Teaching colors through hands-on rainbow activity

Help children use their observation skills outdoors to learn colors.

The other day my 4-year-old daughter and I were scanning the sky for a rainbow. It had just rained and the sun was starting to peak out behind the clouds. It wasn’t long and the rainbow emerged dazzling us with color. We looked at all the colors in the rainbow and noted the order in which they appeared along with what colors were next to each other. After a little bit, I thought it would be fun to make a rainbow and then to find objects inside and outside the house that were the same colors found in the rainbow. And that was the formation of the rainbow color activity!

Michigan State University Extension recommends that before drawing your rainbow it is best to see what a real rainbow looks like. You could wait around till one appears, or you can get a prism or other glass object and place it next to a window on a sunny day to make your own rainbow. If you get one to appear, it is best to put a white piece of paper behind it so the colors are more visible. You could also google a picture of a rainbow too. It is less intensive and more practical, but not as much fun!

Ask your children if they can name the colors of a rainbow from top to bottom. You will find seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. It may be hard to make out all seven colors, but encourage the children for the colors they can find. Next, get a big piece of white paper and have your kids draw and color their own rainbow. It is best if the rainbow is really big where each color of the rainbow spans 6 to 10 inches.

Once the rainbow is made you can compare it to the original you used to see if the order of the colors matches the original. Then the task! Try to find at least two objects outdoors that were the same color or similar to each color on the rainbow. Get your sandals on and run outside. This takes observation skills and looking around the yard to see what colors can be found. Leaves, flowers, pebbles even green grasshoppers and butterflies are all good examples. The items you can catch and bring in the house should be brought in and placed on your rainbow. The items you cannot catch as easily (like the butterfly) can be colored on your rainbow instead. Soon your rainbow will be full of items that have similar colors.

This is a fun activity that helps teach colors while also thinking about observation, describing, sorting into categories and of course developing art skills. All are skills that are important for early childhood development and will help your children learn, grow and have fun. The rainbow can become a piece of wall art to help them remember the activity.

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