep on learning, teaching, enjoying!