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What Is a Compound? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Molecules or Compounds
  • 0:47 Everyday Examples
  • 2:21 Umbrella Term
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Torrens
Compound and molecule are terms that are often used interchangeably, so it's easy to understand why you might be confused about what each word means. In this lesson, learn the definition of a compound and discover what everyday compounds surround you!

Molecules or Compounds

Chemistry is a really cool field of science, but it involves learning a lot of vocabulary. This can be daunting when you're first starting to explore chemical reactions. For example, you've probably heard of molecules and compounds, but how exactly are they different?

A molecule is when two or more elements are chemically bonded together. A compound is two or more different elements chemically bonded together. Wait, what?

Try re-reading the last paragraph, and see if you can pick up on the difference between the two terms. Got it? Here's the major difference: a compound has two or more DIFFERENT types of elements bonded together. As you know, there are 118 elements on the periodic table. To have a compound, there needs to be at least two of these elements. Let's look at some examples.

Everyday Examples

Believe it or not, compounds are all around us. Simply turn on your faucet and water will come pouring out. Water's chemical formula is H2 O, which means there are two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. So, is water a compound? Let's run down the checklist: Are there two different types of elements in water? Yes! Hydrogen and oxygen. Therefore, water is a compound.

Ready for another one? Alright, look at your kitchen table and find the salt shaker. Table salt's chemical name is sodium chloride and is represented in formula form as NaCl. There is one atom of sodium (Na) chemically bonded to one atom of chloride (Cl). Again, we have two different elements joined together, and thus table salt is considered a compound.

You are doing great. Take a big breath in, and exhale it. Okay, so you just blew a compound out of your mouth! The air that comes out of your mouth when you exhale contains carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide's chemical formula is CO2 because there is one carbon atom bonded to two oxygen atoms. Because carbon dioxide is made up of two different types of elements, carbon and oxygen, it is considered a compound.

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