How to Make a Compass for Younger Kids

What kid doesn't dream of being a pirate? Of course, every pirate needs a compass to find the buried treasure. Making this compass is not only fun but a great lesson in science as well. This compass uses basic household items and actually works. Your kids will be amazed.

    Choose a shallow plastic bowl or a 4 to 6 ounce plastic cup. Stick a quarter size piece of clay to the bottom of the inside of the bowl or cup; center the clay and mound the middle slightly. Push a toothpick into the center of the clay; mold the clay around the bottom of the toothpick to hold it in place.

    Carve out on a short side of the cork a small hole approximately 1/8 inch across and 1/4 inch deep. Use a small knife or the end of a chopstick. Place the indented end of the cork onto the end of the toothpick so the cork balances on the toothpick. If it doesn't stay on very well carve the hole a little deeper. The cork needs to balance on the toothpick, not be attached firmly to it.

    Rub one end of the sewing needle across the magnet about 50 times. This will magnetize the needle. Paint the tip of the magnetized end of the needle. Use a black marker instead of paint to mark the needle.

    Fill the bowl or cup with water just until the cork begins to float. Lay the magnetized needle across the top of the cork. The needle should turn toward north.

    Mark on the sides of the bowl or cup N, S, E and W to represent north, south, east and west. You can also use stickers to put the letters N, S, E, and W onto the edges of the bowl or cup. Move the bowl or cup carefully to different locations to see what direction the needle points.

    Things You'll Need

    • Plastic bowl or cup
    • Clay
    • Toothpick
    • Cork
    • Sewing needle
    • Magnet
    • Paper
    • Marker


    • Do not let children younger than 10 use a knife.


About the Author

Amy Hannaford teaches childbirth education classes and a healthy pregnancy series in Southern Oregon. Hannaford holds an Associate of Arts degree, a certificate in medical assisting, and has been a childbirth educator and birth doula for 20 years. She has been writing articles for Demand Media since 2008.