How Are Rainbows Formed? Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:17 The Colors of the Rainbow
  • 1:12 How Does a Rainbow Form?
  • 2:32 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.

Can you really find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? How many colors are in a rainbow? How is a rainbow formed? Let's find out in this lesson!

The Colors of the Rainbow

Chances are, you've seen a rainbow at some time in your life. If not, don't worry, you likely will at some point! This lesson will teach you how rainbows are formed. First, let's take a look at the colors of the rainbow.

One of the first things you probably notice about rainbows is the fact that they have a lot of colors. A quick way to remember the colors of the rainbow is the name 'ROY G. BIV.' The letters stand for the colors that make up the rainbow.








When you see rainbows in nature, a few things are happening:

  • Your back is to the sun
  • It is most likely before 9 AM or after 4 PM
  • It is probably in the summer (winter rainbows are not very common)
  • It has recently rained or is still raining, but the sun is shining

When you see a rainbow formed in nature, it will often have a fainter rainbow right above it. This is called a double rainbow. Sometimes this is easy to see, and sometimes it's not very easy to see.

How Does a Rainbow Form?

The sun plays an important part in forming rainbows. The sun shines through the water particles and the water particles act like prisms. A prism is an object that is transparent, or see-through, and when light passes through it, it gets 'bent' or spread out into a bunch of different colors. When white light, which contains all of the colors, gets bent or spread out by a prism, you can see the colors separated out from the white light. Pretty cool, huh? The raindrops work like prisms to bend the light. Then, you can see a rainbow.

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