Quick science activity: Make your own compass

A compass on top of a map


In this month's book for our Cockatoos, the main characters go on a breathtaking adventure and rely on their compass to get by. So we thought it would be fun to show you how to make your own compass using a pin, a magnet and a few others bits you will have at home:

Make your own compass

You will need:

  • A pin
  • A magnet
  • Sticky tack
  • A bottle lid or something similar that will float
  • Medium-sized bowl
  • Water
  • Pen, paint or a small sticky label


  1. Hold your pin in one hand and stroke the magnet along it from one end to the other. Repeat this 50 times, making sure that you always stroke in the same direction.

Stroking a magnet over a pin

  1. Put the sticky tack in the middle of your bottle lid and press the pin into it.

A pin stuck to the inside of a lid

  1. Fill the bowl with water and gently place your compass on the surface of the water. It needs to be able to turn freely to find north, so nudge it away from the edge if necessary.

  2. After a short time, the pin will align itself in one direction. Even if you turn it around, it will return to the original orientation after a few seconds.

  3. Before you can label your compass you will need to work out whether it’s the point or the head of the pin that is pointing north. You could:

  • look at a map of where you are,
  • think about where the sun rises (east) and sets (west),
  • ask an adult!
  1. Use a pen or label to mark north on your compass

The finished compass

What is happening?

You have turned the pin into a magnet, known as magnetising it. One end of every magnet is attracted to the Earth’s magnetic North Pole, which is why your pin will always spin to point in that direction.

We would love to see your finished compass and how you choose to use it! Tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Parrot Street Book Club is a monthly book subscription for kids aged 5 to 11. Each monthly parcel includes a new chapter book to keep and a fun-filled activity pack created to accompany it. Find out more and subscribe here.


Children's book news straight to your inbox

Sign-up now