Something we at LittleLife love about Britain is the fact that you can experience every season in a single hour some days. We’re having downpours one minute and basking in glorious sunshine the next, these days. Our pre-schoolers are obsessed with spotting rainbows and if ever there’s the slightest hint of the magical rain+sun combination required, they watch the skies like hawks. Here’s how to make your own rainbow at home.
This make your own rainbow experiment is a brilliant way to discover not only about colour mixing, but also capillary action!
You will need:-
Six small glasses
- Six sheets of kitchen towel
- Food colourings
First, introduce your Little Explorers to the idea of colour mixing. This is one of the earliest science facts that children learn and because it is so visual it really sticks. We picked the primary colours of red, yellow and blue to set up our rainbow.
Take your six small glasses and line them in a row. Then ask your Little Explorers to measure out (if you’re brave) three teaspoons of red food colouring into one glass and fill it up with water. In another, measure three teaspoons of yellow plus water, and the final glass should be filled with three teaspoons of blue colouring plus water.
Ask your pre-schoolers to make a circle with the glasses so you have alternately filled and empty glasses. Then take six sheets of kitchen towel and fold each one four times lengthwise.
Ask your Little Explorer to pop one end of the first towel into the red glass, with the other end up and over into the bottom of the second glass in the ring. Then continue this cycle so another towel goes from the empty glass into the yellow mix, and another from the yellow to empty, until the circle is complete.
Immediately you will see the colour seeping up the towels! Then a fair amount of patience will be needed for the next hour or so as the colours keep on creeping up the towels and over into the empty glasses until each glass contains an equal amount of water. The next magical phase is when the colours start mixing – red and yellow will make orange, yellow and blue will make green, and blue and red will make purple.
This is a quick and effective science experiment which is perfect for pre-schoolers and infants. They love to see the gradual mixing of the colours and taking photos during the process really helps embed the learning!
Expert Explorers: Did you know that capillary action is the process that water uses to move along tiny gaps in the fibres of the paper towels? It is the same process that plants use to move water from the roots of the plant upwards to the leaves. Capillary action happens when the ‘adhesive’ forces between the water and the paper towel are stronger that the ‘cohesive’ forces between the water molecules themselves. That is, the water molecules are pulled apart and along by the stronger forces made between the narrow gaps in the fibres.