Atoms are one of the smallest things we know and they make up everything we can see and touch around us. They are like the legos of the universe; little building blocks that can be made into lots of cool things.
Electron – negative charge
Proton – positive charge
Neutron – no charge but likes to hang out with its buddy the proton
The proton and neutron hang out in the middle of the atom.
The electron is pretty speedy and likes to circle around the proton and neutron. Electrons don’t exactly circle around but, we can get into that later.
If you have ever played with magnets, you know that magnets can attract each other or push each other apart. That invisible force comes from the positive (+) and negative (-) forces produced by the magnets (find more on how magnets work here).
For now we can picture an electron with a negative charge being attracted to the proton with the positive charge like a magnet but… the electron is moving too fast to fall close to the proton. It’s a little like how the earth is attracted by gravity to the sun but, it’s moving fast enough circling around the sun to not fall towards the sun.
Just like you have legos that are different colors and sizes, you have atoms with different features. An atom of Hydrogen has one proton and usually has one neutron and one electron. Helium, like in balloons, has 2 protons and usually has 2 neutrons and 2 electrons.
Just imagine each atom as a different type of lego block. Oxygen is a type of atom. Iron is a type of atom.
When you start to hook those different “lego atoms” together, you can make new things called molecules.
Here is a great clip I found on YouTube from Bill Nye the Science Guy. It doesn’t seem to be on TV anymore but it is a great series.
Below are some different ways you might see people draw atoms. Sometimes we call the protons and neutrons together the nucleus.