Bubbles and spells and books full of magic

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 14

Back in the summer I wrote a piece for Netmums inspired by the release of the last of the Harry Potter films. Here’s my updated post, all about magic potions and spells and how my girls and I created our own bubbling potions to see what charms we could cast at our kitchen table.

We needed:

  • Clean jam jars
  • Clear vinegar
  • Food colouring
  • Glitter
  • Washing up liquid
  • A baking tray
  • Bicarbonate of Soda

  • First the girls half filled their jam jars with vinegar before adding a few drops of food colouring.

    Next they sprinkled in a little glitter, followed by a good squeeze of washing up liquid (you could also use bubble bath lotion).

    After mixing everything together, we put the jars on the baking tray, added a heaped teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to each jar and said our spells…

    In the blinking of an eye our potions were bubbling away casting a magic spell over all of us!

    Once the bubbling was finished, we could reuse each potion 3 or 4 times by giving it a good stir and adding a little more bicarb. When we ran out of bicarb the girls got their cauldrons and used the spent potions to create even more fearsome brews, giving them plenty of opportunity for messy, sensory play!

    This activity was a hit all round. Not only is it quite literally magic to little eyes to see their potions hubble and bubble, it’s also an opportunity to learn a little bit of science if you feel so inclined (the foam which bubbles out is the result of a reaction between the vinegar and the bicarbonate of soda: when they mix tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas are released and these bubbles of gas churn up the washing up liquid creating a bubbly foam).

    If you’re kids aren’t in to Harry Potter, here are some other great books that would be fun to read alongside creating these bubbling potions:

  • Spells by Emily Gravett
  • Spells and Smells by Hilary Robinson and Nick Sharratt
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
  • The Princess and the Wizard by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
  • Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Dreadful Spell by Kristina Stephenson
  • Any of the Winnie the Witch stories by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
  • Any of the The Witch’s Children stories by Ursula Jones and Russell Ayto


  • And as for some magical music you could do worse that trying these tunes:

  • I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone
  • Bubbles by Erick Traplin (a toe tapping one, this one!)
  • Pour In the Bubbles by Nick Cope (a very gentle one!)


  • What are your favourite children’s books which feature a little bit of magic?

    14 Responses

    1. Myra from GatheringBooks

      I love Spells by Emily Gravett! So enjoyable. We also have a copy of Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. I like this list that you have compiled since we’re doing a paranormal theme this January/February – stories about witches, werewolves, magic are in – so I’d check out the other books you recommended! Nina Simone’s I put a Spell on You is a personal favorite. Very very haunting. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I also enjoyed the photos of your children! Such fun!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I also liked how you tried to contain the mess initially – but the fun just had to spill over of course in the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Zoe

        Hi Myra, Yes, this started out sensible and contained but then got pretty messy and a whole lot more fun as a result!

    2. Emma

      Great post, Zoe!

      When I was younger I loved the book The Wizard in the Woods by Jean Ure. Definitely recommended!

      • Zoe

        Thanks Emma, I don’t think I know this book, but I shall see if the library has a copy. Thanks.

    3. Stacey

      Such fun!! My girls have a friend who is a potion maker… every time she comes over they all end up making messing concoctions! We’ll have to try this one next. And Emily Gravett is one of my most favorites and I haven’t read Spells yet- I’ll have to head to the library tomorrow!

      • Zoe

        Stacey – hope you find it! Do check in case it’s been released under a different title in the US.

    4. sandhya

      I’m reminded of ‘The Witches’ and ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’, both by Roald Dahl!

      And what coincidence- there has been some discussion of Emily Gravett’s work on the Saffrontree forum just yesterday!

    5. Ali B

      Wonderful, as always! And can I recommend Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch books, Tracey Courderoy’s Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble, Jenny Nimmo’s Charlie Bone series and Kaye Umansky’s Pongwiffy books?

      • Zoe

        Thanks Ali for adding some more great books to the mix! How could I forget the Worst Witch books?

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