Children will explore with magnets to see if an item is magnetic.
Begin by introducing the concept of magnets to your child. You might say: “Do you know what a magnet is? We have all these magnets on the kitchen fridge. Magnets are attracted to, or stick to, things that are made of metal. Watch as I put this magnet on to this metal spoon.” Place the magnet on the spoon. “Wow! Did you see that? Did you see how the magnet stuck to the spoon? That’s because it’s made of metal. What are some other things that you can think of that are made of metal?” Give your child a moment to come up with some ideas of items made of metal or name common metal objects around the house if they are struggling to think of any. “What do you think the magnet will do to items that are not made of metal? Do you think they will stick?” Give your child a moment to make a guess or prediction of what they think will happen. “Let’s try it and see.” Put the magnet against an object that is not made of metal and talk about how it does not stick to it because it is not made of metal. “Let’s see what else the magnet is attracted to and what it is not attracted to.”
Bury the metal and nonmetal items in the bin of beans or rice so that your child can search for them with the magnet. Show him how to explore with the magnet in the tub of beans or rice. Give him time to move the magnet around, and see what items are attracted to it and which items are not. Talk with your child about what he notices, like how things made of metal are attracted to the magnet and the things not made of metal are not.
While he explores, you can talk about the different texture of each item. You can use words like metal, wood, cotton, wool, stone, leather, plastic, styrofoam, paper, etc. You can also sort metal and nonmetal items into two piles and talk about how all the items in the metal pile attract the magnet and all the items in the non-metal pile do not attract the magnet.