The other day, my son asked me what makes fireworks different colors. "It's the elements" I explained: "different chemical elements in fireworks give different colors when they burn." Fortunately, I remembered* a couple of examples: red (strontium), blue (copper), and green (barium). Because he has a periodic table on his wall, those names were at least familiar to him.
I googled up a cool spiral version of the Periodic Table of the Elements (the original is here. I like this chart because the spiral line tracks the series of the known elements, ranging from 1 to about 107 (there are actually now 118 elements). Also, the radial arrangement indicates some of the “rhyming” between related elements (so-called periodicity).
Mentally uncoil the spiral and imagine a number line beginning with 1 (hydrogen), continuing with 2 (helium), then 3 (lithium), etc., and ending at 118. This is the alphabet of matter--just as 26 characters are the alphabet of our language. But just as the alphabet alone cannot capture the compositional richness of language--words, sentences, paragraphs, and books--the elements alone cannot capture the richness of the physical world. And yet the table of elements is still a marvel to contemplate.
*Added: a website link that tells you how to color flames with common household materials: Link.