Introduction: Fridge Friends

About: More than 14 pulsating exhibits make the Children's Museum of Houston one of the top rated in the country. Packed with daily activities and invigorating performances, it’s the place where minds come out to pl…

Make magnetic characters to act out a story - literacy and science mixed together! This is a fun project for the youngest of makers and has been VERY popular in the exhibit!

This is one of the 48 projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston showing from May 26, 2012 - November 4, 2012. Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

For this project, we've taken an Instructable created by someone else and modified it for use in the Museum. This specific project is based on the Cheap-n-Easy Fridge Friends! (Magnetic Dolls) project by itskadie, but there may be others on Instructables that are also similar. In fact, this one is nearly identical to itskadie's, but I added in our own expereinces here and there, so full credit for this one goes to itskadie. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!

Step 1: What You Need

We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!

1 - Coloring Page (I've attached the ones we used - many thanks to my friends at WNET for the Cyberchase images and WGBH for the Ruff Ruffman image. The little robot is the Children's Museum of Houston's character Munchie. You can get images from coloring book or go to many children's programming websites like and they often offer free images of their characters to download).
1 – Self-Adhesive Magnet

Step 2: The Video

We offer optional video segments of each step for this project in the actual exhibit. Here is a compilation of all the steps.

Step 3: Step 1

Color your picture and cut out the character.

Step 4: Step 2

Attach the magnet on the back of the image near the top. Make several of them so you have several characters, then encourage your kids to act out stories on magnetic surfaces (like the fridge or washing machine). Coming up with stories helps to build communication skills and practice sequencing. Many early childhood classes now have pre-reading kids make up stories to help them build early literacy skills.

Kids can also use their Fridge Friends to test surfaces to see what is and is not magnetic. Fridge Friends stick to most (but not all!) refrigerators because of magnetism (a force that causes certain materials to attract and repel each other). Only a few materials have magnetic properties, like the iron-based magnets used in this project, which is why magnets won’t stick to everything. Many refrigerator doors have sheet metal inside them which is why magnets stick to them. But some are plastic or aluminum (like mine) so they won't stick!

Make It Real Challenge

Participated in the
Make It Real Challenge