Tag: chemistry activites for kids (Page 2 of 3)

Elements, Atoms, and Molecules

What are elements, atoms and molecules? How do we study them?

Chemistry Vocabulary:

Elements– Chemists have identified substances that can not be broken down further using chemical means. These are called the elements. Examples of elements are oxygen, carbon and gold. Jefferson Lab has a list of the 10 Most abundant elements in the universe.

Atoms- Atoms are the smallest units of elements. They are also what makes up all the matter in the universe.

Molecules– Many elements are found in nature as two or more atoms interacting together. When two or more atoms interact together or bond, then the result is called a molecule.

Atoms from different elements can also form molecules. An example of a molecule of this type is water, which is formed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

A friend used to ask me, “Has anyone ever seen an atom?” Recently scientists have developed technology that allows us to do just that. It is called an atomic force microscope/scanning tunneling microscope. They use extremely cold conditions to hold the atoms or molecules still enough to visualize. Want to see what they look like?

A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie

This is a stop motion animated movie created using images from a scanning tunneling microscope. Note: This should really be called a boy and his molecule, because the researchers moved carbon monoxide (CO) molecules to create the images.

Moving Atoms: Making The World’s Smallest Movie

In the video below you can see how researchers made A Boy and His Atom. You can also see how excited the researchers are to be doing this creative project and how it has practical applications. It is well worth watching.


Related activity:

Make An Element Collection

One great way to make chemistry more concrete is to have have experience with the pure form of different elements.


  • A periodic table of the elements (About.com has some to download for free)
  • Box for holding the collection
  • Paper and pen or computer for generating labels
  • Tape or glue (for attaching labels)
  • Small vials for holding samples (optional)
  • Elements

Caution:  Some elements are gases at room temperature, and would be hard to hold in a collection. Some elements, such as mercury, beryllium, and arsenic, are toxic and should not be collected by children.

Elements that you can find at home, hardware supply stores, department stores, rock shops, etc.

  • Carbon:  coal, charcoal
  • Copper:  plumbing supplies
  • Aluminum:  foil, pots and pans
  • Iron:  nails, some magnets
  • Magnesium:  Campfire starters (warning:  highly flammable!)
  • Tin:  new lead-free fishing sinkers
  • Lead:  older fishing sinkers (handle with rubber gloves and wash hands afterwards)
  • Silicon:  computer chips
  • Platinum, gold, silver:  jewelry, small amounts available at bead stores
  • Lithium:  specialized batteries
  • Sulfur:  rock and mineral shops
  • Zinc:  Galvanized nails, electrodes in lemon battery kits (can be toxic if sufficient amounts are swallowed)
  • Tungsten:  Light bulb filaments
  • Neodymium:  Magnets (very powerful, handle with care)
  • Nickel:  Many neodymium magnets are nickel-plated
  • Titanium:  bicycle parts

Always label the items in your collection with the name of the element, and when and where you collected it. That way you won’t forget what it is and you can tell your friends where you found it.

You might also want to include elements in common compounds (not in pure form):

  • Sodium:  Table salt (Sodium Chloride)
  • Iodine:  Iodized table salt
  • Calcium:  Chalk, antacids (Calcium carbonate)
  • Magnesium:  Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate)

Collecting elements can tie in nicely with a rock and mineral collection. For example, look for rocks with copper, sulfur or iron. Panning for gold is fun, too.

copper-mineralsCopper is found in many minerals including azurite and malachite.

Looking for more information? Try:

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray, with photographs by Nick Mann

To get an idea what the book is like, Theodore Gray has his periodic table of element photographs at http://periodictable.com. To look at each element, click on the photograph.

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1579128955
ISBN-13: 978-1579128951


Slide1Check our Chemistry Week Table of  Contents page for links to all our activities.

Chemistry Week for Kids

Every once in awhile we have a week of related themed posts here at Growing with Science (see for example, Children’s Garden Week and Ocean Science Week.) This week we are excited to pull together a full week chemistry experiments and activities for kids.


Learning about chemistry is important because in many ways it is central to all other fields of science. Anyone who wants to study science will need to understand chemistry.


Chemistry experiments are thrilling for kids because the results usually appear quickly. They can also be performed with common household items or those available at your local pharmacy.

This post will be the Table of Contents for the week, where I will add links as they go live (Some of these may be modified throughout the week).

Monday – Elements, Atoms and Molecules

Tuesday – Using chemicals from plants to study pH (for Seed of the Week)

Wednesday – Easy endothermic and exothermic reactions to explore

Thursday – Chemistry resources for young adults

Friday- Chemistry Experiments for Kids using Table Salt


As always, you are welcome to join in our party. Please share your related links or questions in the comments.


popular-chemistry-books-for-kidsYou may want to visit our list of popular chemistry books for kids for more ideas.

25 Items for a Chemistry Activity Box

Summer is on the way and it’s a great time to have a bin or box of items on hand for when the kids are looking for something to do. Last year I suggested 25 items for investigating physical science. This year let’s gather 25 items that will be sure to excite your child’s inner chemist. (Note:  These suggestions are mostly for ages 5+ and always keep safety in mind by reading and following the safety warnings on the labels of any product.)chemistry-bin

Chemistry-themed activity box:

1. Measuring cups and spoons

2. Clear plastic cups to serve as beakers – washable and reusable, or clean baby food jars

3. Goggles for eye protection, one set for each child

4. Clean plastic soda or water bottles for mixing

5. A big box of cornstarch, to mix with about equal parts water to make cornstarch goo. Kids of all ages love to revisit this messy activity again and again. Mix outside or cover the table with a large garbage bag for ease of clean up. See also activity 4 of the Agricultural Science post for instructions for making cornstarch plastic.

6. Bubble mix -or the ingredients to make bubbles, see bubble science , rainbow bubbles. Add glow paint or glowing highlighters to make glowing bubbles.

7. Blackboard chalk and/or sidewalk chalk – see what liquids dissolve chalk (water, lemon juice. vinegar, soda, etc.)

8. Hydrogen peroxide – for elephant’s toothpaste

9. Rubbing alcohol – use to build a density column

10. Tonic water and a black light for more glowing chemistry

11. Vegetable oil, food coloring and water to study oil and water separation
, make a lava lamp

12. Vinegar– common acid to explore acids and bases

13. Baking soda to make volcanoes and rockets. For an incredibly simple, yet effective volcano: Have your child make a volcano shaped heap in a sandbox or loose soil, if no sandbox is available. Make a hole in the top, about 1 1/2 inches deep, and pour in some baking soda. Then pour in about 1/2 cup vinegar and stand back for the eruption. The cone can be rebuilt again and again. Add red food coloring to the vinegar to simulate lava. (Celebrate Chemistry has more information).

. Yeast– see #15 and elephant’s toothpaste (#8)

15. Sugar, balloon and a water bottle. Mix the yeast, sugar and water in the bottom of the water bottle and then cover the opening with the un-inflated balloon. Watch what happens as the yeast begins to grow. Also, add sugar to your bubble mix (#6).

16. Tumeric – can be used as a pH indicator, see acids and bases section of Chemistry Day post.

17. Salt – chemistry of rust, for example

18. Baby oil – density columns and lava lamps

19. Iodine – for older kids, indicates presence of starch. Iodine is available at many pharmacies. See Iodine Chemistry post for experiment ideas

20. Dish detergent– useful for DNA extraction and elephant’s toothpaste (see #8)

21. Mentos candy and soda for geysers – I know it has been overdone and it is definitely a messy outdoor project, but kids do still like it. Soda is also useful for exploring acids and bases.

How to get started from Steve Spangler (there is a pop-up ad):


22. Metal objects such as nails, washers, paper clips, etc. Place in jars with either plain water, water plus salt, or plain vinegar and see what happens. (Chemistry of Rust)

23. pH paper – If you don’t have a favorite science supply store, pH paper can be found in garden supply stores for soil testing or some aquarium suppliers for water testing.

Other items to have on hand in the fridge:

24. Lemon juice can also be used to make invisible ink and with Pennies, nails. Add lemon juice from the kitchen to clean the penny, and copper plate the nail.

25. Red cabbage juice to explore acids and bases, or make a fried green egg


All you need is red cabbage from the grocery store, a blender (adult help), glasses or plastic cups and items to mix with the red cabbage solution, such as lemon juice, soda, vinegar, baking soda, dish detergent and laundry detergent.

Some recipes call for boiling the cabbage (smelly!), but you can just grind up the fresh red cabbage in small batches with enough water to allow the blender to work properly. Pour the batches together in a pitcher, which can be placed in the refrigerator for use later in the day if necessary or even frozen. Pour about 1/3 cup of the red cabbage juice into testing containers such as clear glasses or plastic cups. Then mix in about a Tablespoon of one of the testing compounds. Does the color change? Try another material in the next glass. Does the color change more if you add more test material? What happens if you mix two materials, like vinegar and laundry detergent? Have fun admiring the wild colors you can make.

You can also use frozen mixed berries ground in the blender with a bit of water. The mixed berries smelled better, although they don’t give quite as good a range of colors as the red cabbage.


We’d love to hear your suggestions for more fun ways to explore chemistry with kids!

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