When I purchased a $2.50 baggie of Magnetix* at a consignment sale a couple months ago, I had no idea that they would become one of Tyler's favorite things! My idea was to use of them to begin introducing the Montessori 'magnetic/not-magnetic' and 'picking things up with magnets' activities, but we've found other ways to use them as well. I found today that he can easily play with Magnetix for at least an hour! Along with the Montessori activities listed above, magnet toys are used for building imagination, problem solving as well as early math and science skills
Stage one was to simply introduce the idea of magnets to Tyler. He took to this immediately, fascinated by the magnetic pull (or polar opposite push) they had on each other, as well as putting the magnets together in various ways. We used the magnets several times in this manner.
The second stage was to use the magnets to pick things up. For the first activity, I put metal items such as key rings, paper clips and safety pins, as well as other magnetix shapes, into an ice cube tray. He was to use a longer Magnetix piece to use to remove the items from the tray. He made a few catches, but was more interested in picking the items up with his hands to examine them.
Along the same lines, I then used a magnetic fishing pole from a magnetic Melissa and Doug puzzle to show him how to "fish" for magnetic items. He was again more interested in handling the magnets by hand, but he did give it a try.
I tried to use the actual puzzle and pole a couple weeks later, but he was too excited about wanting me to name the animals on these new puzzle pieces and had saw no use for using the pole. I finally took the hint that he's not interested and will try again in a couple months!
For our third stage, we learned to build with magnets. Tyler is still a little architect in the making, stacking and building with anything he can, so using Magnetix (as well as other metal items) for building opened up a whole new world of possibilities and challenges for him. Using a metal baking dish as a base, Tyler has found almost endless possibilities for creating. I haven't officially done the magnetic/non-magnetic activity with his yet, though he has discovered this concept on his own naturally.
*Caution: Magnetix are meant for children aged six and up. I supervise Tyler very closely when using these materials, as swallowing magnets can be quite dangerous. I also count the number of pieces I put out so I know if any are missing when we clean-up. If you have a child who is often mouthing objects or if you cannot closely supervise the entire time, I don't recommend trying these activities.