Some people are just made for each other.  This person loves making cake, while that person loves eating it.  This person has feet that are too cold, while that person has feet that are too hot, so they never mind snuggling up to each other.  Atoms work the same way.  They feel a bond between them because of what one has missing and what the other has extra.  They are drawn to their opposite.  This is not just an electric feeling.  It really is electric.

Everybody likes cake!

I do not need to tell you that atoms do not share cake or hot and cold feet.  Instead, they share a part of what makes them what they are.  An electron is a little piece of energy that moves around the outside of an atom.  They have a negative charge, which means they are a -1.  When they start moving from one atom to another again and again, we call it electricity.  People do not have little things flying around them.  They do not have a + or a -.  There is no electricity when they meet someone they like . . . but the hairs on the backs of their necks might still stand up.

Let's look at an atom that is not so happy.  It has something missing and it wants that part of it to be filled.  It has cold feet.  It wants some cake.  A cation is an atom that has one less electron and so has a +1 charge.  Why does it give them a +1 to have something missing?  Taking a -1 away is like giving a +1.  This is not a good feeling for the atom.  It's like when someone tells you to bring a friend to a party, but you do not have anyone to bring . . .

I'm positive I'm missing something.
Photo by Katrin Morenz

Now let's look at a happy atom.  It has something extra that it would not mind giving it away.  It has hot feet.  It has too much cake.  An anion is an atom that has one extra electron and has a -1 charge.  Having an extra -1 gives this atom a charge of -1.  This is a good feeling for the atom.  It has lots of electrons around it.  Just like one person might have a lot of friends.  Or hot feet.  Or cake.  On the other hand, maybe sometimes the atom stares off into the sky and thinks that there might be something more out there for it . . .

If only these two could meet . . .  Wait, they can!  It's easy to see when someone is hungry.  It's easy to see when someone has cake.  It's easy to feel when someone has cold feet.  It's easy to feel when another's feet are hot.  When one atom that is missing an electron meets an atom that has an extra one, they are drawn together.  An ionic bond is made when atoms that have opposite charges, a +1 and a -1, come together.  Hot feet find cold feet!  A hungry person finds some cake!  They were made for each other!  Good thing this worked out.  There are no dating sites for atoms.

I hate to run around being negative all the time. Maybe I can bond with that.
Photo by Pfctdayelise

Some people are just made for each other.  So are some atoms.  Cations have a missing electron so they are a +1.  Anions have an extra one so they are a -1.  When these two meet, they make an ionic bond, which is great for both of them.  One no longer feels that something is missing.  The other feels that its extra parts are being used.  All feet are warm.  The cake is eaten and no one is hungry.  It leaves everyone with that electric feeling.


Chem 4 Kids.  "Bonding Basics"  Chem 4 Kids, 2012.  <>

Kidipede.  "Ionic Bonding"  Kidipede, 2010.  <>