The thought that the world is built with little building blocks that we can not see is something that fascinates kids.

by Holly

Likely after introducing the concept of atoms with your kid, you will be answering questions like:

  • Do atoms make up this table?
  • My arm?
  • Even the refrigerator?

Yes, yes, and even the refrigerator.

Kids love thinking BIG and thinking this SMALL is really, really BIG.


Everything is made of atoms. They are the tiniest piece of an element that still has all the properties of that element. So, if someone handed you an atom of Helium and you could see down to the molecular level, you would be able to tell it was Helium just by seeing what the atom looked like.

If someone broke off a small piece {big enough to taste} of chocolate chip cookie and you couldn’t see the chocolate chips or that it was round like a cookie, you probably could identify it as a chocolate chip cookie from the taste.

That is kind of how this works only MUCH smaller.


Atoms are a combination of protons, neutrons and electrons. The nucleus of an atom appears like the protons and neutrons are all smashed together which creates a spherical center. The electrons orbit around the nucleus.

The atomic number of an atom is the number of protons in that atom. The Periodic Table of Elements organizes it all. It is like atom alphabetization!

Let’s build one for fun!



  • craft pom-poms in three colors in equal amounts
  • craft wire
  • hot glue gun or regular glue and patience


1.Each one of the pom-pom colors will represent a different part of the atom: proton, neutron and electron.

2.To be very simple today, we are making a neutrally charged atom, so we will be using equal amounts of protons, neutrons and electrons. Previous art projects have depleted our pom-pom supply, so the two examples we show will have very small atomic numbers.

3.The wire represents the electron path. First, fashion electron paths for each of your electrons. These are orbits around the nucleus, so make them a little wider in the middle and narrow at the ends.

4.Hot glue the electron pom-pom onto the wire {we covered the end joint}.

5.Create a nucleus by gluing the proton and neutron pom-poms together in a ball.

In this example: blue=protons, yellow=neutrons and orange=electrons – this atom model has two protons, two neutrons and two electrons which makes it Helium

6.Make short stability rods out of the wire to attach the electron paths to the nucleus. To be fancy and minimize the visibility of these connector pieces, I glued the stability “rod” piece into the nucleus and then attached it at the electron path under the electron pom-pom at the original joint.

In this example: green=protons, orange=neutrons and yellow=electrons – this atom model has three protons, three neutrons and three electrons which makes it Lithium

7.Once the electron/electron paths are attached to the nucleus, you will need to do some atomic orbit arranging. The larger the atomic number, the more arranging!


  • First of all, my kids LOVED this activity. We ended up making a LOT of atoms. While we made each one, we discussed the atom anatomy and which parts belong where.
  • Each of the atoms we build we would look up its atomic number on the Periodic Table to see the name of what we had made. I loved how easy this is to do for kids and on several occasions, I was Googling element abbreviations and pronunciations.
  • Atom drawing: After this lesson, I noticed that the doodles and drawings of the boys started having objects in orbit. To have this 3-D concept interpreted by them in 2-D is pretty cool.