How to Create Magna-Tiles® Circuits

How does electricity work? It’s a question parents and teachers are often faced with as kids grow curious about what brings everything from toys to overhead lights to life. You could pop on a video or use worksheets, but a hands-on circuit building activity is sure to inspire interest in the science behind electricity. If you’re seeking an engaging STEM learning activity, try building a circuit with Magna-Tiles® magnetic blocks for kids.

Why Do Circuits Make a Great Science Lesson?

As the world becomes increasingly technologically advanced, it’s easy to understand the importance of STEM learning. Yet teaching science, technology, engineering, and math can be challenging, as you’ll need to break down complex topics into age-appropriate lessons that kids can understand – and get excited about. That’s why hands-on learning activities, like building a circuit, are an excellent choice for STEM learning. Kids can take an active role in building the project, making it easier to understand the key principles at work.

Hands-on STEM activities, like building a circuit with magnetic shapes, also help develop other cognitive skills, like problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. Parents and teachers can determine how much adult input is needed and let children puzzle out any challenges. And because active learning improves retention and helps spark further interest, kids are encouraged to develop the mindset that leads to a lifelong passion for learning in any field.

Step-by-Step Magna-Tiles® Circuit Instructions

Are you ready for a fun-filled lesson on electricity? If so, grab your favorite Magna-Tiles® construction set and a few simple supplies. This project was inspired by an activity submitted by Cara Florance and is featured in Magna-Tiles® Playbook: Inspiring Creativity, where you’ll find a wide range of learning-focused projects kids will love to build. Here’s everything needed to try this one:

  • Six small square Magna-Tiles® magnetic shapes
  • Copper tape
  • A 2032 coin battery
  • A 3 mm LED
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors

Because this activity includes a small battery and scissors, adult supervision is required. With your supplies in hand, follow these  instructions to design a working circuit:

  1. Measure out the copper tape – it should stretch across a square and wrap around each side by approximately 1 cm.
  2. Apply the copper tape to the tile, wrapping it around the center.
  3. Build the LED tile by affixing two pieces of copper tape to the face of the tile as directed above with clear tape. Do not join the tape in the middle.
  4. The LED has negative (short) and positive (long) legs. Spread them out, tape them in place with clear tape, and connect them with copper tape. Mark each on the tile with an erasable marker.
  5. Now it’s time to create the battery tile. Apply copper tape as you did in Step 3 above. Place the battery on top of the tape – the negative side must face downward.
  6. Tape the battery into place on either side with clear tape, but leave the top uncovered.
  7. Add another piece of copper tape opposite to the first. It should reach around the back of the tile by about 1 cm and extend to the battery’s top.
  8. Rotate the copper tape so that its shiny end makes contact with the battery.
  9. Secure it with clear tape.
  10. Label each side of the tile that leads to the negative and positive sides of the battery.
  11. Arrange your tiles to form a circuit and light the LED.

Make your circuit as complex as you like with additional tiles in a straight line or with right angles. Remember, the negative side of the battery must reach the short (negative) leg of the LED to make the circuit work. If the LED doesn’t illuminate, challenge builders to identify the problem and repair the build. If they’re not sure where to start, an adult can ask questions to help them assess the problem.

Explore Hands-On STEM Learning with Magna-Tiles®

There’s no limit to what growing imaginations can build with Magna-Tiles® magnetic blocks for kids – including a budding interest in STEM concepts. For more learning ideas, browse our lesson plans and downloadable activities. To request additional information, contact Magna-Tiles® today.