STEAM Camp: How to Make a Magnetic Field Sensory Bottle

Sometimes it’s the simple activities that are the most mesmerizing.  I whipped up these Magnetic Field Sensory Bottles in just a few minutes, but the whole family can’t stop playing with them.  And the science behind them is pretty cool too.  Magnetic ink floating in water allows you to see the elusive magnetic field of a magnet.
Make a magnetic field sensory bottle for some mesmerizing science fun. Part 1 of a 5 week Summer STEAM Camp series.

SAFETY NOTE:  Magnets are extremely hazardous if swallowed.  Please keep them and the magnetic ink away from children who still put non-food items in their mouth.  Please use your own experience to decide whether the completed wand and bottle are safe for your child and consult your pediatrician if you aren’t sure.

Magnetic Sensory Bottle Supplies Needed

This project uses a special kind of ink called MICR. You can also use iron filings but will want to skip the water in the bottle because they will rust.

For the Bottle:

For the Wand:

You can buy a regular magnet wand for young kids like these, but for older kids and adults, strong magnets make a big impression. Safety first, always, please.

Mesmerizing Science Fun… Watch the video!

This bottle is hypnotizing.  You will not be able to put it down.  It’s as if your hands are now magnetized too and must procrastinate all work and housekeeping in order to see how the magical ink shards move around.  We had to make three of these so that all of us had one to play with in the house!

You can watch it in action!


Make the Magnetic Field Bottle

Magnetic ink?  Yup.  It’s the ink used for bank checks so that they can be read by machines.  You know the crazy numbers and symbols at the bottom of a check? Those are printed in magnetic ink, most of which contain iron oxide. The process is called MICR for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition.

  1. Empty the mouth wash out of the bottle and rinse well.  Remove the labels. WD-40 is my magic label gunk remover, by the way.

Bottle Supplies LBCB

  1. Next add your ink.  If yours came in a squeeze bottle, give it 2-3 squeezes.  If it didn’t add about a teaspoon of ink.  The stuff is really mess and weirdly sticks to surfaces, so be sure to cover anything you don’t want black.
  2. Fill the bottle all the way with water and seal well.  If you’re worried about your kiddo opening it, you can seal it with a hot glue gun or some duct tape.

Filled Magnetic Bottle LBCB

  1. Shake shake shake the bottle well.  In the beginning, the ink particles will stick together and look clumpy.  The more you shake it or the more you use it, the finer they become.

Make the DIY Magnet Wand

For this project you can use one of those store bought magnet wands {affiliate}, but honestly it’s a lot more fun to use neodymium magnets.  To make them safe for younger kids, you want to securely wrap them into a DIY magnetic wand.

  1. Figure out how many magnets you want to put in your wand.  Ideally use at least 4, but even one makes the bottle fun.
  2. Take your straw and make a small slit in the end just long enough to fit your stack of magnets into the end.
  3. Wrap straw in tape, making sure to cover the end.  I used masking tape, but honestly, the magnets can rip through it, they’re so strong, so I recommend using duct tape.

DIY Magnet Wand LBCB

Now Play!! 

When you try the bottle watch the flow of the magnetic ink. I’m serious, it’s the most zen thing you can add to your day and your kiddo’s day.

Side Magnet LBCB

Two Wand Magnetic Bottle LBCB

More Magnetic Fun for Kids

Magnet Painting is the ultimate STEAM project!!

Add this mesmerizing magnetic bottle to a Mess-Free Magnet Learning Center!

Check out our M is for Magnets ebook from the Preschool Play Lab series, too! It outlines all of your preschool centers (not just science!) for a fun, magnet-filled week.

Summer Learning Made Fun

Summer STEAM Camp

This post is kicking off a 5 week series with some of my favorite bloggers who all love STEAM. Because learning with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math gives kids the power to do almost anything they can dream up. And these projects show that you don’t have to give up summer fun for a little bit of learning.  This week’s topic is all about things you can See.

How to Make a Simple Kaleidoscope for Kids || Little Bins for Little Hands

How to Make a Magnifying Glass for Outdoor Exploration || One Time Through

Number Chart Art || Pink Stripey Socks

Print and Color Tessellation Puzzles || Frugal Fun For Boys

Make a Thaumatrope || What Do We Do All Day

Make Your Summer Epic with Camp STEAM

Summer is almost here! Are you ready? Do you have a plan?

We’ve created a plan for epic summer fun with the family. Let us help you create an at-home summer camp filled with fun projects the kids will love. And what if we told you that you could make it educational, too…

Fun, hands-on projects for kids.

Kids will love projects like paper helicopters, ice cream lab, electric crowns, lemon volcanoes and more! Included in the Camp STEAM Activity Planner are;

  • 15 cool STEAM projects
  • 5 STEAM stations for independent creativity
  • 5 fun snack ideas
  • 5 games
  • Bonus activities

Each project comes with an easy to understand What’s the STEAM? lesson, perfect for preventing summer brain drain.


Plus! The tips and tricks you need to make camp a success.

We’ve included a Camp Success Guide which gives tips and tricks for setup, cleanup, managing children of different ages and abilities, and more.



52 thoughts on “STEAM Camp: How to Make a Magnetic Field Sensory Bottle”

  1. Pingback: How to Make a Magnifying Glass for Outdoor Exploration - One Time ThroughOne Time Through

  2. Anne – these pictures look absolutely AMAZING!!! We have to do this. I’ve been looking for a while around local shops trying to find some iron filings so I could show my son the magnetic fields, without any luck – but this will be so much cooler! Oh and by the way – we had a ton of fun taking apart a keyboard the other day – thanks for the inspiration! Sue

  3. This is AMAZING!!! I remember someone using very strong magnets to pick up dollar bills… I wonder if they use magnetic ink too? Pinned!

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  5. This looks awesome! Thinking about doing it with a class – how many bottles do you think one magnetic ink refill would make? TIA!

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Glad you like it! I’m guessing that you could get 10-15 bottles out of one bottle of ink. I made three and it didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the bottle.

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  9. This is incredible. I actually have a few practical ideas from for this. :) Thank you!

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Hi Tara! It should but you might want to add a little more of the ink so that it can spread around more. One thing to know is that the magnet won’t be strong enough to pull ink from one end of the bottle to the other. It’ll still be cool, you’ll just have extra space.

  10. Tracy Lieberman

    Very fun idea! I’m wondering if it would work just as well with iron filings….? We have an entire bottle of those!

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Hi Tracy! It will work, but you won’t get the same kind of fluid movement as with the ink because the filings are a bit larger. Also, they will rust, too. Give it a shot without water first because of the rust issue.

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  12. We finally did it! We totally are fascinated with it and can’t stop playing with it. I think the parents are having more fun with it than the kid. Thanks for the idea! Plan to share it with the science teacher at the kiddo’s school.

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    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Hi Jamie. Yes you can use iron sand but don’t add water to the bottle because it will degrade over time and the water will be a messy red. The ink really makes for a better bottle.

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  22. I was so excited to make these with my kids but it totally didn’t work. The magnetic ink is hardly attracted to even pretty strong magnets. It certainly doesn’t do anything close to what the pics and video show. What am I doing wrong?

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Hi CK. How big a bottle did you use? If you have too much water the effect isn’t very dramatic. I used a travel mouthwash sized bottle.

      1. Yes, it’s really small. It’s these small travel bottles you would use to bring liquids on a plane, maybe 4 oz or so.

        1. leftbraincraftbrain

          Hmm… I’m thinking that you might have bad ink. If you put a little in a baggie, does it move with the magnet? I’ve bought a few different orders of this and never had any trouble. The other thing to check is whether you have enough of the ink in the bottle. Sorry this isn’t working for you!!

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    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Yes! When you put it in a bottle of water it flows around but doesn’t mix into the water.

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