Walking Rainbow Educational Color Activity

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Most kids are fascinated by rainbows, and today’s educational activity will show them how to create their own, exciting, “walking rainbow!” This activity is a little bit art and a little bit science, but it’s 100% fun for all ages (adults included). This would be a great educational color activity to do when introducing your young child to the concept of primary colors and the color wheel. If you are working with older kids (or older and younger kids, at the same time) you could also use this activity to talk to them a little bit about the science of water and capillary action. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, we also think this Walking Rainbow Educational Color Activity could be a very, cool on-theme science/art activity to try out in your homeschool.

What You’ll Need:

Another thing to love about this craft is that you don’t need a ton of expensive or hard-to-find items to do it. You may even have everything at home already! You’ll need:

  • Six small cups (plastic or glass)
  • Red, yellow, blue food coloring
  • Paper towels (select a size works best for the size rainbow you’re going to make)
  • Water

How to do it:

Place the 6 cups in a circle and fill up the 1st, 3rd, and 5th cup with water until ½ full.

Now we’re going to bring in the primary colors: red, yellow and blue! If you haven’t talked with your child about primary colors yet, the simplest explanation is to tell him/her that these are three very special colors because:

1. You can’t create them by combining any other two colors (which makes them pretty special in the color world).

2. However, you can use them to create every other color of the rainbow!

As you get started using primary colors in this rainbow activity, you’ll add 4 drops of food coloring as follows: red food coloring in the 1st cup,  yellow food coloring in the 3rd cup, and blue food coloring in the 5th cup.

Once you’ve added your primary colors, do a quick check to make sure you have a circle of cups that follows this pattern: 1st cup with red dye + water, 2nd cup empty, 3rd cup with yellow dye + water, 4th cup empty, 5th cup with blue dye + water, and the 6th cup should be empty.

Next, grab a sheet size of paper towel and fold it in half lengthwise. Then fold it again lengthwise to make a thin, thick strip. Arrange this piece of paper towel so that so that one half is in the colored water and the other half is in the empty cup. The middle should arch over the two cups (but not too high).

Repeat steps until all of the cups are connected by paper towel arches. Now sit back and watch the magic happen!

What to Watch for and Discuss:

  •  Observe the movement of water. Watch to see how the water actually climbs up the paper towel and then back down into the empty cup next to it, seemingly in defiance of gravity! That’s because this activity simulates a phenomenon called capillary action. Capillary action may seem and look magical, but it’s very much a part of our everyday life. In fact, all plants stay hydrated via capillary action as the water bonds to the fibrous veins and climbs up them! Talk to your kids about capillary action while you observe it in this Walking Rainbow Educational Activity.
  • Look to see what happens to the colors in this walking rainbow. This is a perfect conversation to engage youngers kids. Ask them to observe how the primary colors come together to create new colors! This is a great visual aid to help young kids understand more about the color wheel.
  • Keep watching, making observations and predictions. Not all of the magic happens at once. This is an educational activity that you’ll definitely want to leave set up and keep checking back in on. You may be surprised by how much water actually “walks” over to the previously empty cup next door. And, of course, the colors will continue to blend together to create an increasingly complex rainbow!


We hope you enjoy this fun, educational and beautiful Walking Rainbow Activity with your kids! And if you’re here because you’re looking for some educational, on-theme St. Patrick’s Day activities, be sure to check out this list of fun (and in most cases, free) educational activities to use in your homeschool this week! 


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