There are three basic states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Everything on Earth is made up of microscopic particles (molecules, ions, or atoms), and the speed and density of these particles determine which state of matter and object is. The properties of the three elements are very easily defined and identified.
A solid is anything that holds a particular size and shape. An apple, a block of wood, and a penny are all solids. The only way they can change their shape is by force (for instance, if you bite the apple with your teeth or chop the block of wood with an ax).
The particles in a solid are tightly packed and don’t make a lot of movements.There is not much free space in between the particles, so there is very little room for the particles to move.
A liquid is anything that has size or volume, but does not have a shape. Liquids must be contained in a cup, bottle, or receptacle in order to have a shape. Milk, water, and juice are liquids. When you pour milk into a glass, it takes the shape of the glass. If you spill the glass of milk on the floor, it will spread quickly as it takes the shape of the floor.
Liquid particles are not as close together as particles in a solid, and move around and past each other much more freely. They have no regular shape or arrangement and move freely.
Gases are hard to identify because they have no color or shape. Take a deep breath and feel your lungs get bigger. Your lungs are filling up with air, and air is a combination of many gases. It has no shape or size.
The particles in a gas move freely at high speeds. There is a lot of free space in between the particles, and they take the shape of any container
Resources for Kids
The following links may help you understand the different states of matter:
- States of Matter: Contains images of particles to show how they move in each of the three states of matter.
- Chem4Kids States of Matter: A more detailed explanation of the states of matter, including plasma and condensates.
- Science Projects for Kids – States of Matter: Some great experiments for kids to do with parents or guardians.
- States of Matter – Dialogue for Kids: Some great facts and resources for children.
- BrainPOP States of Matter: Offers a great video on the states of matter (subscription required).
- Heat, Temperature, and States of Matter Review: A great quiz for students on states of matter and temperature.
- neoK12 States of Matter: Fantastic quizes and videos for children of all ages.
- eLearning For Kids: Great interactive lesson on the states of matter.
- Enchanted Learning: Extensive instruction and resources on matter.
- Change It!: Fun activity to see what happens to different states of matter when heated or frozen.
- States of Matter Animations: Helpful animations to see the different phases of matter.
- Energy and Matter: Fun online lessons on matter and energy properties.
- States of Matter Millionaire Game: A fun game to help learn about matter.
- Matter Games: Big list of educational online games.
- Ask a Scientist: A scientist’s explanation on the states of matter.
Resources for Teachers
This set of links is geared towards educators and those teaching children about the states of matter:
- eThemes – Gases, Liquids, And Solids: A great collection of links for teachers.
- States of Matter: Links for teachers and their students.
- WebQuest for Properties of Matter: A wonderful WebQuest for students learning about matter.
- What’s the Matter: Another great webquest on the states of matter.
- States of Matter Quiz: A quick test on the basics of matter.
- Mass and Matter: Extensive resource list of activities and lesson plans.
- Forms of Matter PowerPoints: Helpful collection of presentations.
- Elementary Science – Matter: Great teaching ideas.
- Proteacher: Creative lesson plan approaches submitted by real teachers.
- States of Matter: A great resource for teachers and students alike.
- States of Matter Lesson: Great lesson idea for teaching matter.
- Lesson – The States of Matter:Lesson plan and worksheet for grades 7-8.
- StudyJams!: Fun activity and lesson plan on matter from Scholastic.
- States of Matter Videos: Fantastic collection of video experiments from scientist John Murrell.
- SMILE Program Chemistry Index: Large collection of lesson plan ideas, with a special section on matter.
- States of Matter: NASA’s page on matter.
- CHEMystery States of Matter: A more advanced lesson plan on matter.
- NOVA – States of Matter: A great lesson from PBS.