Sunday, February 16, 2014

Busy Hands, Busy Brains: Add a Magnet Board to Your Toddler's Room

Magnet Board Can Reinforce Learning at Home for Kids
Playing on a magnetic board can be educational for your younger kids.
This post will discuss how a magnetic board can be used as a teaching tool at home and how you can put one together (plus get 15 more ideas for magnet play at the end of the post!) We currently use a magnet board to help our son learn the alphabet. 

It's a fact that hands-on activities help activate your child's brainA toddler's brain is twice as active as adults so hands-on time with letters, numbers, shapes and colors are a beneficial addition to a playtime routine. Kids can use magnet boards not only to learn, but to create and explore. 

Why I Love Our Magnetic Alphabet Board
  • Learning can be toddler-driven. A magnetic board allows my son to participate in unstructured play and learning by allowing him to engage with and arrange letters at his own pace. 
  • Learning can be parent-driven. A magnetic board also allows my son to participate in structured play and learning. For instance, I help him practice the alphabet by asking him to point to and pronounce certain letters. I also scramble the letters and ask him to find certain ones. Sometimes it takes him a few seconds, but I can tell he's trying to focus his way around the board to find the right letter.  
  • It's a supplemental educational tool. The magnetic alphabet board also supplements other learning tools my son uses or watches ( ipad apps, coloring books, bathtub toys, PBS television programs, etc.)
  • It's not just any toy. Right now the board is mounted on the wall (no stepping on toys!) However, it can also be used for floor or table play. He has enough toy cars, building blocks and toys that require batteries (which I do get tired of replacing!), so this is a good addition. If you've created "activity zones" in your little tyke's room, a magnetic board may be a good addition to those zones.

Here's my son playing on a magnetic alphabet board. On a site note: trying my hand at digital scrapbooking.

Directions for Putting A Magnetic Activity Board Together

Step 1: Choose and Buy a Magnetic Board.  I got this one from Target. The brand I bought is from Board Dudes.  The size I bought was a 16 x 20 inch board. What I like about the board size is that it is light enough not to injure my son if he were to carry it. And since I did not permanently attach it to the wall (see pictures below), he can pick it up and put it on the floor or on a table. You may a prefer a bigger board for more space (if you have more magnets or have more than one kid). Check Target for sales on their magnetic boards.

Step 2: Purchase Age-Appropriate Magnetic Alphabet Letters (and Numbers) - I searched Amazon and dollar stores, but I felt in general, the best (and safest) were magnets from Melissa & Doug. I bought these from Toys R Us but check your local toy store for other options.

Alphabet and Animal/Objects Magnetic Set 

The recommended age for this magnet set is 3 and up. The set include wooden magnet letters and pictures (animal or object).  My son plays with both the letters or play with the pictures.  By next year, I will help him match some of the objects to the letters. 

I like the fact that the letters are flat and there aren't any small magnets to chew on (a big, big plus). For the most part, the letters hold up from play with proper care. If your toddler still  "bites" on his or her toys, you may want to wait until they are a tad older because the letters do experience some wear and tear if they are chewed on.  

What I also love about this set is that on the back of the box, Melissa & Doug offer additional suggestions for magnet play. For instance, you can use the letters to trace a word on a piece of thin paper and post the paper on the magnetic board. You can then ask the child to match and place the correct magnet onto the letter outline.  

Note: the set didn't include any numbers but there are other magnet sets that have them.

Step 3: Buy Velcro Wall Strips from 3M Command (Picture Hanging Strips). Velcro wall strips are great if you are renting and you don't want to put nails in the wall. They're also great if you want to move frames or wall objects around (which I often do!). For this magnet activity board project, I wanted to accomplish both (avoid the hole in the wall and make the board mobile).  

The velcro wall strips work well for us. I used 4 small Picture Hanging Strips from Command and placed 2 on the wall and 2 on the board.  To make sure the board holds firmly onto the velcro, just push the board onto the corresponding velcro strips and you're done!

As I've mentioned before, I didn't want to permanently attach the magnet board to the wall so my son can play with it in his room as well as in other parts of the home. For example, sometimes he will bring the board into the living room (and I can watch him while I clean or cook).  It keeps learning mobile!

Velcro Hanging Strips on the Wall
I'm holding the board sideways so you can see how I attached the velcro strip. I used 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips to hang the magnet activity board onto the wall.

ABCs and alphabet learning for Toddlers using magnets
Using velcro strips to attach your board to the wall gives you the choice to take it down for table play and then put it back up again when done.

Step 4 (optional): Add extra fun wall decals to decorate around the magnet board.  I wanted to add more pizzazz to the walls of my son's room anyway, but I didn't want to use anything to permanent adhere to the walls. So I bought removable wall decals from the Dollar Tree. It was definitely easy to remove and reapply. My son's room currently has a jungle theme so this vine motif was a perfect addition.

Learn the alphabet with a magnetic board and decorate the wall with removable wall decals
Spruce up a magnet board by adding removable wall decals.

Don't stop with letters or numbers! 

Here are 15 more awesome ideas for magnet board play or activities that I may consider doing in the future (using either magnetic sheets or magnetic photo paper):

  1. Help implement routines and chores with photo or picture magnets.
  2. Get creative and make up a story using magnets.
  3. Encourage free play with magnets attached to pom poms (or other textured craft supplies). 
  4. Teach shapes and colors using magnets.
  5. Build parts of an object together with geometric magnet pieces: a car, a house, an animal, etc. 
  6. Encourage imaginative play by using magnetic scenery backgrounds (at the beach, at the park, at the doctor's office, at a birthday party, at the grocery store, in the home, etc.)
  7. Practice counting by using magnets.
  8. Learn to dress by using or making a magnetic dress-up set (play clothes, church clothes, pajamas, different professions etc.)
  9. Help your child identify family members with magnetic photos.
  10. Create special holiday magnets; for example: decorate a Christmas tree or build a snowman.
  11. Start geography lessons: help them put a map of the US or the world together.  
  12. Learn about food and nutrition.
  13. Learn about nature: make a tree, teach parts of a flower, how a plant grows, etc.
  14. Print out my son's favorite TV cartoon characters for free play.
  15. Teach scripture and bible stories.

Try this magnet board today! You can put this magnet board together in 5 minutes and have your kid playing on it in no time!

Include a magnet board as part of your playtime routine. It adds some diversity to a toddler's day!

Any other ideas for fun magnet play? Feel free to share below!


  1. Great blog! Thank you Liz for dropping by. I appreciate the time you spent just to read and comment. I'm currently on break but I'll be back soon. I followed you so it's easier to find you. Take care!!

    1. Thanks Marie! Can't wait to see what new posts you'll have when you return!