Exploring the properties of magnets and how they affect other objects can provide dynamic lesson material. Amanda Morgan, Not Just Cute blogger, offers some wonderful ideas for learning through magnet play using sensory tables, plastic totes, or even plastic water bottles. If using your sensory table or a plastic tote, magnet activities work best if you use a lightweight base material like sawdust or well-shredded bits of paper. Spend some time collecting various objects from home and from around the classroom. These may include paper clips, screws, jar lids, wads of aluminum foil, nuts and bolts, etc., as well as, items that aren't attracted to magnets such as plastic bottle caps, Styrofoam cup, wooden blocks, plastic beads, etc. Bury these items, arm your students with magnets, and charge them with finding the buried 'treasure'. After completing the exercise, discuss as a class what properties of magnets and objects cause them to attract. If completing this activity with older children, provide them with a list of the buried objects and instruct them to make a hypothesis regarding each before beginning the exercise.
A plastic water bottle can also be used for this activity. When filled with sawdust or shredded paper and smaller objects, a magnet will work from the outside to bring reactive items to the outside. For pictures, further instructions, and advice on what type of magnet to use, be sure to view Morgan's entire post!