Make Your Own Rainbow Activity

4.0 based on 45 ratings
Updated on Mar 6, 2014

Studying the weather is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to introduce your child to science. Weather is present every day - in the wintry winds, the sun-drenched summer season, and even the occasional rainbow overhead. If the sun is shining right after it rains, look up and you may catch one.

However, you don't need to wait for rain to show your child a real rainbow. With this activity, you'll recreate the conditions which make rainbows appear, and teach your child the science behind all those pretty colors while introducing the concept of refraction!

What You Need:

  • Sunny day
  • Short drinking glass
  • Small mirror
  • Sheet of white paper
  • Water

What You Do:

  1. Help your child fill the glass about ¼ of the way full with water.
  2. Ask her to put the mirror in the glass.
  3. Then, turn the glass so the mirror faces the sun.
  4. Position the glass of water so that the sunlight shines on it.
  5. Help your child by holding the sheet of paper in front of the glass so that the rainbow can be easily seen.
  6. The sunlight will pass through the water in the glass and refract (bend), forming many different colors on the surface of the sheet.
  7. Encourage your child to experiment by holding the glass of water at different heights and angles while she watches for sunlight bouncing off the mirror.

What's Going on Here?

The water in the glass bent the sunlight. When the light is bent, it breaks up into the different colors of the rainbow. This process is called refraction and it's how white sunlight creates a rainbow on the paper. After it rains, lots of small drops are still in the air and as sunlight hits the drops, the light bends to make a rainbow.

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