Types of Minerals: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Meers

Sarah has taught elementary education for 10 years and has a master's degree in Education Leadership.

What are minerals? How do we use them? In this lesson, you will learn the answers to these questions as well as the different types of minerals and how scientists use physical properties to identify them.

What is a Mineral?

Minerals are everywhere, and we use them every day. They are found in the rocks we skip across a lake, the nails and bricks we use to build our houses, the cans our food and drinks come in, and the iron and steel that we use to make our cars. That is just a few examples of how we use minerals every day in our lives.

A mineral is a solid piece of matter that can be found in nature and has specific physical properties that can be used to identify it. Just like the examples above, there are thousands of different minerals in the world that are used to make thousands of different products that are part of our lives.

Minerals are often found in rocks and caves.
cave with rocks and minerals

Properties of a Mineral

There are many physical features that scientists use to identify, or name, the different minerals. Here are some of the most common physical properties:

  • Color - Scientists can use the color of the mineral to help tell what type it is.
  • Luster - Luster is a fancy word scientists use to describe how the mineral reflects light. They observe the mineral to see if it is dull or shiny when the light reflects on it.
  • Streak - The streak is the color the mineral makes when rubbed across something else. Surprisingly, sometimes the streak is different from the mineral's color.
  • Hardness - When scientists look at the hardness of a mineral, they look for items that can scratch the mineral, such as a penny or a nail. Scientists use a special test called the Mohs Hardness Scale to identify the mineral's hardness.
  • Specific Gravity - Scientists also use the density to help them identify the mineral. The specific gravity is a ratio between the density of the mineral and the density of a different material--usually water. In other words, it is a measure of how the atoms that make up the mineral are bunched together.
  • Fracture/ Cleavage - These words describe how the mineral breaks into pieces. Scientists ask the question: 'Does it break into a smooth surface or a rough surface?'

Scientists observe minerals and categorize them based on the physical properties.
scientist mineral

Different Types of Minerals

Scientists usually begin by separating minerals into two groups: metallic and non-metallic. Metallic minerals have metal in them. This gives them a shiny luster. Non-metallic minerals do not contain metal. This gives them a dull luster.

Sometimes many minerals grow together. This rock has multiple minerals--some that have a dull luster and some that have a shiny luster.

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