Magnet Pickup Challenge

There are many fun things you can do with magnets. In this fun game we try to move as many metal items into a goal before time runs out!


  1. Put the smaller container in the corner of the big box and stick it down and to the edges it touches with blu-tack.
  2. Fill the big box with metal objects so that there's a thin layer across the bottom.
  3. Put the lid on.


  1. Set the timer for 60 seconds and set it going.
  2. Using only a magnet, try to get as many metal items into the "goal" (the small container) before the time runs out.
  3. Whoever gets the most into the goal on their turn is the winner!

For added fun you can draw out a football pitch on some green paper or card and stick it into the bottom of the big box, and decorate the smaller container like an actual goal. Add a second goal and strong magnet for a 2-player head-to-head challenge, but you may need a referee!

Do all the metal items stick to the magnet? Which ones do and which don't, and why? How does the magnet work even through plastic?

So what's happening?

The metal objects in the box are made of a few different types of metal, and not all the same type. When a type of metal can be picked up by a magnet, that metal is known as ferromagnetic. The magnet picks up only some of the metal objects because not all metals are ferromagnetic. "Ferromagnetic" sounds similar to "ferrous", meaning containing iron, a very magnetic metal - but not the only one. The metals that are most magnetic are: iron, nickel, cobalt, gadolinium, neodymium and samarium - though you probably don't have objects made of all of those!

The magnet works through the plastic box because magnets have an invisible magnetic field that extends outside the magnet itself and into the surrounding air. The field can pass through other materials too, like plastic.

What if?

What would happen if you:

  • Put only a magnet? Can you pick up magnets with magnets?
  • Put plastic objects in the box?
  • Used a (ferromagnetic) metal box instead of plastic?