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What is the Element Tin Used For? - Lesson For Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Can you name anything that is made from tin? In this lesson, you'll learn about how tin has been used to make things that have been helpful to people for thousands of years.

What Is Tin?

Tin is a very light, soft metal. It's a silvery-white color and is easy to melt. Tin is too soft to use by itself, so it's often mixed with other metals to form an alloy. Alloys combine more than one metal so that the resulting alloy has the helpful properties of each one.

Tin? Can
can

Because tin resists corrosion, it's very useful. This means that it doesn't have a chemical reaction when it's combined with air or water. Tin is also easily molded into different shapes.

Tin Cans and Tin Foil

You probably don't realize that you use things made with tin every day. Maybe you've had soup for lunch that came from a 'tin can' or ate a sandwich that was wrapped in 'tin foil.' Surprisingly, these two things aren't really made from tin!

At one time, what we call 'tin foil' was made from a very thin piece of tin but today, it's made from aluminum. Tin cans are made from steel that has just a very thin coating of tin on it. The tin coating on top of the steel keeps the cans from breaking down or rusting.

Tin in History

One of the most important uses of tin is to make bronze, which is an alloy of tin and copper. Bronze was first made over 5,000 years ago and helped early humans to survive because they used it to create tools and weapons.

Bronze Spear Point
spear

Another alloy of tin is pewter. Tin was mixed with lead to create pewter, which was used to make dishes. Pewter dishes were used for at least 2,000 years, up to about 100 years ago. At that time, doctors realized that the lead in the pewter was harmful to humans. We don't use pewter in dishes any more, but it's still used to make decorative items.

How Do We Use Tin Today?

Most of the tin that is used today is used to make cans that can hold food and other items. Tin is perfect for lining steel cans because it doesn't corrode and it's not poisonous. It's also very shiny, which makes the cans attractive.

Tin and lead is combined to make something called solder. Because tin melts very easily, the solder can be melted onto wires to connect them together. This process is used to connect wires in many electrical appliances.

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