This magnet busy jar was a really easy activity to put together and provided lots of screen-free entertainment. It's a bit like those I-Spy sensory jars parents make for their kids, and just as easy (if not easier!) to make. My kids love the magic of magnets and with proper supervision, they offer a good science lesson.
Disclaimer: Adult supervision is required. ALWAYS supervise children when playing with magnets. Magnets are dangerous if swallowed. DO NOT give magnets to children under 3 or to any children who may put them in their mouths. If a child ingests a magnet, seek medical help immediately.
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How to Make a Magnet Play Busy Jar
What you need:
- Filler material. We used rice and red lentils
- Lightweight metal objects such as paperclips, thin washers and other hardware
- Jar, glass or plastic
- Optional: glue or tape
- Magnet wand. You can also use a large, strong magnet but a wand works better for little hands.
TIP: this magnet wand and Bingo chip set is perfect for the magnet busy jar activity. If you watch the how-to video below you will see it in action.
Fill a clear container (I used glass, but if you are worried about it breaking, then plastic will also work) with paperclips and some thin metal washers. Lightweight objects work best.
Pour in a cup or two of red lentils for color. You can use rice instead of lentils, if you prefer. Fill jar ⅓ to ½ the way up.
Optional: secure lid of jar with glue or tape.
How to Play
Glide the magnet wand along the outside of the container. The magnetic attraction will lift the paperclips and washers. Kids will enjoy using the wand to manipulate the paperclips and other metal objects.
It's fun to shake the jar so that the objects are covered with the rice or lentils because then the wand raises them out of hiding! With practice, kids can use the wand to control the movement of the objects and create chains of paperclips that hang from the lid.
This video that shows how to make and use the magnet busy jar:
Need more easy distractions for your children? You'll find lots on our Giant List of Indoor Activities for Kids, or check out all 9 of our favorite ways to play with magnets, or make these magnetic bookmarks.
***ALWAYS supervise children when playing with magnets. Magnets are dangerous if swallowed. DO NOT give magnets to children who might put them in their mouths.
Idea first published 2009, updated 2023.