Light spectrum explained for kids

Written by sarah lipoff
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Light spectrum explained for kids
A rainbow shows all the colours of the light spectrum. (rainbow image by maxthewildcat from

There are colours all around us that brighten our day and bring things to life. Favourite colours are made by a light wave that can be seen. Without these light waves, the world around us wouldn't be very colourful. The sun plays a large role in the colours we see around us, along with our eyes.


According to, the light spectrum is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which originates as heatwaves produced by the sun. These heatwaves vary in their wavelengths---some are long and others are short. These wavelengths also have to travel a long distance from the sun to reach the Earth, causing their lengths to vary.


Because the electromagnetic spectrum encompasses all wavelengths travelling from the sun, scientists have divided them into three groups: The shortest waves are ultraviolet waves, medium-sized waves are visible light waves, and the longer light waves are infrared waves. Radio waves are considered the longest waves originating from the sun.


According to NASA, visible light waves are the only electromagnetic waves that can be seen. Our eyes interpret these waves as the colours of the rainbow. Each of the colours has a different wavelength, which creates the colours we see. Red has the longest wavelength; violet has the shortest. Our eyes have cones, or receivers, that see these visible light rays. Our eyes see the reflection of the sunlight off of objects around us, which creates the colours we see.


When sunlight shines through a prism or is reflected through a droplet of water, the wavelengths are broken into the colours found in the colour spectrum. The colour spectrum is comprised of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Right after a rainstorm, the sun sometimes comes out from behind a cloud and creates a rainbow, which shows us the colours of the light spectrum.


Create your own rainbow to demonstrate the effect of the sun's visible light waves turning into the light spectrum. Fill an empty spray bottle with water and spray a fine mist of water in front of a sunny window. Watch as the water vapour breaks apart the wavelengths and creates a rainbow. Spray the water in front of a window where the sun isn't shining to see if a rainbow still appears.

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