The periodic table of elements is one of humankind’s iconic symbols. Despite the fact that you may only know the names and properties of several elements, you no doubt recognize the grid. Theodore Gray takes this famous table to a new artistic standard in his now world-renowned book The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. A bright and glossy black tome with a single element on each open 2-page spread, this is a great beginners resource for the visual depiction in high resolution photographs (if possible) and written description of each element. Accompanying each page are things in the world that are made up of the element. From common metals used in jewelry like silver and gold to rare earth metals like Lanthanum whose oxidation lights up camping lanterns, each element includes stories of how these elements are interesting to many more than just chemists.
If you or your kids are more digitally stimulated, there is also an iPad app ($13.99) that includes each page of The Elements book in HD. Or visit www.periodictable.com for free interactive fun with the elements. On this website, you can also purchase posters, placemats, and cards to enhance your child’s chemistry IQ.
A great companion activity to The Elements, is this 1000 piece puzzle that I recently put together. As you and your child add pieces to the puzzle, searching for similar-looking elements and browsing each name, symbol, and atomic number, I suggest looking up each element in the book or iPad app. When adding a new element to the puzzle, make sure to discuss what the element is and what it makes up in the world. Shout out, “I found Europium!” when adding this flaky rock to the puzzle, “And Europium creates fluorescence in light bulbs!”
Who knew chemistry could be so much fun!