Make a Compass {Simple Magnetic Compass for Kids}

We have an easy way for kids to make a compass on their own.

This simple magnetic compass needs only a few basic household supplies like water, needle, magnet and a small piece of foam or cork. Kids Activities Blog loves helping kids learn about the world around them with simple hands-on science projects like this.

Make a Compass {Simple Magnetic Compass for Kids}

How to Make a Compass with a Magnet

It’s easier than you might think to make a compass. All you need are a few simple household items and you can put together a compass that shows due North with surprising accuracy.

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Supplies Needed to Make a Magnetic Compass

  • bowl of water
  • sewing pin or needle
  • magnet
  • small piece of craft foam, cork, or paper

How to Make a Compass for Kids {Simple Magnetic Compass}

Directions to Make a Magnetic Compass

Step 1

Cut a small circle from a material that will float in water. We used some craft foam but cork or even a piece of paper will work.  

Step 2

The next step is to turn the sewing needle into a magnet. To do this, stroke the needle across the magnet about thirty to forty times.

Be sure to stroke in one direction only, not back and forth.

Now the needle will be magnetized!

Step 3

Next, place the needle on the circle of craft foam or cork and place it on top of the water.

Try to place it in the center of the bowl, keeping it away from the edges. The needle will begin to slowly turn around and eventually the needle will point North and South.

Checking Accuracy of Homemade Compass

We were so amazed to watch the needle finding North and we checked the accuracy of our DIY compass with a compass app (we used Compass from Tim O’s Studios. It was free to download and very simple to use).

How to Make a Compass at Home - Easy Science from Kids Activities Blog - paper plane flying over compass
How does a compass work?

Why this Works

Every magnet has a north and south pole.

A compass is small magnet that aligns itself with the north and south poles of the Earth’s magnetic field. As the needle is stroked across the magnet, it becomes magnetized because the electrons within the needle straighten up and align themselves with the magnet.

Then the magnetized needle aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field, when it is placed on top of the water.

More Science Fun from Kids Activities Blog & Other Favorite Resources

Your child will be so proud that they were able to make a compass on their own. We’d love to hear how they used their new magnetic compass. Leave us a comment!


  1. Sha nay nay ???????? says:

    QUESTION TIIIIIIIIIIME: What if you don’t which way north is?

  2. mohit chaudary says:
  3. mohit chaudary says:
  4. Traveling at night in the woods is not a great idea, so you’ll be doing this in the day time. That said, you can figure out which direction is north by the fact that sun rises on the east and sets on the west. Then all you do is either mark the paper as to which direction the needle is pointing north or just remember which side of the needle is pointing north.

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