Electromagnetic Spectrum Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sandra Van Fleet
This lesson briefly describes the electromagnetic spectrum and each of the electromagnetic waves. It also teaches what wavelengths are, and gives some examples of where we find electromagnetic waves in our daily lives.

What Is the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

Have you ever gone outside after a rain shower and noticed a rainbow in the sky? Maybe you have had an x-ray to see if you had broken a bone. More than likely you have at least watched the television or used a cell phone. What do these all have in common? Well they all involve the electromagnetic spectrum.

The electromagnetic spectrum is a diagram that charts electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves are waves that can travel through the emptiness of space, at the speed of light. The seven types of electromagnetic waves are radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light waves, ultraviolet waves, x-rays and gamma rays.


The electromagnetic spectrum takes all the electromagnetic waves and lines them up based on their wavelengths. So what is a wavelength? If you have ever been to the beach and watched the water move, you have seen a wavelength. Electromagnetic waves move similarly to the rising and falling of water waves. From the top of one wave to the top of the next wave is called a wavelength. If the wavelength is long, you will experience less waves. If the wavelength is short or closer together, you will experience more waves.

The electromagnetic spectrum is set up based on this idea. The order from longest wavelength (lowest energy) to shortest wavelength (highest energy) is: radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light waves, ultraviolet waves, x-rays and gamma rays.

Radio waves have the longest wavelength, while gamma rays have the shortest wavelength.
electromagnetic spectrum

Electromagnetic Waves in Your Life

Think of this scenario. You are lying in bed, when your alarm clock goes off. You get up and feed your fish, when you notice the light from your window is creating a rainbow in the corner of the tank. You head downstairs to the kitchen. As you enter the kitchen, you use the remote control to turn on the radio in the kitchen as you pop a breakfast burrito into the microwave. After eating and getting ready for school, you head out on this sunny day to wait for your bus. In this scenario, you have experienced almost all of the waves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Visible light is seen in a range of colors.
Visible light

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