Do you like to play with magnets? If you’re like most kids, it can be a lot of fun to build things with magnetic toys. You probably also enjoy putting up your latest artwork or report card on the refrigerator with magnets. You may have even used magnets to learn about science in school.

But you might be surprised by how important magnets are in our daily lives. Just wait until you learn about how magnets are part of many of the things we use each day.

If you’ve ever played with a magnet, it was almost assuredly metal. In fact, it was probably mostly iron. Iron is the best magnetic metal on Earth. There are some other metals, including cobalt, nickel and other rare-Earth metals, which are also magnetic.

Iron and other magnetic metals have physical structures that are made up of microscopic areas called magnetic domains. You could think of an iron bar as being made up of millions of smaller iron bars, all lined up in the same direction.

Each magnetic domain is like a tiny magnet in itself. When these are all lined up in the same direction, electrons at the atomic level move in the same direction to form magnetic fields that create the effects we know as magnetism. In other metals — ones we think of as non-magnetic — these domains are not lined up and simply point in random directions.

Sometimes a magnet can be rubbed across a non-magnetic metal to make it magnetic. When this happens, the magnet helps to align the magnetic domains in the non-magnetic metal in the same direction, thereby making it magnetic.

The force of magnetism is concentrated around the ends — called poles — of magnets. Each magnet has two poles: the north pole and the south pole. Although they might look the same, they behave differently.

For example, opposite poles attract each other. That pulling force of attraction you feel as magnets stick to each other is the north pole of one magnet drawing the south pole of another magnet toward it. Identical poles will repel (push away) each other. So when it comes to magnets, opposites really do attract!

Do you know of anything else that has a North Pole and a South Pole? If you said “Earth,” you’re right! Earth contains lots of magnetic metals that make the planet itself act like a humongous magnet. That’s why you can use a compass to find which way is north: the magnetic needle on a compass is drawn toward the magnetic North Pole!

So are magnets just neat scientific toys? Certainly not! Magnets have thousands of practical uses. Some of them may surprise you. Did you realize that every electric appliance with an electric motor uses magnets to convert electricity into motion?

Magnets hold refrigerator and cabinet doors closed. They also read and write data on your computer’s hard drive. If you listen to an MP3 player through headphones, those sounds you hear are thanks to tiny magnets that turn digital music into sound. Magnets are all around you every day, and they help make your life better in many ways you probably never imagined!

64 Join the Discussion

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  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We thought today’s wonder was awesome and cool! We learned a lot about magnets, and how the magnetic fields work. Magnets are used for all kinds of things. We wonder how that magnetic machine in the movie worked, and how many pounds could the strongest magnet pick up?

    Keep up the good work,

    Mrs. Reasor’s 4th grade class.

    • WOHOO, we are so happy the WONDERful students in Mrs. Reasor’s class are WONDERing with us today! We LOVE learning about magnets with you– we bet you recognized a new use for magnets on your own, too!

      The machine in the video was powered by the hand crank– that helped direct the metal ball to one location. From there, the ball was moved by the magnetic fields in each section– from one area to the next! We bet you can do some more research on your own about magnetic machines– and what the weight of the heaviest object picked up by a magnet is, too!

      Great job, Wonder Friends! :)

    • What a great question from Mrs. Snow’s AWESOME students! :) We aren’t too familiar with DS here at Wonderopolis, but we know that electronics often use magnets inside the device. However, we bet you could do some WONDERing of your own to find out what goes into a DS system! We can’t wait to see what COOL information you find, Wonder Friends! :)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We loved today’s wonder! We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a mime because they act without using words.

    Thank you for the wonders,

    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s class! :) We are so happy you’ve joined us today to Wonder about magnets with us! HOORAY!

      We also LOVE your guess for tomorrow’s curious Wonder… are lips are sealed but we will see you soon! :)

  3. Thanks for the awesome video today. It was very interesting. We have learned something new about magnets. We would like to make a magnetic compass. We look at Wonderopolis everyday, and we always learn something new.
    See you tomorrow!
    Ms. Barnett’s 4/5 class

    • HELLO Wonder Friends in Ms. Barnett’s class! :) We are glad you liked our magnetic Wonder today– here at Wonderopolis, we were really drawn to it! We are so happy to hear that you will be making a magnetic compass to find your way! Maybe you can use it when camping or even getting around your neighborhood! We LOVE visiting with great Wonder Friends like all of you– thanks for making us smile! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We learned about magnets in Grade 3 last year but we didn’t know that all small appliances had magnets in their motors. We think magnets are awesome and we love Wonderopolis!

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Poloski’s Grade 4 class! We are SO HAPPY that you’re WONDERing with us today! :) How fun that we all learned something new together today– here at Wonderopolis, we were really pulled into this Wonder! Have a SUPER day! :)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Today we learned that many electronics and household appliances have magnets to make them work.

    We think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about a mime, or maybe Justin Bieber!!

    Loving the WONDERS,

    Mrs. Karr’s class

    • YIPPEE, the WONDERful students in Mrs. Karr’s class are WONDERing with us today! :) We are happy to hear you learned something new about what goes into electronics you use every day! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… but we’re going to be quiet for now! SUPER guesses, Wonder Friends! Keep up the great work! :)

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends Wulf and Katana! We are so happy you’re here today! What did you learn about the magic of magnets? :)

      The clue for tomorrow’s Wonder is listed under “Wonder What’s Next?”… and here it is: We have no words to describe tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!

      We’ll see you tomorrow! :)

    • Hi there Summer, we can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! We will find out what tomorrow brings, but we Wonder what you learned from today’s magnet Wonder? We hope you enjoyed it! :)

    • Great job, Jacob! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– we’re so happy you are WONDERing with us today! Have a SUPER day, Wonder Friend! :)

  6. I loved learning that if the magnets are the same poles they fight! If they are NOT the same, they will stick together. The world is the most powerful magnet, cool! I learned that magnets are made of iron. We loved learning about magnets today!

    • WOW, we are so happy that the Tigers in 1st grade shared what they have learned today! We like how you describe the behavior between the same poles and how they are different from the opposite poles of a magnet! We are so proud of your great work– way to go! :)

    • WOHOO, a STELLAR piece of information shared by Tigers in 1st grade! Thank you for WONDERing with us today and learning something new! HOORAY for Wonder Friends like you! :)

    • Hi there Daniela, thanks for joining the WONDERful fun today! :) We are so glad you’re here with us today– we bet there are lots of cool things you can learn today if you do some searching here at Wonderopolis.org! If you have a favorite topic, you can browse through our list of topics OR you can use our search section at the top to look for a Wonder. However, you can check out our Random Wonder on the right side and get going that way! We have a new Wonder each day, so make sure you join us tomorrow for more fun! Thanks for visiting! :)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We thought today’s wonder was really cool. We think tomorrow will be about people who can’t talk, mimes, or maybe sign language.

    Thank you for the different things to learn about every day.

    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders.

    • YAY, we are among friends! Thanks for commenting and WONDERing with us today, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! We are glad you were drawn to today’s Wonder! :)

      We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… it’s very “hush hush”! We are glad you are using your imaginations– GREAT WORK! :)

  8. Wow! What a “Magnet-ficent” wonder! We learned so much today! We learned that Iron is the most used and highest magnetic metal on Earth, that there is a Magnetic needle in a compass and that Earth has its own magnetic field, and that all electronics have tiny magnents in them (so that’s why we shouldn’t put a magnent by our computers).

    We were wondering if big magnents can attract metal from long distances, how are magnents made, and are there cars that are magnetically powered?

    Our prediction for tomorrow’s wonder is people who can not speak… maybe sign language as the clue said, there are no words!

    We really enjoyed your wonders thank you!

    • We love your “magnet-ficent” comment, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Turner’s Reading class! :) Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned in today’s Wonder– it’s such a good time when we can all learn together and have fun doing so! We’re really attracted to AWESOME Wonder Friends like you!

      Also, you’ve been doing a SUPER job of WONDERing on your own! We bet you can do some research of your own about some of your own magnetic ideas… we think you’re on to something when it comes to magnetically powered cars! Perhaps we have a group of entrepreneurs in the class?!

      We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow… super guessing! Thank you for joining us today! :)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Miss Price’s class LOVES Wonderopolis! After reading your Wonder of the Day today we had another wonder. Our teacher told us magnets can ruin T.V’s and computers. But if T.V.’s and computers have magnets in them how would they ruin them?

    Keep up the good work, we are excited for tomorrow’s Wonder!

    • YAY, we are so happy to say hello to our Wonder Friends in Miss Price’s class! We are so happy that you are sharing your comment about magnets with us today! We think you’ve got a SUPER Wonder about electronics, too! We Wonder… when magnets in the electronics are attracted to magnets that are not part of the T.V. or computer, do you think the electronic product will no longer work? Or do you think it will alter the way the product works? We Wonder if you can continue to research on your own and let us know what you’ve found!?

      We’re glad you joined the fun today! Thank you for using your AWESOME imaginations! :)

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Maddie! We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing about magnets with us! It’s fun to learn with a great Wonder Friend like you! :)

  10. What about the flexible ‘refrigerator magnets’ that advertise pizza delivery, the dentist, and such? I have one from a clinic that looks like a bandaid! The doctors’ phone number is in the middle. How do they work?

    • Another great example of magnetic force, Louise M! Nice work! We like the creativity that goes into a magnet like that– like a bandage that advertises a health clinic! The refrigerator is a type of metal, which provides a place for a magnet to stick– by attracting the magnetic force. We think you’ve done a great job WONDERing today! :)

    • YAY, we’re glad Kenzie & Mary are here, WONDERing with us today! We are glad you two joined us to learn about magnets! We bet you’re a SUPER older sister, Kenzie– Macy is lucky to have a friend like you! :)

  11. Hi I learned some new things here is what…

    1. Iron is the best magnet on Earth now.

    2. Each magnetic domain is like tiny magnets itself

    3. Earth is the planet that acts like a humongous magnets.

    That’s some info that I learned.

    • Nice work today, Jules! We are so proud of the three pieces of information you learned AND summarized! Great work, Wonder Friend! :)

    • WOHOO, we’re glad you’re WONDERing with us today, Karla G! We agree– it’s pretty incredible to see the magnetic machine work! :)

  12. I like doing things with my cousins and I love going with my uncle. He helps me and I help him but we get along once and a while but we are a family.

    But the article reminded me of that feeling.

    • What a super connection, Jordan R! We think you did a great job of relating your feelings to the magnetic Wonder! Thanks for sharing your thoughts– you’re a great Wonder Friend! :)

  13. It was cool to watch one of the links where the object was floating, caused by the same poles! The magnets must be strong to still be able to float when the magnetic thing (field) is covered. It was cool to learn about where a lot of magnets are and that they can help us in many ways! It was amazing that even though the magnetic field was covered and the object was floating and it was kind of creepy. I liked how the machine and the magnetic balls were staying together even though they were getting pushed down by the lever.

    • HOORAY, our 4th Grade Tigers and Wonder Friends are here today! :)

      We think learning about magnets is SUPER fun, and also a great way to Wonder about magnetic fields all around us! We Wonder if you have any other magnet tricks or fun facts that you have learned! Science rocks! Have a SUPER day, Wonder Friends! :)

  14. We learned how the magnets stick together with the North and South poles and how they repel when they are the same poles. We liked how the magnetic machine worked by hand without electricity. Maybe we could do something like that! We learned how they used the spiral white thing to separate the magnetic balls. Whenever it goes up in looks like stairs and then a tongue getting rolled up. We wonder how long it took him to build it. We like how the North and South stick together and we liked how the machine worked and kept on going and going.

    • Hi there, Panthers3! We’re glad you are WONDERing about magnets with us today!! :)

      You’ve learned SO much COOL information about magnets– way to go! Thank you for sharing all that you’ve learned with us today, we think it’s SUPER that you are going to imagine a magnetic machine of your very own! Have fun using your imaginations today, Wonder Friends! :)

  15. In this wonder we learned that magnets are way more scientific then we thought. They are used so much, in our every day life that it’s like they’re not even there. My idea of a magnet is when 2 magnets love each other very much and get married. :D

    • Very cool, Hayley and Hannah– you learned something new about magnets and science– WOHOO! We like your creative idea of how magnets get together– attraction can mean a few different things! Way to go, you learned about magnets used in our daily life! :)

  16. Wow! That guy is really talented, I bet he can make machines for generations to come in the future. I want to try that someday, and see what happens.

    • Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment today, Logan B! We agree, the magnetic machine is quite cool! We hope you use your imagination and think up your very own version of a magnetic machine! Who knows what you can do if you put your mind to it?! :)

    • Hello Wonder Friends Naomi, Andrea, and Colton! We are glad you learned something very COOL about magnets today– way to go! Magnetic forces are very exciting to Wonder about… we hope you have a SUPER day! :)

  17. We learned a lot about magnets that we didn’t know before. Like, there are tiny magnets in mp3 players that make sound into music. Anyway we really liked today’s wonder.

    • Great point, Mydilee! Magnets can be found in lots of things that we didn’t imagine before Wondering! We are glad to hear that you and your Wonder Friends enjoyed WONDERing together– you have done a SUPER job! :)

    • How cool, Jolana (we like your combination of names today!)– we are glad you both enjoyed today’s Wonder about magnets! It’s so much fun when we can all use our imaginations and learn something new! Have a WONDERful and fun day! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do opposites attract?
  • What metals are magnetic?
  • What role do magnets play in our daily lives?

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Try It Out

Are you stuck on magnets? If so, maybe it’s just your magnetic personality! Or maybe you’re just drawn to them for some other reason. Maybe one of your ancestors was Pole-ish! OK…enough of the bad puns! Let’s get to some fun science experiments featuring magnets:

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Magnets 1: Magnetic Pick-ups lesson, children will gain an understanding that certain materials are attracted to magnets and some are not.

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