Refraction of Light : Play & Learn Activity for Kids

Today we are going to learn about some simple physics by doing simple and easy science activity i.e. Refraction of light.

This activity is so quick and I really wondering how I missed this experiment this long to explain or show my kids and make them Wowww!! This is one among the 10 min STEAM activity. This activity is perfect for 5-7 years old kids (since they are in budding stage to understand physics), however all the kids can understand the science behind light refraction. Children under 5 years may not understand the science but they will enjoy the experiment results. The best part is, it is an experiment which is listed under experiments done with items available at home

Concepts Discussed
Refraction of light, different mediums
Who is it for

As mentioned it is suitable for all kids. However, 5-7 year-old kids can understand the science behind this. These children will know light and can relate to refraction. Smaller ones will enjoy but may not understand the details and the concept.

In the beginning, my daughters were like scratching their heads and saying “what Mamma!! What are you going to do only with a glass of water”? “We don’t find much ingredients except water which is boring!!” There is a reason why kids were disappointed seeing the ingredients because this experiment or activity is so quick and best part is that it does not need much ingredients. In addition, this activity doesn’t need much set up as well since we can set it up within minutes.

But after seeing the magic that light does in water, my kids were amazed. Let us see what made them surprised in this activity.

Playing with refraction of light - fun science for kids

What is refraction of light?

When light travels from one transparent medium (air) to another transparent medium (water), the speed of the light slows down and when it hits water it changes its direction slightly. This change in the direction of light is known as refraction of light. In a simple language, light refraction is bending of light. This looks simple and easy but it is unusual.

Supplies Needed

  • A piece of paper
  • Marker
  • A glass or jar
  • Graphic designed papers. You can download the graphic designs from the net and take printouts. (optional)

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Experiment  Steps : Refraction of Light


Firstly, ask your kids to fill the glass jar carefully with the clean and clear water. Here I tried to fool my kids saying that I have given them a magical liquid to fill. My younger one (5 year old) is almost in my trap but not my elder one (7 years old). She laughed at me and said ‘hey! Don’t fool me mom, it is just water’! Lollll…


Get a piece of paper and ask your kid to draw an arrow. Let the kids draw the arrow in any direction (any direction of arrow works out) and hold it vertically.


Now place the water filled jar in front of the paper (exactly focusing) just before the arrow. Adjust the glass jar between the glass and the arrow on the paper until the image (arrow) can be seen clearly through the glass.


Ask your kids to come in front of the glass jar and see what happens. Here ask them a few questions like ‘what did they observe’, is there any direction changes’, if the answer is yes (from kids), then ask for any clues or reasons to explain why it happened.

(You can have a debate session by gathering your kid’s friends as well. Having debate sessions improve their communication skills, speaking skills in public as well as builds confidence).

Coming to our activity, in step 4 you can watch the arrow appearing in reverse direction through the glass jar. This is just amazing and pretty surprising right!!

Now, my younger daughter took a paper and showed her drawing skills as well by drawing a small cat to check again through the water. J She is totally in wow mood seeing her cat in reverse direction through the water.

 Playing with refraction of light - a fun STEAM (or STEM + Art) activity for kids

In this way, you can ask your kids to observe the light refraction concept through a glass of water by trying different graphic design papers. We have tried some graphic zebra lines, round shaped dots, and some curved lines to observe the light refraction.
Refraction Of Light Science Experiment

Learning Refraction Go Science Girls

What to explore

  • Try different glasses and jars of different shapes
  • Repeat the experiments using different distances between the graphics and the glass jar
  • Also try the experiment using different liquids like oil, juice etc.


  • You can observe some aberrations or blurriness when you see through the glass. This is due to the imperfections in the glass production.
  • Things look like a little funny and different when you see through a glass.

Learning Refraction

What is the secret behind this activity?

Refraction Experiment for kids

The secret that made the experiment work is “Refraction”. As I already told you, refraction is bending of light as it passes from one medium to another medium. Ex: Air to Water or Water to Air.

In our experiment, the light wave traveled from the image (arrow) into the water crossing the glass cup and finally traveled out of the glass cup and again into the air and reached our eyes. Here, water acts as a magnifying glass which makes light more concentrated towards the focal point (near to the center). When the light ray goes beyond this focal point (to come out of the glass jar in order to reach our eyes) the image looks reversed. That means, the light on the left direction is now changes to right direction.

Hope you all too understand the experiment. Have a try with your kids!! 

effects of refraction

Science Facts Behind Refraction

Here are some concepts that you can teach to your kids.. 

How is refraction demonstrated in light?

Refraction is manifested as bending of light as it passes from one transparent medium to another. Here, the light wave or ray passes from air to glass and back to air before it reaches our eye lens. The bending is caused due to differences in density between the two mediums. When the light passes from more dense medium to less dense medium, the light refracts in reverse direction and vice versa.

Why does an arrow change direction behind a glass of water?

When the arrow (behind the glass) is observed at a particular distance, it looks like it is reversed itself. Actually what happens is when light travels from one medium to another, it is proved that it can bend or refract. During the experiment, the light initially traveled from the air, through the glass, through the water and comes out to reach our eyes crossing again the same mediums. Anytime that light passes from one medium, or material, into another, it refracts. while crossing the medium the light ray goes beyond the focal point (near to the center) which causes the arrow change its direction.

What is the science behind refraction?

The transmission of light between any two transparent media results in a change in both the speed and wavelength of the wave. The light wave speeds up or slows down and transforms into a wave with a larger or a shorter wavelength along with change in direction when it passes through the boundary of two media.

What causes refraction?

The difference in the density of transparent medium that light passes through causes refraction. 

Why does light bend during refraction?

Bending of light occurs during refraction because of change in the speed of light wave while crossing the medium.

What is wave refraction?

In oceanography, the wave refraction is manifested as bending of waves while propagating through different depths.

What are some natural examples of refraction?

Forming of rainbow when the bending of sun ray’s as they enter rain drops, prism, sunset, etc are some natural examples of refraction.

What are the effects of refraction?

The effects of light refraction are responsible for a variety of familiar phenomena, such as:
1) A straight pencil when dipped in the half filled glass jar always looks bending in the water due to refraction effect.
2) When a coin is dropped in the glass of water, it looks it has raised in its length just because of refraction effect.
3) swimming pool looks shallower than the reality as the light coming from the bottom of the pool bends when it comes out at the surface due to refraction of light.

Why is refraction important?

Without refraction of light, we could not see any fine details happening or present around us or in the environment since your corneas and lenses enable this, via refraction.

Which way is she looking Playing with light refraction for kids - a fun STEAM (or STEM + Art) activity
Effects of refraction of light through a glass of water

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play and learn refraction

Playing with refraction of light a fun STEAM (or STEM + Art) activity for kids

Refraction Of Light