Here is a fun little tip for containing the mess when using iron filings and magnets with kids! We have been studying about magnets in the middle boys’ science book. It’s always fun to use iron filings to see the lines of a magnet’s magnetic field, but with a 4 year old and a toddler wanting to join in with everything we do, I wanted a way to reduce the mess.

No Mess Science Explorations with Magnets and Iron Filings

I saw some neat little iron filings viewers on Amazon where the iron filings were sealed in a little plastic case, and I thought I would try making them myself.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Iron Filings Viewer #1: CD Case

No Mess Science Exploration with Magnets and Iron Filings

For this viewer, you will need a CD case that you don’t mind ruining, mailing tape, and iron filings.

First, remove the tray that holds the CD.

No Mess Science Exploration with Magnets and Iron Filings

Then just pour in some iron filings and seal all the edges with mailing tape.

There will be a gap next to the hinge after removing the tray – be sure to seal that with tape. Seal every corner or iron filings will trickle out when you use it! Use generous amounts of tape. 🙂

Then it’s time to explore! Hold a magnet under the CD case and watch the iron filings move!

No Mess Science with Magnets and Iron Filings

We had fun exploring with differently shaped magnets.

These rectangle magnets have one pole on each side (they are not bar magnets). This photo shows two magnets stuck together.

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

This is a stack of little neodymium (rare earth) magnets. You can see one pole on each end.

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

If you really want to see the magnetic field clearly, the best way is to put the magnet under a piece of paper and then sprinkle the iron filings on top of the paper like this:

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

We did it this way during our science lesson time. But for letting young kids explore on their own, I am really loving our CD viewer! They have played with it every day, and I don’t have to worry about a coating of iron filings all over the table and the floor.

Iron Filings Viewer #2: Snow Globe

I was looking through my assortment of little containers from the recycling bin to see if there was something with a different shape that we could use to make another viewer. I found a neat little plastic bottle, but while I was trying to remove the hopelessly sticky label I ran across this snow globe and decided to use it instead! The snow globe is designed to not let water leak out, so it’s perfect. You can just dump the iron filings in there and they won’t sneak back out through any openings.

No Mess Explorations with Magnets and Iron Filings

Jonathan was so impressed.

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

So cool! This is our stack of neodymium magnets. They are so fun to play with, but VERY strong. Playing with these requires adult supervision, and I have our 4 year old just stick to the rectangle magnets.

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

This is Owen saying, “Wow!”

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

If you don’t have any snow globes, try an empty plastic bottle!

If you don’t want to make the viewers, you can order a set of five Learning Resources Iron Filings in a Plastic Case.

No Mess Magnets and Iron Filings

Supplies on Amazon:


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  1. lynda Mar 22, 2022

    Goo gone is a great product to get sticky residue off. Just use a very small amount. Sometime filling the container with super hot water and waiting a bit will release the label as well


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