How Many Colours in a Rainbow?

I have a gripe about some of the educational materials that children are exposed to.  It relates to the colours of the rainbow.  Every adult knows that rainbows have seven colours.  Well, okay, since we’re being pedantic, rainbows are basically the splitting of visible light into a spectrum of colours of which seven are most prominently visible – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Yet, when you watch many of the childrens’ programs around, they teach children that there are only six colours of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Indigo and violet have been lumped together under purple.

I don’t understand what the purpose of this “simplification” is for.  What’s the matter?  You think a child who has learned how to walk, talk and develop a basic understanding of the world around them in as little as two to three years cannot learn the names of an additional two colours?

Considering the magnitude of information that a child absorbs in the early years of growing up, I think it is sheer arrogance for adults to think that a child cannot absorb the knowledge of another two colours into their already vast database of information about the world.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “How Many Colours in a Rainbow?

  1. Too many to count. The traditional description of the rainbow is that it is made up of seven colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Actually, the rainbow is a whole continuum of colors from red to violet and even beyond the colors that the eye can see.


  2. Yes, you’re right, rainbows – or at least what we see – is merely a splitting of visible light into a spectrum of colours. The seven colours may have been arbitrarily selected because they are the most prominently visible colours observed when we look at a rainbow and I’m sure there are many shades in between if you look carefully.

    However, the point I was trying to make is that we teach children in school about the seven colours of the rainbow, so why teach them there are only six when they are toddlers and then have to correct this again when they enter into school?


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