What is Chemistry? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shoshana Yarin

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

Chemistry is a branch of science that studies what everything is made of and how it works. Cooking and making ice are chemistry as well as medicines and paint. How does chemistry work and what does a chemist do? Find out in this lesson.

Definition of Chemistry

Why does a cake rise in the oven? What are fireworks made from? How does my stomach digest food? How does gasoline make an engine run? What is the proper way to describe hot and cold? What creates the shape of a snowflake? These questions and many more are answered with chemistry. Chemistry is the study of the make-up of all things and how they behave.

Chemistry tools
chemistry Equipment

What is Matter?

Everything that is anything is matter. Matter is defined as anything that has mass and takes up space. You are matter; trees, houses, rocks, water and even the air you breathe are matter. Not everything that is a noun is matter, however. Time, dreams, heat or light are not matter. They do not have any mass and they do not take up space. They are not made of matter.

What is Matter Made of?

Have you ever torn up a piece of paper? How small can you tear the paper? If you could keep dividing up that paper into pieces so small they could not even be seen with a microscope, you would get down to the very smallest possible particle that could not divide any further. That smallest particle is called an atom. An atom represents a specific element like hydrogen or oxygen or carbon. There are less than 100 natural elements that make up all matter in the universe in different combinations. In fact paper contains hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.

Maybe you have built something with Legos? Matter is made from atoms kind of like you might make something with building blocks. Some blocks are different sizes, colors, or have a different number of pegs for attaching. Atoms are the building blocks of matter and an atom of each element is different. When hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms are combined in a very specific way, you have a molecule of paper. (Molecules are combinations of atoms). If it is combined in a different way you might get sugar. That's how chemistry works.

Molecule of Sugar
Sugar Molecule

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