How to Make a Compass

Explore magnetic force with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

Sharing is caring!

This week I realized I was raising a perfectionist as my daughter plopped herself into the car after school in full blown drama mode proclaiming,

It was sooooo terrible Mom! Absolutely horrifying!!! I am sooooo embarrassed.

What could have possibly been so horrible? I sat in silence expecting an answer along the lines of she tripped over her shoes, fell out of her desk, or maybe even something like she picked out the wrong book at the library. Because let me tell you, at eight absolutely everything is embarrassing. However, it wasn’t any of these things. The cause of her near nuclear meltdown was a wrong test answer. Well, two to be exact.

My daughter had scored a 50 out of 52 and was mortified that she missed two questions on magnetism.

I have a perfectionist on my hands.

Since missing those two questions my daughter has been exploring everything and anything involving magnets. It is actually wonderful to watch her investigate and explore with pure fascination. This simple science experiment on How to Make a Compass came to be during her somewhat of an obsession on magnets.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass! width=

Items Needed to Make a Compass

  • Compass (we used a phone app but you can buy one here)
  • Sewing Needle (buy here)
  • Cork (buy here)
  • Magnets (buy here)
  • Nail (buy here)
  • Scissors (buy here)
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Pliers

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

How to Make a Compass

One thing to note before you start is that if you are using a strong magnet, such as a rare earth magnet, you want to be careful around any electronics you may be using.

For this experiment my daughter wanted to test a couple different things. She wanted to explore how the strength of a magnet affected the creation of her compass and she wanted to explore if that varied based on the weight/thickness of the needle/nail.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

Once you have all of your supplies you will rub your needle against the magnet about 5-10 times. Make sure that you are rubbing the needle in the same direction every single time. Your needle should now be magnetized. 

Then fill a wide bowl with about an inch of water and push your needle through the cork.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

One thing we did discover is that if the cork is too big it is a bit of a bugger to get it to work, so I would suggest cutting your cork down to a smaller size.

Then put the cork disc (with needle) into the center of your water dish and watch what it does! You want to try to keep your cork away from the sides of the dish, but that can be a tad difficult.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

Ours kept on floating down to the bottom of our dish, but it worked!

The next thing we tested was how the strength of the magnet affected our compass. For this, we used a new needle and a fridge magnet.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

Using the same amount of sweeps across the magnet did not work. However, when we increased the rubbing to about 20 swipes it did then also work.

The last experiment that we did was how the weight of the needle affected the compass. For this, we used a heavier nail.

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!

For the life of us, we could not get the nail to balance evenly. No matter what we did then tip pointed down. Other than that, though, it also worked! The neat thing about having both side by side in the dish was that they also repelled each other!

This was a really neat science experiment for kids that learning how to make a temporary (weak) magnet and observe how that magnet interacted with the Earth’s magnetic field!

More Fun Stem Experiments!

Child-led STEAM Density Investigation at Life Over C’s
Snack Time Engineering Easy STEAM Project for Kids at Handmade Kids Art
STEM Books for Teaching/Homeschooling Kids at The Jenny Evolution
STEM Activities for Kids in the Kitchen at iGame Mom
PEEPS STEAM Activities at Schooling a Monkey
STEM Challenge: Edible Sedimentary Rocks Model at Preschool Powol Packets
Math Magic: Finding Center of a Circle at Planet Smarty Pants
Tinker Toys STEM Pulley at Sugar Aunts
Hot Chocolate Science at Creative Family Fun
Candy Science: Easy Erosion Experiment for Kids at Sugar, Spice, & Glitter

Share This!

Explore magnetic poles, force, and physics with this simple science experiment for kids that will teach them how to make a compass!


Sharing is caring!

Wandering and Autism: The Time I Lost My Son

Wandering and Autism: The Time I Lost My Son

Princess Par-TEA Trailmix

Spark joy one smile at a time with using Goldfish® crackers to make this simple Princess Par-TEA Trailmix! #GoldfishMix #AD