Elements Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Gold. Oxygen. Lead. Darmstadtium. While you may have never heard of darmstadtium, believe it or not, it has something in common with gold, oxygen, and lead. All four words are the name of elements. Let's get ready to learn all about elements!

What is an Element?

Have you ever watched a cooking competition on TV? A group of chefs get together and are challenged to make a certain food. The competition may start with just sugar, salt, flour, and chocolate chips, but in the end, they are always some tasty new creations!

Just like the competitors use different ingredients to make delicious food, everything in our world is made up of ingredients. These ingredients are called elements. Elements are solids, liquids, or gases that cannot be divided or broken into anything else.

Think of your favorite candy bar. Chances are, it probably has a few different ingredients in it such as chocolate, caramel, and peanuts. If you wanted to, you could take apart your candy bar and make piles of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. A candy bar would not be a good example of an element because it can be broken down into something different. Although it started out as a bar of candy, it became piles of sugary candy. It would still be very tasty, but it isn't a bar anymore.

On the other hand, what happens if you take a piece of gold and try to break it down into other parts? You can heat gold, freeze it, cut it up, or have Wylie Coyote try to drop an anvil on it, and it will still be gold. You can't turn it into anything but gold. That is because gold is an element.

An element cannot be broken down.

Atomic Numbers and Element Symbols

There are currently 118 elements known to man. Each element is given a name and a symbol. Elements can be named for a number of things such as a place, person, or mythical creature. For example, darmstadtium was named after the city in Germany where it was discovered. Cobalt, a blue metal, is named for the German word for 'goblin' which is kobold. Talk about a element you may have to co-bolt from in fear!

An element's symbol can be 1-3 letters that may or may not be part of the name.For example, hydrogen's symbol is its first letter, 'H'. Antimony, a metal known to the ancient Egyptians, was used in their black eye make-up. Its symbol is 'Sb' for the name the Egyptians called it, stibium.

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