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Properties of Light: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 What Is Light?
  • 1:16 Reflection
  • 1:46 Absorption
  • 2:28 Transmission
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April DeBord

April has taught Spanish and English as a Second Language and she has her Ed. S. in Foreign Language Education.

In this lesson, you'll learn how light is created. You'll also learn about the different properties of light by exploring how it behaves with objects in different ways: by reflecting, absorbing, or transmitting.

What Is Light?

Annie's family was having a bonfire last weekend. It was getting dark outside, so she stayed near the bonfire. But that made her curious: How do bonfires create light much like the Sun does? So, Annie asked her dad.

He explained that, like the bonfire, the sun burns gasses to emit (or give off) light. However, the sun burns different types of gasses, which explains why the sun gives off a different color of light than the bonfire.

While they use different types of gasses, there is one main reason that both emit light: the burning of gasses causes a chemical reaction that creates electromagnetic energy, which is a type of energy that takes the form of magnetic and electrical waves. In physics, waves are the invisible vibrations that affect objects and even space to create light, color and more. The electromagnetic energy created from the burning gasses is what makes light.

But there's much more to be learned about light. In fact, light has different properties - which means it behaves in different ways - depending on the type of object that it hits. It can be reflected, refracted, absorbed or transmitted. Let's learn about these properties below.

Reflection

After the bonfire, Annie's dad tucked her in bed. She became curious and asked, 'Why can't I see my toys, dolls and furniture when the lights are off?' Her dad explained that, in order to see an object, it must reflect light. Reflection is when light bounces off of an opaque object. An opaque object is an object that you can't see though, like your dolls and toys. The light travels from the light bulb to the objects in your room, bouncing off so that the objects are visible to your eyes.

Absorption

Sometimes, not all of the light is reflected by an object. Some of it is absorbed. Absorption is when the object soaks up some of the light waves.

The absorbed light cannot be seen by the human eye. This explains why some objects give off certain colors. Different waves of light appear as different colors, and the waves that are reflected are the ones that we can see. The waves that are absorbed, we cannot see.

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