How To Make A Compass For Kids

Compasses are a very important tool explorers.

They are useful when you go hiking, camping or other outdoor activities.

They help you identify directions so you won’t get lost.

Compasses work because there is a giant magnetic field surrounding us on Earth.

Did you know that it’s very easy to make your own compass at home?

All you need is a needle, a bowl of water, paper and a magnet.

There is hardly any preparation time.

It’s great as a rainy day activity for kids.

Compass made out of paper and needle floats in a bowl of water

How To Make A Compass For Kids

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Low

Here's how to make a compass at home.

And as with any experiments involving magnets, be aware of the danger.

Warning: Magnets are very hazardous if swallowed.  Please keep them away from children who still put everything into their mouths.


  • ferromagnet
  • needle
  • paper
  • water


  • bowl
  • scissors
  • adult supervision


  1. Rub one end of the needle on one side of the magnet 30 times (the north pole if your magnet is labeled). Always rub in the same direction. Rub a needle on the magnet to make a compass
  2. Flip the magnet over and rub the other end of the needle on this other side 30 times. Again, rub in the same direction.
  3. Cut a circle about 2 inches in diameter out of the paper.
  4. Carefully thread the needle through the paper circle twice, but not all the way through, so that the needle lays flat on the paper.
  5. Place the paper and needle on the surface of the water. Both ends of the needle should be above the floating paper circle. How to Make a Compass Experiment with a compass floating in water
  6. Watch it slowly rotate and then stop.
  7. Check the directions with a compass. One end of the needle (the one that you rubbed on the north pole of the magnet) should point to north and the other south.
  8. Label the circle with the corresponding N (north) and S (south) directions. You now have a homemade compass!

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Iron is a ferromagnet. Ferromagnets, such as iron, nickel, cobalt and manganese, can be magnetized by applying an external magnetic field and retain the magnetism even when the external field is removed.

When a needle is rubbed against a magnet, it is magnetized and becomes a temporary magnet.

On the Earth, there is a natural magnetic field all around us.

Earth’s magnetic field is relatively weak and normally doesn’t exert enough force to move a stationary needle.

But floating on water has significantly less friction, allowing the needle to freely rotate and align itself along Earth’s magnetic field.

As a result. one end of the needle points north while the other points south, forming a compass.

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