Learning About The Color Spectrum: A Hands-On Activity

We talk about the spectrum a lot around here.

“Spectrum” is used to describe many of my boys’ diagnosis. In addition to the autism spectrum, ADHD and mental illnesses are also frequently referred to as being “on a spectrum” of severity and symptoms.

It occurred to me this week, we have never really learned about the color spectrum – a beautiful, visual representation and the very basis of what we casually refer to as a spectrum all the time.

Thinking it would be a perfect follow-up to our St. Patrick’s Day Social Skills Activity last week, (because every leprechaun needs a rainbow!) this week’s activity is all about creating our own color spectrum.

Learning About The Color Spectrum: A Hands-On Activity #kidsactivity #handsonlearning #colorspectrum #homeschoolscience

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Learning About The Color Spectrum: A Hands-On Activity

Before beginning any hands-on learning, we researched the history and science behind the concept of a color spectrum.

Here are some basic facts we learned with links to sources.

Definition of spectrum: the group of different colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet seen when light passes through a prism and falls on a surface or when sunlight is affected by drops of water (as in a rainbow).

The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 700 nm.[1] In terms of frequency, this corresponds to a band in the vicinity of 430–770 THz.

In the 13th century, Roger Bacon theorized that rainbows were produced by a similar process to the passage of light through glass or crystal.[2]

In the 17th century, Isaac Newton discovered that prisms could disassemble and reassemble white light. He was the first to use the word spectrum  in this sense in print in 1671 in describing his experiments. Newton observed that, when a narrow beam of sunlight strikes the face of a glass prism at an angle, some is reflected and some of the beam passes into and through the glass, emerging as different-colored bands. Newton hypothesized light to be made up of particles of different colors.

Issac Newton divided the spectrum into seven named colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.



Friday Fun-days: 52 weeks of Easy For Mom Activities

After getting an overview of what the color spectrum actually is, we decided to create our own.

We used the following materials:

Large White Construction Paper

Chalk Pastels (for better blending of colors along the spectrum)

Latex Gloves (optional, but necessary, for a sensory child who hates the feeling of chalk on his fingers!)


We started out by coloring bands of color, in the same order as the rainbow (color spectrum). We then used gloved hands to blur the space between the colors to show the progression of the spectrum.

It worked really, really well. My son was impressed with himself and so was I.

Then, we set about labeling the different colors and the wheels came off the homeschool bus. He made a mistake when labeling orange and then the entire thing was ruined (as far as he was concerned). Knowing that it was useless to try to convince him otherwise, we came up with a Plan B.


Instead of writing the labels, we printed them out in their respective colors. He opted for tape, instead of glue (because I have no idea) but it all worked out.

Problem solved. Meltdown averted. Activity back on track.

Want to try this fun and easy activity with your kiddos? You can print out the same labels we used here and get started today!

Happy Friday.

Looking for more hands-on learning?

My Ultimate Guide To Hands-On Learning Activities


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