Periodic Table of Elements

Do you remember your high school chemistry class where you were expected to memorize all of the elements on the Periodic Table?? I sure do, and did not enjoy it one bit…..I left high school disliking chemistry and anything that had the word “element” in it! As the years went on and I became responsibIe for teaching my children and other people’s children (I have taught elem. ed and preschool), I decided to take on the PTOE. I was going to overcome my fear of this table gosh darn it! And I did…in a big way…now loving and recognizing the connections that the elements have in our daily lives! I heard through the grapevine (Robin and Lori) that I needed to share this love of the PTOE and post how I do it. Really, it is so easy and I have become a big believer that the PTOE can be easy to teach children at any age, including those preschoolers…. I know this because I have done it!

My girls are 7&5. Here, they are hard at work loving the PTOE and solving riddles!

A great place to start is with a really good book (The Periodic Table- Elements with Style by Basher and Adrian Dingle)……..


A good Periodic Table of Elements…..

And some eager knowledge seekers……

A PTOE Scavenger Hunt

I like to introduce the PTOE with a scavenger hunt. Look at the PTOE and find the elements that are right there in your home, ie….potassium (banana), iron (breakfst cereal), lead (pencil), gold, nickel, tin, calcium, sodium (salt and dishwashing detergent) etc….. You may find yourself very surprised by how easy, many of the elements can be found in your home! Collect as many items as you can and place them in a basket.


Solving PTOE Riddles…..another great way to introduce the PTOE!

Challenge yourself and your children to some of these riddles….(btw, the pictures are from the book just mentioned, the riddles were written by me. The book does not come with the riddles).

1. You use me to write on your papers. What am I? (Carbon C- graphite)

2. In the Olympics, I am the metal you want to win 1st. What am I? (Gold Au)

3. I am in your kitchen pantry, waiting to wrap up some leftovers. What am I? (Aluminum Al)

4. I am found in jewlery, but am not as expensive as other metals. What am I? (Silver Ag)

(Here’s a picture of the expensive stuff).

5. There are two of me in one water molecule. What am I? (Hydrogen H)
6. Kids love me! I am often used to expand small objects and make them float. What am I? (Helium He)

7. When I am combined with 2 oxygen atoms, plants use me to engage in photosynthesis. What am I? (Carbon C)

8. I am a very important metal that makes your bones grow healthy and strong; you find me in dairy products. What am I? (Calcium Ca)

9. You take me when you have a belly ache. I can speed up your body processes and make you RUN to the bathroom. What am I? (Magnesium Mg)

10. You pump me to build your muscles; I am also found in your breakfast cereal. What am I? (Iron Fe)

11. I am bigger than a dime, but worth less. What am I? (Nickel Ni)

12. You put me in your swimming pool to keep it clean. What am I? (Chlorine Cl)

13. Without me, you’d die because you wouldn’t be able to breath! What am I? (Oxygen O)

14. When you mix me with hydrogen, I produce a vile stink….rotten eggs and skunky odors. What am I? (Sulfur S)

15. I am found in bananas and pumpkins. What am I? (Potassium K)

16. I protect people from the sun’s strong rays and prevent sunburn when you apply me to your skin. What am I? (Zinc Zn)

Each week I will focus on a different element, with an activity, and post it here on 5 Orange Potatoes. There are plenty of cool activities that can be done when focusing on the PTOE that make learning about the elements a lot of fun. *If you want a copy of the riddles my girls were answering here’s the download: The Periodic Table of Elements Riddles. Also a great place to visit is The Periodic Table of Videos They have a great video, with experiments, for each element!

21 responses to “Periodic Table of Elements”

  1. Shawn

    Pure genius. Most impressive blog post I’ve discovered yet. Props to you. I”m so stealing this idea. I am loving your blog, too. First time visitor and former good blogger … now working out of the home and trying to still keep my SAHMama attitude of enriching my kids lives.

  2. April

    Love this method of introducing chemistry and making it real to my boys (6 +9)! One of their
    (and mine, too!) favorite things for the last couple of months has been They Might Be Giants’ newest kids’
    album, “Here Comes Science” – their favorite song being “Meet the Elements”, of course! I could’nt get it
    out of my head for over a week! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jessica

    I can’t believe I just discovered this portion of your WP blog! I went to and added all of the Basher science books to my cart. I think I will get them for Benjamin’s Kindergarten curriculum this coming year.

    I’ll have to come back here to be inspired–I had no idea so many great “lessons” were posted–heck, I was wondering what PTOE meant all this time! Silly me!

  4. Debbie

    This is FANTASTIC! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. icybooh

    I’m so glad you shared this Lisa! I never took chemistry in HS or college. I’ve recently gone back to school for my MS, and I had to take 4 semesters of chemistry for my prereq! I was terrified the math would overcome me, but I rocked! – Along the way I share the chart and info with my daughter, and I think my excitement got her excited too. This resource you’ve posted has our names written all over it! We are so checking this out and working with the curriculum. I can’t thank you enough for posting it!!!!

  6. Erin

    Oh, I hated memorizing that list! This way looks so much more fun.. thank you for sharing! The little characters are so adorable and what child doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? I actually kind of want to re-learn now too! :)

  7. Lisa

    What a great way to begin studying the periodic table!!! I love it! Thanks!

  8. Fairiemom

    I LOVE THIS Series!!! We have the elements and biology ones and I just ordered the Physics one. They are such a great way to get the kids excited about a subject that can be very intimidating for some!!
    BTW – Your Blog is great too!!!

  9. Shona Leah

    Thank-you for sharing! This certainly allows them to see the periodic table as applicable. I can’t wait to introduce the elements in this way with my kids!

  10. Dawn

    This is so cool! I remember being so happy to have that table finally memorized, and then I promptly forgot it after the test. :) You have such fun ideas here.

  11. Tara

    My son Owen has been fascinated with the Periodic Table since he was about five yrs. old.

    We LOVE the Elements With Style book and I got Owen the physics book by the same author for Christmas.

    The PTOE scavenger hunt is a brilliant idea and will save me today… I needed some more activities to do with the snowstorm raging outside :)

  12. Cheryl

    not being a science or chemistry whiz kid back in the day, this certainly would have made my life easier!! And probably my grade better!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Louise

    That looks great Lisa and timely I am doing the elements with my 5 and 10 yo boys this year. We have been enjoying that book as well although your one looks bigger than our copy. I am also using Ellen Johnsom McHenry’s The Elements curriculum and the boys are really enjoying this- it even comes with songs to learn. We are also using another great book called Fizz, Bubble and Flash- by Anita Brandolini.
    I really like your quiz and your basket ideas.

  14. Mom and Kiddo

    I enjoyed reading this post. We do a lot of science experiments but my son hasn’t shown an interest in the concepts very much yet. This looks like a good way to introduce the table in the future. Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to your future posts about the table.

  15. Tan Family

    Fabulous! I’m going to do this with my children this week. I’ve been trying to think of a creative way to start a block on chemistry. Thank you!! :)

  16. Nikki

    Ha, very cool! I loved learning the periodic table (not that I recall them all now) and still get a buzz if I recognise them when used elsewhere. The pictures are a neat way to figure it out. I had never thought of calcium as being a metal, lol, learnt my new thing today…

  17. sybilbrun

    Wow you did an amazing job on this post…I am totally inspired for wanting to do this with my girls now! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  18. Adrienne

    What a great was to introduce the PTOE. I wish it was taught to me like this when I was in school!

  19. Anet

    This is great! Thanks for sharing it. I think my son Noah (9) will enjoy this. We will be looking forward to each week:)

  20. Beth

    Wow, that book is amazing! Why dont they teach it that way in high school!
    I am hosting a childrens swap if your interested :)

  21. dongdong

    oh, that is a fabulous book. Thanks for sharing your idea.