Periodic Table of Elements Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shoshana Yarin

Shoshana has taught all grades with an emphasis in science and has a master's degree in science.

The periodic table is a very important part of the study of chemistry. In this lesson, you will learn what the periodic table is, where it came from and how it is used.

What Is the Periodic Table?

Bricks build houses and atoms build the molecules that make a brick. Atoms make up matter, but are all atoms alike? The answer is no. Different atoms make up different elements. An element is a substance that is made of only one kind of atom. For example, hydrogen or oxygen alone are separate elements. Water, which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen combined, H20, is not an element. All of the elements that we know in the universe are put together on a chart called the Periodic Table.

Periodic Table
Periodic Table

There are less than 100 elements that occur naturally on Earth. Different atoms make up each of these elements. The numbers of protons in an atom are what make it a specific element. For example, an atom of hydrogen has one proton, while an atom of oxygen has eight protons. Everything in the universe is made from different combinations of these elements. Think of a box of Legos. There are only so many shapes, sizes and colors, yet the number of things that could be built in different combinations is huge!

How Was the Periodic Table Made?

Many scientists attempted to arrange the elements, but Dmitri Mendeleev is given credit for creating the first chart. In 1869, when Mendeleev's first version of the periodic table was published, all the elements had not even been discovered yet. However, although his chart was not complete, Mendeleev was actually able to predict elements we now know! How did he do that? Mendeleev realized that because each element is made of a different atom, they each have their own properties.

Dmitri Mendeleev
Dimitri Mendeleev

A property is a specific characteristic that helps us identify something. For example, how do you recognize your teacher or neighbor if you meet him or her in the grocery store? They have certain characteristics like hair and eye color, voice or mannerisms that you recognize.

Elements also have characteristics or properties that help us identify them. For example, the color of gold and the heaviness of lead are properties. Dmitri Mendeleev used the properties of elements and their weights (or masses) to arrange a table of all the elements, even the ones they didn't know yet!

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