Fun with Paperclips 

Did you know that paperclips are over 120 years old? According to different sources, the paperclip design we use today comes from a design patented in 1899! May 29 is National Paperclip Day – so let’s celebrate this unique little invention that keeps our papers in order! What can you make from paperclips? What can you measure with paperclips? What kind of experiments can you do with paper clips?

Today’s activities all have a Paperclip theme. These activities include things that will help your child develop fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and engineering skills, and can help them engage in cooperative play, while fostering creativity and perseverance. Each theme also comes with recommended literature and movie connections. Feel free to throw in your own activities that might relate, and don’t forget to post your results to social media and tag @discoverymuse to share with everyone else! 

Art Activity/Fine Motor Activity – Create a Paperclip Sculpture

For this activity, you’ll need to collect an assortment of paperclips, and possibly some pliers to bend/unbend the clips.

Join Ms Jen and channel your inner wire sculpting artist!

Directions

  • Sort your paperclips by size, shape, or color. 
  • Think about what you’d like to create with your paperclips. You can bend them into new shapes or unbend them into long straight wires and use them like that. Try using pliers to create 90° angles or small curls.
  • Think of the design as the outline of your creation. 
  • You may want to start with a base or something to lean your creation on. 
  • Your design can also be flat and you can create a backdrop for your paperclip design.
Science Experiment – Magnets and Paperclips

Magnets are attracted to items made of iron, cobalt, nickel, and steel. Paperclips are traditionally made of galvanized steel wire, which means paperclips are magnetic.

Experiment with paperclips and magnets!
  • First, test out whether your paperclips are magnetic. Some paperclips are made of plastic or maybe be covered in a layer of vinyl. Hold them to the magnet to see if they are attracted to it. If so, great! If not, then you know what they’re NOT made of! 🙂 Put any not attracted to the magnet off to the side.
  • Now we’ll test the strength of your magnet. Hold the magnet so that it’s facing the ground. Place one paper clip on the magnet and see if it will hold while hanging upside down. 
  • Magnets have a field that extends beyond their edges and sometimes the field is strong enough to travel through objects. See if you can add a paper clip (not linking) to the other paper clip and see if it will stay. If yes, can you add a third clip to the chain? How long can you make the chain before pieces fall off?
  • Flip your magnet right side up and begin building a tower with the paperclips. Watch how the paperclips stack, fall, and pile. Why do they move the way they do? What does that tell you about the magnetic field?
  • Create a temporary magnet out of a paperclip. Hold the magnet in one hand and a paperclip in the other. Rub the paperclip against the magnet a few times in the same direction each time. Once that has been completed, place the paperclip near another paperclip and see if it will attract it. If not, try again, rubbing it a few more times on the magnet. If yes, can it pick up the paperclip off the table? Can you pick up more than one? Can you pick up smaller paperclips? Can you pick anything else up?
Physical Activity – Measurement with Paperclips

Get some of those wiggles out while learning a little about measurement and using the tools you have available.

Measuring with Paperclips
  • Link some paperclips together and start using them to measure the world around you.
  • Lay a long link on the floor and use it to measure how far you can jump, somersault, or stretch. 
  • Can you make a jump rope with your paperclips? A Skip-It? A limbo stick? A hurdle? An obstacle course?
  • What else can you measure? Compare measurements – organize them in order of length. 
  • You can also measure the diameter of things. How many paperclips around is your basketball? How many paperclips around is the family dog’s tummy?
  • Modern US Standard measurements come from a variety of places, including a King’s foot! How many inches long is one paperclip? Now that you’ve measured everything, can you convert your paperclip measurements into inches? Centimeters?
The World’s Largest Paperclip
Conversation Starters and Research Questions
  • Have you ever done something crazy with paperclips before? Though they were originally designed to clip papers together (hence the name), not everyone has used paperclips in the conventional way. According to a survey done in 1958, people used paper clips as toothpicks, fingernail cleaners, fasteners for shirts and blouses, tie clasps, chips and markers in games, and chains. What have you used them for?
  • The Guinness Book of World Records, the largest paperclip ever created was 30 ft high and 8 feet wide, weighed over 1,160 lbs, (that’s about as much as grizzly bear weighs!) and was built in Miass, Russia in 2010. 
  • The longest paperclip chain created by an individual was 8,290 feet long and was made in Bangladesh in 2019. That’s almost as long as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco!
Videos and Websites
Movie/Literature Connection:

There aren’t too many books or movies that relate to paperclips, so we found some other uses for paperclips related to books. So check out these simple bookmarks to make with felt and paperclips: https://www.projectswithkids.com/felt-paper-clip-bookmarks/
Or even top your paperclips with your favorite storybook characters! Then use them to mark your page in your current reading book.