Whip Up a Magical Potion With the Kids

Part art project, part science experiment, these concoctions are a blast to create.

By Elizabeth LaBan

How about dabbling in a little wizardry and magic with your grandchildren this weekend? It’s easier than you might think, and it is probably at the top of most kids’ lists of favorite pastimes. They love mixing and creating, pretending they are Harry Potter or one of the witches from The Wizard of Oz. And while creating potions may sound too involved or messy, it really doesn’t have to be. All you need is a little water, some washable watercolors, empty bottles, maybe a pinch of soap suds, a few special touches to make each potion unique, and, of course, your imagination.

[photo bottles align=right]There are so many places potions can take you. Outside, to begin with, because that is a great place to hunt for the special additions like pine needles, dried leaves, sticks (to be used as wands or stirrers), bits of grass, a four-leaf clover, water from a lake or the ocean, a flower petal, even a pretty stone.

Potions can also take you places that might be harder to get to in the real world. Try brewing up a dance potion that will waltz you to the disco of your dreams — this could include some purple paint, a little glitter, maybe a bit of fabric from a favorite old cast-off dress in the play bin, and a whiff of magic. Whoever dabs some on his or her hand immediately becomes a dancing star.

Or try a zoo animal potion in which a little swab of the magical liquid turns you or your grandchild into the animal of your choice. That one might involve a touch of brown paint, a few blades of grass, and a tiny bit of fur from an old stuffed toy. Think big — witches and wizards do. Some other favorites include sleeping potions, silly potions (to make you laugh), teleporting potions (these can take you anywhere!), invisible potions, butterfly potions, goblin potions, and superhero potions. There are no right or wrong potions, just fun ones. They're great jumping-off points for memorable games of make believe.

But please remember to be sure your grandchildren know these potions are just for play, certainly not for drinking, and only to be used only when you are together. (It might be wise to wait until your grandchildren are old enough to understand that.)

Once your potions have been stirred, given a bit of magic, and tried out, you will need to store them. You can have so much fun decorating empty plastic bottles with glitter, markers, tinfoil, tissue paper, or stickers. Old corks dipped in glitter make great lids. A plastic syringe or an old turkey baster is a good way to transfer the potion from your cauldron to the bottle, and kids love the challenge. Just make sure to do it in a place that can be easily wiped up.

Write down your potion recipes as you go, and put together a book of the best ones. Your grandchildren draw the pictures and you can write the words. Then make copies to hand out at your next family gathering.

Basic recipe:

  • Tap water
  • Washable watercolor paints
  • Glitter, pine needles, leaves, clovers, blades of grass — anything but food or juice will keep it pretty manageable and thoroughly entertaining
  • Empty plastic bottles (these can be bought at a pharmacy or simply keep old soap and shampoo bottles)
  • Corks, glue, colorful paper, tin foil for decorating
  • Paintbrushes or sticks for stirring and infusing the magic
  • Paper and markers to make your potions book

These selections come from Elizabeth LaBan, author of The Grandparents Handbook: Games, Activities, Tips, How-Tos, and All-Around Fun (Quirk Books).

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