Monday, November 15, 2010

bubble bubble toil and trouble: mixing potions with preschoolers

We are smack bang in the middle of another potion mixing frenzy.  We go through phases where it seems that every time you turn around you almost trip over a child asking "Can we make potions, can we make potions?"

Little containers, muffin trays, ice cube trays, spoons, stirrers and eye droppers are all on the "must have" potion mixing equipment list.

Water, coloured edicol dye powder, glitter, the dregs from the paint pots at the end of the day and natural materials like sand and dirt are the current ingredients of choice.

There is something about the warmer weather that goes hand in hand with mixing potions.  Taking it outside removes the "worrying about the mess" factor which frees the children to play and investigate any way they choose. 

There is also the added bonus of being able to easily gather bits and pieces to add to their brew:  dirt, sand, bark, grass, herbs and sticks for stirring are all within arms reach.  The outdoors is like one giant supermarket for potion ingredients.

I've been wondering exactly what it is about mixing potions that puts it so high on the kid's "must do" list?

Is it the sensory nature of the materials involved?  Is it the allure of small glass containers and eye droppers?  Is it the preschoolers' love of pouring, stirring, mixing, measuring and shaking?  Is it their innate desire to investigate and see how they can cause change in their world? 

It is probably a combination of all of the above.  Whatever the reason, by giving kids the opportunity and the time to freely explore a whole range of materials as they mix up their brews we are giving them the opportunity to try out their own ideas and to learn through play and investigation.  And that is what science in the early years is all about.

Pop on over to Go Explore Nature and Marghanita for some potion mixing inspiration.


  1. I just LOVE what you do with the children. It's what they need.

    happy day!

  2. So great. Love your questions and explanations at the end.

  3. This looks so fun! Thanks for the mention - my 2 yo had a wonderful time mixing up his magic potion. We should do that again soon!

  4. Oooooooooh what delicious fun!

    Donna :) :)

  5. This activity looks like so much fun. My son would love it.

  6. Oh Jenny, this is a real favourite of mine. Kids just love this kind of play. The last child to leave on one of my summer camps was a ten year old boy-he was so engrossed in his magic potions-proof this is such a fun activity for any age group.
    Loving your blog- thanks for sharing! Thank you also for the mention. We also have a short "Magic Potion" video:

  7. There you go, Jenny! I love how you're always ready to spontaneously break out the potion making equipment upon request. I really must put together my "quick potion supply kit" so I can be as responsive as you. It's not so warm here any more, but I'll be the children will still get into it. =)

  8. Gerrick mixed a potion of random kitchen liquids in a flask just yesterday that he wants to keep on the kitchen counter and observe for a while. Fortunately I was aware enough to notice him toting it off toward the bathroom. He was planning to add some urine. Ewww!!! I'm pretty flexible around here, but pee on my kitchen counter is pretty much where I draw the line. ;)

  9. this is one of my daughters favorite activities - she is now 9 and still loves it. She had moved it in the bath lately where she has droppers, colored water, various soaps, conditioners, bubble bath and lots of little containers lined up. She mixes and experiments and leaves them overnight to see what they look like the next day - lots of fun science!

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