The Physics of Rainbows

The Physics of Rainbows at The Happy Housewife

By contributing writer Marci

I can’t think of anything that stops young and old in their tracks and makes them smile at the wonder of creation quite like rainbows. They are a welcome bright spot on a rainy day and a sign of hope for all.

Rainbows, in all their beauty, can be used to teach physics, particularly the physics of light. I guess that makes it the physics of rainbows!

What is light? (And what does it have to do with color?)

Light is an array of electromagnetic waves that are visible to the eye. The varying wavelengths of light create color. When waves of light hit an object, certain wavelengths are absorbed and others are reflected. We see those reflected wavelengths of light as color. For example, if you see green leaves on a tree, the color being reflected by the leaves is green.

When we see the color black, that object is absorbing almost all the wavelengths of light. (That is why black shirts and cars get so hot in the summertime – they are absorbing all those hot rays of sunlight.)

White objects are actually a combination of all colors. They reflect all the wavelengths of light.

How does light make a rainbow?

When sunlight passes through raindrops in the sky, the drops act like tiny prisms that bend, or refract, the sunlight. This bending causes the light to separate into its separate wavelengths of color which reflect back to our eyes causing us to see the rainbow.

The Physics of Rainbows at The Happy Housewife

When do rainbows occur?

Rainbows are seen when sun is shining through raindrops and the viewer is between the sun and those raindrops. The sun needs to be low in the sky (morning or early evening) for this to happen.

Can you make your own rainbow?

The Physics of Rainbows at The Happy Housewife

Yes! All you need is water and light.

  1. Garden Hose Rainbow – On a sunny day, spray water from a garden hose into the air. Make sure you are between the water and the sun. A rainbow will appear.
  2. Use A Prism – Get a prism and a piece of white paper. Allow sunlight or light from a flashlight to shine through the prism. Position the paper so that the light from the prism shines on the paper. This light should be in the form of a rainbow!
  3. Make A Water Prism – Fill a glass ¾ full of water. Place the glass on a white piece of paper. Set the glass where sunlight or a flashlight can shine through it. The water in the glass will act like a prism and bend the light into a rainbow on the white paper. The angle of light can be adjusted until you see the rainbow.

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Easy Cloud Science Craft and Activity

Easy Cloud Science Craft and Activity at The Happy Housewife

By contributing writer Colleen.

Do your little ones know what a cloud is? Clouds are fascinating and there are many crafts and activities available online, but many of them are just that – crafts and activities. It’s important for kids to know that clouds are made up of tiny water droplets or ice crystals.

Cloud Science Information

  • All air contains water.
  • Near the ground, it’s usually in the form of an invisible gas called water vapor.
  • Warm air rises, cools, and expands.
  • Cool air doesn’t hold as much water vapor as warm air, so the vapor condenses around dust particles.
  • These droplets come together by the billions and form a visible cloud.

These are great facts to start a cloud study with. Grab some cloud books at the library, and talk about the different types and kinds of weather patterns associated with them.

A Quick Cloud Science Activity

Facts are all well and good, but kids learn and retain best when they are actively involved in their learning. And that’s why I love hands-on activities. Especially when they demonstrate a topic simply and effectively.

Easy Cloud Science Craft and Activity at The Happy Housewife

Here is a simple water vapor activity:

  • Grab a spoon.
  • Have your kids look at it and hold it in their hands.
  • Tell them to breathe on the spoon and take a look at what happens.
  • Explain that the “fog” that forms is a little cloud. Water vapor that collected together on the surface of the spoon. That’s exactly what clouds do around dust.

A Simple Cloud Craft

Crafts have a place, too. Since the science activity is so simple and quick, do this cloud craft right afterward to give your kids a souvenir to remember the lesson. They’ll love it, and it will help cement their learning.

Easy Cloud Science Craft and Activity at The Happy Housewife

Cotton Ball Cloud Craft

  • Take 2 cotton balls and spread them out to resemble a fluffy cumulous cloud.
  • Glue the cloud onto cardstock.
  • Glue two googly eyes onto the cloud and let it dry.
  • Cut the cloud out so that it has a stiff cardstock back.

Have your child tell a friend about how their pet cloud was formed when water droplets collected around a tiny dust particle. And let them enjoy their new science friend. Take their cloud friend on a cloud hunt and try to find new friends and pictures in the fluffy clouds overhead. Get them outside and enjoying nature for themselves this spring.

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Rainbow Worksheets: Free Printables

By contributing writer Lauren

To add a fun, springy touch to your homeschool, download this set of rainbow-themed worksheets for your young learner!

Each of the worksheets in this 4-page set are geared towards your second grader.

Free Printable Rainbow Themed Worksheets at The Happy Housewife

In this Rainbow Worksheet Set:

  • Remembering the Colors of the Rainbow – Create your own mnemonic to remember the order of colors in the rainbow
  • Compound Words! – Determine the two small words used to create the compound word
  • What’s the Place Value? – Match each number with its correct place value
  • Scrambled Sentences! – Unscramble the words to form a complete sentence
Rainbow Worksheets
Rainbow Worksheets
April 2015 Rainbow Printables Happy Housewife.pdf
721.1 KiB

Be sure to check out all our free homeschool printables.

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31 Days of Read-Alouds: The Story of Ferdinand

In The Story of Ferdinand, we meet Ferdinand. A large, fierce looking bull who isn’t very fierce at all.

Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers, but the men have other plans for Ferdinand. My kids loved this book when they were little and it is still a favorite today.

Apparently Ferdinand is quite the favorite, since while searching for activities I found tons of images of Ferdinand tatoos!

the story of ferdinand

Activities for The Story of Ferdinand


31 Days of Read Alouds Square

See all of our Read-Aloud Books and Activities for the entire series here!

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