Nature Potions – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Nature Potions

Children create magical potions using found natural materials.

Materials Required

  • Mortar and Pestle, or sticks with small paper cups
  • Gathered natural materials (e.g. flowers, herbs, leaves, bark)
  • Water
  • Pipettes
  • Small cups for water
  • Bowls
  • Tarp or towels
  • Baskets


  1. Gather natural materials, fill cups with water, and arrange all materials neatly.
  2. Model using a mortar and pestle for the children.
  3. Give children a chance to gather additional natural materials in their baskets that they can add to their own potions.
  4. Invite children to make a potion using the natural materials and water. Ask children to use multiple senses as they begin to create, for example, have them touch, smell, and describe the leaf before grinding it. How is it different or the same after grinding?
  5. Invite children to compare and contrast the various plants they find. Ask questions like, “What is the same about them?” “Does this flower feel like the other flower?”  “Which one is softer?”
  6. Encourage pretend play with the potions by asking questions like, “What does your potion do?” “What would happen to me if I took your potion and my potion?”

Additional Tips

  • If mortars and pestles are not available, a cheaper alternative is to use paper cups with sticks.
  • To extend this activity, try boiling some of the potions and notice any changes.
  • Check for allergies before engaging in this activity.

Links to Creativity

Executive functions refer to cognitive processes that direct the brain’s power and attention. They include working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility (Hughes, 2011). Cognitive flexibility in particular is closely linked to creativity (Nijstad, De Dreu, Rietzschel, & Baas, 2010). In this activity, children test out different amounts and ingredients for their “recipes,” generate novel stories to explain their potions, and engage in pretend play with their peers. This means that young individuals simultaneously utilize cognitive flexibility and creative thinking when completing this activity.

Hughes, C. (2011). Changes and challenges in 20 years of research into the development of executive functions. Infant and Child Development20, 251-271. doi: 10.1002/icd.736

Nijstad, B. A., De Dreu, C. K., Rietzschel, E. F., & Baas, M. (2010). The dual pathway to creativity model: Creative ideation as a function of flexibility and persistence. European Review of Social Psychology21, 34-77. doi: 10.1080/10463281003765323


This activity was contributed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2016 Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

Nature Potions

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