The Periodic Table

The periodic table of the elements is a visual way that chemists have developed to organize the elements of the universe.  With this method elements are grouped next to other elements that are similar.  As the periodic table was being developed there were many undiscovered elements whose presence was predicted based on a blank spot in the chart.  The periodic table is one evidence that the universe is orderly and predictable.

Printable Periodic Table

Then print out a blank Periodic Table of the Elements and have the kids color in the different “families” of chemicals as shown in the periodic table below.

The periodic table of the elements explained simply for kids and their parents.

Some Rules of the Periodic Table

  • Periods run horizontally across the table and the atomic number goes up one as you move from left to right. The atomic number is the number of protons in an atom. The atomic number is the large number at the top of the box for a particular element.
  • Groups run vertically down the table and all elements in a particular group have the same number of electrons in their outer shell, so they behave in similar ways.  The first group, the Alkali metals, have one outer shell electron.  The second group has two.  Then we skip the dropped down section and go to the group that begins with Boron.  The Boron group has three electrons, and so on up to the noble gases which have eight electrons in their outer shell.
  • The letters in each box are a symbol for the chemical. The symbol for carbon is C, the symbol for lead is Pb and comes from the Latin for lead which is plumbum.
  • The number at the bottom of the elements box is the atomic weight, or total weight of protons, neutrons, and electrons for that element. Hydrogen, which has one proton and one electron has a weight of 1. (The weight of electrons compared to protons and neutrons is negligible and not really counted.)

Carbon on the periodic table

After you’ve explained the basic rules of the periodic table, quiz the kids giving rewards for good performance.

Some examples of quiz questions

  • Which family does Xenon (Xe) belong to?
  • What is the chemical symbol for gold?
  • How many electrons are in the outer shell of Boron (B)?
  • Name an element in the same group with Carbon.
  • Which element has the chemical symbol Na?
  • How many electrons are in the outer shell of the Halogen gasses?

You get the idea. This exercise is not intended to help kids memorize the periodic table, but rather to learn what the symbols mean and how to interpret them, so they can reference the table when they need information later.


  1. There are a number of really fun periodic table songs on youtube. I have used them to add some fun to learning the periodic table. My kids have several of the songs memorized, which helps.

  2. I’m a 5th grade teacher and we are beginning our study of elements and the periodic table. THANK YOU for creating an excellent, free resource to help introduce my students to the periodic table!

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