Make Your Own Potions

The single play invitation that I was most excited for in all of Camp Creativity* was set for Thursday: the “make your own potion” station.

This could totally have been anywhere from really simple to really complex. I probably fell on the side of the scale closer to really complex 😉

ID: my table setup: a green, child-height, curved table with 4 pages of “wizard diary” recipes taped down to it and various ingredients set out invitingly along it. There are small squeeze bottles, like travel bottles, filled with soaps, oil, vinegar, water, and glitter; there are squat round containers filled with powders and hair conditioner; there are spices and a mortar and pestle; there are “mad scientist” test tubes; there are wooden stir sticks. /ID

We have had several hundred teeny tiny squeeze bottles in storage in a closet at my office for as long as I’ve worked here, so I took the opportunity to use tons of them and fill them with various materials: water, vinegar, oil, hair conditioner, soap, shampoo. I also found some wide-mouthed, shorter containers that I filled with things that needed to be “scooped” rather than “squeezed”, like baking soda, baking powder, flour, cornstarch, tea leaves, sequins, and also some extra hair conditioner. I put some of these same materials in test tubes for added “mad scientist” vibes. I put out some containers of glitter. I put out some whole, un-crushed spices and a mortar and pestle.

I labeled all of the materials. Some of them I labeled clearly and accurately. A few of them I also labeled mysteriously: “Clear Liquid #1,” “Clear Liquid #2,” “Clear Liquid #3”, and the same 1, 2, and 3 for “Powder”. That way, people who already had an idea in their mind could find the clearly labeled ingredients, while those who were down to solve a mystery could trial-and-error until they solved the wizard’s diary clues. I made an old page out of a wizard’s diary that said, “I know that mixing one powder with one clear liquid causes a fizzy reaction… I’ve forgotten which ones though…”

Image is from the top-down on the kids using the table. There is a hand reaching in to grab a plastic cup, there are other little hands stirring their concoctions in their cups, and there are ingredients, stir sticks, and teaspoons strewn every which way.

This was so much fun to watch and to participate in. Some of the parents got into it, remembering recipes like “cloud dough” and trying to figure out exactly which ingredients would make a good dough. Some of the kids figured out how to make fizz. Some of the kids mixed literally everything together. Others had a clear artistic vision in their mind and followed it. The table was right next to a table with materials to make slime according to a more specific recipe; some kids made “proper” slime and others mixed their slimes with their potions to make new concoctions.

Image is a 9-picture collage of cups filled with potions! Most of them are glittery and foamy, made out of baking soda and vinegar, tea leaves, soap, conditioner, sequins, etc. One is overflowing onto the table, pouring blue glittery foam everywhere.

I held back some of the ingredients (since I had multiple bottles of each thing) and refreshed what was available at the station a total of 3 times so that everything didn’t get used up before everyone got a chance to come visit the station. Beyond that, I didn’t stop anybody from squeezing out every last bit of what was in a bottle if they wanted to — it was great hand strengthening work!

At the end, some of the youngest campers just started dumping out everything that was left directly onto the table and smushing it around with their hands, and I happily joined in because it was a blast!

A close-up of the hands of the 2 little ones who enthusiastically began dumping the remaining ingredients onto the table in order to make a big, blue, glittery, powdery, soapy, foamy smush to rub their hands around in near the end of the camp day!

To do this with less mess: Obviously if you don’t have 31 kids at the same time then it’s going to be less chaotic. You could do this in the bathtub or outside where everyone and everything can simply be hosed down afterwards. You could plan the materials you’re going to use and use all things that are liquidy to avoid the potential to make anything paste-like (for example, omit all the powders). You could even do it with all, or almost all, colored waters and only one or two novel ingredients — water and a few kinds of soap in the backyard is practically a bath, right? 😉

To do this for less cost: This was honestly a very low-cost activity to begin with. Almost all the materials I used were leftover things, expired things, things people gave me for free to get them out of their cabinets, etc. We did purchase the vinegar and baking soda newly, and I have purchased conditioner and shampoo for use in craft activities in the past, so that’s what I was using. On the other hand, I did this at home one time with my kids and literally just used all the types of soap/shampoo/conditioner that had accumulated in the cabinet as we tried out different brands to figure out what worked well for their hair! You can buy cheap materials at the dollar or pound store. You could ask on a local “buy nothing” page if anyone is having a clean-out of their bathroom cabinets and would be willing to give away the brands of shampoos etc that don’t work for them. Again, doing this with free or very low-cost ingredients like colored water and flour is entirely possible.

Image shows my 4 “wizard diary” pages. They are made with coffee and tea stained paper crumpled up to make them look old and browned. They read:

“Wizard’s Diary: It only takes a little bit of soap and cornstarch to make a slime-y substance. I can use any measuring tool I want…as long as I put twice as much cornstarch as soap.”
“Wizard’s Diary: Shampoo and soap make recipes that are very bubbly…conditioner makes recipes that are very smooth…sometimes different colors have different smells.”
“Wizard’s Diary: I know that mixing one powder with one clear liquid causes a fizzy reaction…I’ve forgotten which ones though…”
“Wizard’s Diary: I think all my recipes are compatible with glitter.” A smear of green glitter is on this diary page.


*I recently ran a week-long, sensory-rich, arts-and-crafts, child-led play day camp for 30 kids and their parents! I’ll be talking about it for awhile. All the posts about it can be found here.