Public key cryptography means that the entire communication between both parties is public, including the setup. Contrast this with the case of two parties $A,B$ meeting in secret, agreeing on some keyword, and using this keyword to encrypt future communications.
Clearly, if $A,B$ decide on the encrpyption scheme in public, something has to be kept private (otherwise you could decipher the messages just like the parties involved). This is the private key, so the flow is something along the following lines: $A$ and $B$ publicly discuss and share some information with each other and the world, then they do something in private and send each other encrypted messages. Witnesses to the public exchange alone can’t recover what is being said.
The child version of such scheme which I like is the following. Suppose $A$ and $B$ want to agree on some secret color, only known to them, however the entire exchange must be public. Under the assumption that mixing colors is easy, but given a mix recovering its components is hard, then $A$ can send $B$ can each choose a secret (private key) color denoted by $a,b$. Then $A$ can send $B$ the color $c$ (public key), and the mixture $(a,c)$. $B$ now creates the mixture $(b,c)$ and sends it to $A$, and also mixes $(a,b,c)$ and keeps this compound to himself. Finally, $A$ adds $a$ to $(b,c)$ and is now also in the possession of the secret mixture $(a,b,c)$, known to $A,B$ but unknown to anyone who solely witnessed the interaction between them.