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Colored Light

Look at the world through colored water.


  • food coloring (2–3 colors)
  • several plastic bottles filled with water (use bottles with smooth sides)
  • flashlights
  • white paper
  • napkins
  • aluminum foil
  • chart paper labeled “Color and Light”

Key Science Concepts

  • Objects appear to be a different color when viewed through a transparent colored material.
  • After passing through a transparent colored material, the color of the light looks like the color of the material.


Encourage children to use color words as well as key terms, such as light, transparent, and clear; descriptive words such as light and dark; action words such as describe and mix; and science process words such as change and compare.

You may want to talk about the two meanings of the word lightlight meaning a pale shade of a color (light blue) and light as a source of illumination (sunlight and lamps).


Tell children they will play with colored water and light, like the girls in the video.

  1. Add a few drops of coloring to each bottle, making each bottle of water a different color.
  2. Place the bottles in the sun and wait for children to discover the light cast by the colored water. What do they think causes the colored light? What happens if they put their hand in the colored light?
  3. Have them shine the flashlight through the glass. On the other side, hold the white paper up so the light shines through the colored water and onto the paper. Ask, What do you see? Where do you think the color comes from? What if you shine light through the colored water onto a piece of aluminum foil? How does it look? What happens if you shine the light through two bottles that are each a different color?
  4. What happens if you wrap a napkin around the bottle? How does that change what you see?

Reflect and Share

Begin a new chart called “Color and Light.” Make a list of all the experiments children tried with the water and light. Ask them what else they would like to explore about color and light.