Tin Lesson for Kids: Element Facts & Properties

Instructor: Sara Clarke-Vivier

Sara is a recently graduated PhD in Education with interdisciplinary experience in K-12 education.

Believe it or not, tin has been a very important metal in human history. In this lesson, we will explore the element's properties, where and how it is found, and its impact on ancient technology.

Tin

Tin-man. Tinfoil. Tin pan. Tin cans. Tin is a metal you've definitely heard of before. But how much do you know about this flexible, shiny, and essential element? Let's dig down deep and explore tin.

Tin Properties

When you think of a metal, you might immediately think of something hard and shiny, like gold or silver. While tin is shiny, it is not particularly hard. Tin is known as a malleable and ductile metal. Materials that are malleable can be hammered out thin and flat without breaking. Materials that are ductile can be stretched, often into thin wires, without breaking. These qualities of tin might help you understand why you've heard of this metal being pressed into pans, cans, and foils.

Melted Tin
Tin

Tin also has a low melting point. This means that it only takes about 450 degrees to turn tin, a solid at room temperature, into a liquid. The oven in your kitchen easily reaches that temperature every time you roast a chicken! The low melting point of tin is part of the reason that the shiny foil you might use in your kitchen might be called tinfoil, but is actually made of aluminum, a metal with a much higher melting point.

Where Can Tin Be Found?

Tin makes up less than 0.001% of the Earth's crust, making it a relatively rare metal. Most tin is found in the 'tin belt,' an area that stretches between China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Tin is usually mined from the ore cassiterite. After mining, cassiterite is heated in a large furnace with the element carbon. In this process, called smelting, high temperatures melt the metal away from other parts of the ore, making it possible to separate out the liquid tin.

A Piece of Cassiterite Ore
A Piece of Cassiterite Ore

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