Do your children love playing with water and anything else that involves pouring, scooping, dripping and stirring? Making ‘fairy potions’ provides some great sensory and fine motor opportunities. When stirring their concoctions children get to squeeze, pour, scoop, smell and explore properties like texture, flexibility and fluidity. Plus, it’s a perfect opportunity to welcome spring, go on a nature walk, collect and look at the plants that are blooming while also possibly ending up with a wonderful Mother’s Day gift!
Why is sensory play important?
Infants and young toddlers build their knowledge of the world mostly through physical interaction with objects (grasping, touching, putting everything in their mouth) and through exploring with their senses (touching, smelling, tasting, seeing, hearing, moving, developing balance and body awareness etc.). This kind of sensory exploration is crucial to the brain development – it helps to build nerve connections so we can coordinate experiences, process and respond to sensory information appropriately. For example, young children may find it difficult to play when there are other distracting things going on in their environment but over time most children learn how to take in and process different sensory information at the same time (sensory integration). To focus our attention on particular sensations while tuning out others is a skill we need to be able to focus and to complete more complex learning tasks in future. We can help build these nerve connections when we provide children with opportunities to use their senses.
This project is inspired by hello Wonderful. When researching how to make plant potions I came across their blog and found this lovely post about kid made perfumes that seems to have inspired many little perfume makers. We pretty much followed their suggestions on perfume making. Instead of the clear spray bottles we used these smaller glass perfume bottles which came with labeling stickers and a funnel. Additionally we added some drops of vanilla extract for the alcohol and used bottled water only to preserve our perfumes longer. You could also use a few drops of pure rubbing alcohol but I was afraid it would ruin the smell of the other oils and herbs.
It makes a real difference how you set out your art materials and whether or not a project looks inviting to children. I usually put much thought and preparation into how I display and arrange art materials. Try to set out just a few materials that invite further exploration, make sure the children can reach everything without your help and look if what you provide sparks their curiosity enough so they sit down and start exploring on their own.
I’ve set out scissors, a variety of flowers and herbs, bowls with citrus fruit and lavender seeds, a few squeeze bottles filled with water as well as a mason jar for each child to stir up their concoctions. We also went on a nature walk, looked what plants are blooming and collected the one’s that smell good. We live in the mountains where spring comes late so we picked sage, needle tree branches and pinecones.
I’ve never mentioned to the children that we’re actually making a perfume, afraid it would be too abstract of a term or limit the children’s magical imagination. Instead I called it a ‘fairy potion’ that has the power to make people happy and that we can actually bottle it up as a spray after we go on an outside treasure hunt to collect some magical plants. We wondered what spring smells like and collected plants that smell good (and had fun naming what bad one’s smelled like). Back inside I showed the process of making our perfume/ fairy potion to the children and how we’re going to cut up herbs, squeeze citrus fruit and then mix them up with water until it smells really good. Cutting something different than paper with an interesting texture such as flowers and herbs was definitely delightful.
Lot’s of picking, squeezing, stirring, smelling, dripping, comparing, planning (“that smells good, what did you use?”), coordinating, helping each other out, strenghtening those finger muscles and fine motor skills.
We used Jasmin and Rose essential oils and a pipette to add them to our concoctions, just 3-5 drops. Make sure that the children add the alcohol or vanilla extract carefully without getting it in their eyes, 3-5 drops as well. Using droppers is perfect for that as well as to practice the pincer grip that will later be used to hold a pencil and write.
When everything has been thoroughly stirred and smells good, it’s time to help the children funnel their perfume into the tiny bottles.
We invented names for our potions and made little labels on sticker paper. This Mother’s Day our mommies will smell as good as:
“Jellybean”, “Sunflower Dandelion”, “Glitter Jam Butterfly”, “Watermelon Confetti”, “Flower Ranger”, “Hello Kitty”, “Drago” and … “The Dog” :)!
Most of the children wanted to give “the water that smells good and makes people happy” to their mommies (I directed that a bit by asking if they’d like to gift this to someone they love very much and want to be happy because Mother’s Day was coming up soon). Since they wanted to write “I love you Mama” I ended up writing that on a big paper that I placed on the table for everyone to see so the children could copy it if they wanted to. I love when a project incorporates basic writing skills and aligns with interests the children already have!
To make personalized messages we used watercolor paper that I had already attached to a wire and precut in small circles which allowed the children to work fairly independently. On a table I’ve set out Sharpies to draw a picture for their mommies, write their name or a message. Once done, they would carry their paper to another table where I’ve set out liquid watercolors (just mix a few drops with water until the color is bright enough) which the children used to color right over the Sharpie drawings that still shine through. We also beaded the wire to wrap around the bottles.
I’m sure our fairy potions worked their ‘happy-magic’ since they turned into such sweet Mother’s Day gifts. Aren’t they just adorable?
There’s so many wonderful approaches to perfume- and potion making with all kinds of different embellishments for you to pick and choose from. Here are some of my favorites:
Happy Mother’s Day!