Traveling Rainbows: An Easy Science Experiment To Do at Home

Hi there, it’s Calie!

Today, I want to share with you an experiment that turned an ordinary day at home into an colorful science adventure.

A few years back, when we were all spending more time indoors, I stumbled upon this experiment online.

The moment I saw it, I knew it was something I had to try with my kids. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

The experiment I’m talking about is none other than the “Traveling Rainbows,” a simple yet captivating demonstration of capillary action, water travel, and color mixing.

It was an instant hit with my children, and I’m excited to guide you through it so you can experience the wonder too!

What You Need

  • 6 glasses or jars (We used small glass bowls)
  • Paper towels
  • Food coloring in red, yellow, and blue

Steps to Your Own Rainbow

  1. Prepare Your Paper Towels: Fold six sheets of paper towel lengthwise. You might need to trim them a bit to ensure they fit nicely into the glasses, reaching from one to the next without too high an arch.
  2. Color Time: Fill the first glass with red food coloring, the third with yellow, and the fifth with blue. Add water to these colored glasses until almost full, and give them a stir.
  3. Set Up the Rainbow Bridge: Place one end of a paper towel in a glass with colored water, and the other end into an adjacent empty glass. Repeat this setup across all glasses.
  4. Watch the Magic Happen: Over the next 20 minutes, observe as the colored water travels up the paper towel and into the empty glasses, creating new colors in the process.

What’s Happening?

This mesmerizing process is all thanks to capillary action, the same principle that allows plants to draw water and nutrients up from the soil into their stems and leaves.

The paper towels, made of cellulose fibers, act like tiny capillary tubes, pulling the water upward against gravity.

This movement is driven by adhesion (the water molecules’ attraction to the cellulose fibers) and cohesion (the attraction of water molecules to each other), allowing the water to travel and mix colors along the way.


If you’re more of a visual learner, I found a great video on Youtube that might help you walk through this experiments with your kids. Here it is below:

Similar Experiments

Rainbow Celery

Dancing Raisins

Light Refraction Magic

Pepper & Soap Experiment

Experiencing this experiment with my kids was a beautiful, visual way to learn and play together, making those days at home a little brighter.

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or just a science enthusiast looking for a fun activity, the Traveling Rainbows experiment is a colorful way to explore scientific concepts with everyday items.

For more super-duper easy science experiments with kids, head to our main post “100 Easy Science Experiments For Kids To Do At Home“.

Happy experimenting!

Warmly, Calie

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