How to Build a Model Periodic Table of Elements

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Written by Colleen Leonard of Solagratiamom.

I love to introduce higher-level concepts to younger students in an easy-to-understand. It’s exciting to see them get it when they aren’t expected to master the topic for a few years.  When given the chance and by using the right approach, children much more than we might expect.

One of those topics is chemistry. My children have explored the concepts of atoms, molecules, and the Periodic Table of Elements (PTE). I wanted to find a fun way for them to really start understanding the breakdown of the Period Table of Elements and each element.

It always helps when they can get their hands on a concept in a way that will really stick with them. So, I decided to let them create a giant Periodic Table of Elements board using egg cartons!

What You’ll Need to Build a Model Periodic Table of Elements

  • 45” x 35” Piece of Cardboard (you can use any appliance box and cut it to size)
  • 11 Egg Cartons (flat-bottomed egg cartons work best)
  • Kilz White Paint
  • The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! book (optional –could use online PTE graphic of your choice instead)
  • Poster from the book (or make an 11”x17” copy of the PTE graphic you chose instead)
  • Card Stock Copy of the PTE graphic you chose (this will be cut up to put on board)
  • Paints in colors you choose to match your reference book or printed PTE
  • Hot Glue Gun

This project will take a couple days because of drying time for paints. It took our co-op 3 class periods to make it and about 3 hours of time total.

How to Build a Model Periodic Table of Elements

Step 1: CUT the egg cartons so they will lie flat on your board. This will mean you have to cut or tear out the peaks inside the egg cartons that go between the rows. Then arrange them to match the number of columns and rows in your PTE graphic’s layout. out.


Step 2: ARRANGE all the egg cartons exactly how you want them and then hot glue them into place, being sure to keep your arrangement matching your PTE graphic.

Step 3: PAINT the entire board white with Kilz on Day 1. This will give you a good base for the next layer of paint colors on the following day.


Step 4: PAINT egg cartons with colors that match the PTE graphic you have chosen. On Day 2, paint each row checking that you have covered all sides. We used slips of construction paper between to avoid painting the rows beside the one the kids were working on. You could use a painters’ tape if desired.

Older kids can generally free-hand without getting the paint in places they don’t intend. You will most likely have to mix colors to get the shades you want. (Tip: Save old applesauce or fruit cups to use as paint holders for these types of projects.)


Step 5: CUT out each element from the 11”x17” cardstock copy of your PTE graphic. Then, arrange them on the egg cartons in order of the Periodic Table of Elements. Next, hot glue one element label onto each egg carton bottom.

PTE Instructions

Step 6: ENJOY! You can create a frame for your PTE Board using pieces of interior trim. Paint the trim and hang your board to enjoy for years to come!

This article was written by a Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers guest author. See the author's full bio in the body of the post.

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  1. This is by far one of the best hands-on science projects I’ve seen in a while. I’m pinning it, tweeting it, and sharing on my FB page! Thanks so much for sharing!

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