Learning how to make your own compass is pretty easy, and it really doesn’t take much time at all.

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To make your own compass you will need:

  • Needle
  • Magnet
  • Bowl of water
  • Piece of cork


  • Circular piece of wax paper

Rub the magnet across the needle, in the same direction, about 50 times.  Make sure that between each stroke you lift the magnet clear of the needle to make sure that you don’t demagnetize it.

You can either cut a circle out of wax paper and thread the needle through it.  Or you can balance it on a piece of cork.

Place your cork and needle in a bowl of water.  Your needle should start to point towards magnetic north.

We found that if you had electronic devices close by then it would interfere with the compass.

make your own compass

EC with his prize! A meringue, he was very happy, and he kindly shared some with BB.


To add an extra element to this activity I set up a scavenger hunt for him in the back garden.  He had to follow the instructions set out using his compass.


EC loves to do these sorts of things, especially if it is a survival skill that he might get to use one day.  BB joined us for the last part of the hunt.

The science behind it

When you rub the magnet over the needle, you leave behind some magnetic material. Basically, turning it into a weak magnet itself.

When you put the compass on the water you are removing as much friction as possible.  This allows the Earth’s magnetic field to pull at the magnetic material in the needle.

If you enjoyed learning how to make your own compass be sure to check out how to make a kaleidoscope and a leak proof bag experiment.

Pin for later:

learn how to make a compass in this simpe science experiment for kids.