Atoms are tiny but very important building blocks of everything in our world. Find out what are the three things that make up an atom, and how to make your own atom model project. We have a list of materials you need, it’s super simple, and tips and suggestions for easy atoms you can make.


What Is An Atom?

Everything is made of matter, and all matter is made of atoms. Atoms are the building blocks of everything! They are so small that you can’t see them with your eyes, but they make up everything around us.

There are 3 parts of an atom, which are even smaller particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons. The protons and neutrons are found in the center of the atom, called the nucleus.

The electrons orbit around the nucleus, kind of like the planets orbit around the sun. The random orbits of electrons are sometimes referred to as an electron cloud because the electrons are in constant motion, so the atom has no distinct outer edge.

The electrons in an atom are arranged in shells that surround the nucleus, with each subsequent shell being farther from the nucleus. The shell closest to the nucleus, can hold two electrons, while the next shell, can hold eight, and the third shell, can hold up to eighteen.

Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge, and neutrons have no charge. In order for the charge of an atom to be neutral, there must be the same number of protons as electrons.

An atom is the smallest unit of matter that has the chemical properties of an element. The number of protons in an atom’s nucleus determines what element it is. For example, all hydrogen atoms have one proton, while all helium atoms have two.

Understanding atoms and how they interact is important in many fields, including chemistry, physics, and biology.

Using The Periodic Table

The periodic table is a chart that displays all of the known chemical elements. Each element is identified by its symbol, atomic number, and atomic mass. The periodic table allows scientists to predict the properties of elements and how they will react with other elements.

You can use the Periodic table to determine the atomic number of an element. The atomic number is the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom. Each element has a different number of protons, which gives it, its place in the periodic table.

The number of neutrons in an atom can be different to the number of protons. It is calculated by finding the Atomic Mass minus the Atomic Number.

Atoms v Molecules

Atoms can stick together to form molecules, which make up things like air, water, and even the food we eat! When atoms bond, they can share electrons to form a molecule. Different combinations of atoms can make different molecules, which is why different substances have different properties.

For example; a molecule of water is made up of 2 hydrogen atoms joined together with one oxygen atom. A molecule of common salt is made up of one atom of sodium and one atom of chloride.

Atoms are also constantly moving and bumping into each other. This movement creates energy, which makes things happen, like water boiling on the stove or a light turning on when you flip a

Tips For An Atom Model Science Project

Science projects are an excellent tool for kids to show what they know about science! Plus, they can be used in all sorts of environments including classrooms, homeschool, and groups.

Kids can take everything they have learned about using the scientific method, stating a hypothesis, choosing variables, and analyzing and presenting data.

Want to turn this model into an awesome science fair project? Check out these helpful resources.

Easy Atom Information Printable (FREE)

How To Make An Atom Model

You really don’t need a whole lot of expensive supplies to make an atom model. We have two easy atom model projects for you to choose from. All you need are a paper plate and pom poms, or pipe cleaners and beads.

We also include instructions for two atoms you can make with each project, a Helium atom and an Oxygen atom.

Want to experiment with more atom models though? Here are a couple of things you need to know…

  • Protons and neutrons are the same size, and form the nucleus of the atom.
  • A neutral atom will have the same number of electrons as protons.
  • Electrons are much smaller than protons and neutrons. Though this is hard to represent with the second pipe cleaner and beads model.
  • The first electron shell will have two electrons, the subsequent shell will have up to 8 and the next one will have up to 18 and so on.
  • You can find the Atomic Number of any element (the number of protons) by using a Periodic Table.

Let’s get started with making an atom model!

Atom Model Project 1. – Paper Plate

Here we are making a helium atom. A helium atom has 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons.

The blue pom poms are the protons, and the orange pom poms are the neutrons. Protons and neutrons are the same size, which is why the 4 pom poms are the same size.

The 4 pom poms glued together in the middle of the plate form the nucleus of our Helium atom. The black circle drawn on the plate represents the orbit, or circular path, of the electrons around the nucleus.

The green pom poms are smaller than the orange and blue ones, because electrons are much smaller than protons and neutrons.

Additionally, the electrons are placed on opposite sides of the orbit because the negative charge of each electron repels them from one another.


  • 2 large blue craft pom poms
  • 2 large orange craft pom poms
  • 2 small green craft pom poms
  • 1 paper plate
  • Glue
  • Black Marker

NOTE: You can use any colors of pom pom you like!


STEP 1. Using the black marker, draw a large circle on the paper plate.


STEP 2. Glue the blue and orange pom poms to the center of the paper plate.


STEP 3. Glue one of the green pom poms onto the black circle drawn in step 1.

STEP 4. Glue the second green pom pom onto the black circle, but on the opposite side of the circle as the first green pom pom was glued.


Atom Model Project 2. – Pipe Cleaner

Here we are making an oxygen atom. An oxygen atom has 8 protons, eight neutrons, and 8 electrons.
The purple beads and the green beads can either be protons or neutrons as they are the same number. The 16 beads scrunched together in the middle of the pipe cleaner form the nucleus of our oxygen atom.

The white and blue pipe cleaner circles represent the orbit, or electron shells, of the electrons around the nucleus. The inner shell or blue pipe cleaner has two gold beads. The outer shell or white pipe cleaner has six gold beads.

Additionally, the electrons are placed on opposite sides of the orbit because the negative charge of each electron repels them from one another.


  • Pipe cleaners
  • Beads


STEP 1: Connect two pipe cleaners together on one end. Just twist them together.

STEP 2: Thread 6 beads of the same color onto this pipe cleaner and space them out evenly.

STEP 3: Connect the other ends of the pipe cleaner to make a circle.


STEP 4: Thread the remaining two beads of the first color onto a different pipe cleaner. Connect the ends to make a second smaller circle.


STEP 5: Place the remaining beads (16) onto one pipe cleaner and twist to make a center ‘nucleus’.

STEP 6. Attach the renaming portion of the pipe cleaner to the top of the circle.


What Is The Atomic Number Of…

Make another atom model with one of these common atoms below. You can also check the Periodic table for more examples.

  • Hydrogen atom has 1 proton, 0 neutrons and 1 electron.
  • Carbon atom has 6 protons, 6 neutrons and 6 electrons.
  • Boron atom has 5 protons, 6 neutrons and 5 electrons.
  • Nitrogen atom has 7 protons, 7 neutrons and 7 electrons.
  • Sodium atom has 11 protons, 12 neutrons and 11 electrons.
  • Magnesium atom has 12 protons, 24 neutrons and 12 electrons.

Additional Physics Experiments For Kids

Explore physics, including light, forces, sound and more with one of these hands-on physics experiments below.

Learn about atmospheric pressure with this incredible can crusher experiment

Explore forces with an easy to set up balloon rocket project.

Pennies and foil are all you need to learn about buoyancy. Oh. and a bowl of water too!

Check out these fun ways to demonstrate capillary action.

Make a pencil float with this easy friction experiment.

Explore sound and vibrations when you try this fun dancing sprinkles experiment.

Make a color wheel spinner to explore light.

Can you light a light bulb with a lemon battery?