Creating a Halloween potions bin is the perfect science activity. The combination of spooky, sensory, and science makes this a memorable Halloween activity that kids will be talking about all season long. It only takes seconds to set up, but this activity holds little attention spans much longer.
RELATED: Looking for more Halloween activities? Check out my list of 40+ Halloween activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
What is a Halloween potions bin?
The basics: This is an open ended science experiment station, but themed to Halloween. In this activity, kids are provided materials and allowed to explore, create, and concoct different potions at their discretion.
This is the ultimate in science exploration.
We’ve done potion stations before (here’s our outdoor potion station) but had this vision for my kids: tiny cauldrons and Halloween experimenting.
It was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had in October. The Halloween potions bin was the kind of science and sensory activity that dreams are made of.
Supplies for potion making:
Busy Toddler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
This list looks long at first. It’s not as bad as it looks. Supply only what is manageable for YOU. No need to simply copy the lady on the Internet – do what feels right for your kids.
- Mini cauldrons: Don’t fret if you don’t have these (although we’ve had them for 5 years and love owning them for Halloween activities)
- Baking soda/bi-carb: I buy this in bulk.
- Dish soap/Washing up liquid: We used Dawn for this activity.
- White vinegar: I dyed our vinegar with a few drops of food coloring.
- Shaving cream: However, my kids didn’t even touch it and wanted cornstarch instead
- Eye balls: Another very optional item but we’ve had these for years
- Plastic spiders: Also optional, but highly recommended.
- Pipettes or kid size turkey basters: Both of these supplies are great for activities in general (not just Halloween themes or potion bins).
- Peri bottles: Yes, you can actually buy these and they are AMAZING for kids activities.
- Open containers: Children need bowls, jars, and cups to create their potions in. Don’t forget to set out space for creations.
There are no exact measurements. Put out however many supplies feel right to you and in an amount that works for the number of children playing.
Not all supplies are necessary for this activity
You do not need all these Halloween specific supplies for this activity to be a success. Kids just want permission to experiment. The holiday themed supplies are a fun bonus (but optional).
Remember, the goal is not to fully replicate my set-up. We have a lot of Halloween supplies here, and that’s not going to be typical of all households. My goal is to give you an idea to modify and fit into your house.
The “thesis statement” for this activity: create some sort of science based experimenting station for kids (and theme it for Halloween, if possible).
What do kids do with a Halloween potion set-up?
I set up my supplies in a 41-quart storage container. I presented the items to my kids, named each one, and provided lots of open room for them to experiment.
From there, it is up to the child to decide how and what to create. There are no “rules.” There is no “predetermined outcome.”
Soap box: In today’s system of teaching children, we are more likely to show, explain, and directly teach kids than allow them space to explore and learn on their own. This more “child-led” approach to learning has massive value. Creating a potion station is a very child-led activity.
It may be hard as the adult to back off and allow the child to experiment without direction, but this is very, very necessary.
Creating a potion bin is more than just “messy play”
While this activity is rooted in “messy play,” this is actually much deeper than kids making a mess for the sake of a mess.
We must look beyond the mess and see the learning.
In an activity like a Halloween potions bin, kids are testing theories. They’re working problems, learning about how different materials comes together, and (safely) exploring chemical reactions.
This may look like a mess, but it’s one of the most beneficial messes for kids to make.
What are children learning in a Halloween potion bin?
There is so much value and learning in a potion bin – and not just the obvious science lessons.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of all the learning happening:
- Understanding cause and effect
- Sensory exploration
- Fine motor strengthening
- Hand-eye coordination
- Life skills (measuring, scooping, pouring)
- Imagination and dramatic play*
*Sometimes we expect pretend or imaginary play to ONLY look like dress-up. Here, it looks like science experiments and potion making.
Potion station expert tips and notes:
- Dilute vinegar: You can dilute vinegar (50/50) with water to make it stretch.
- Place this activity on a large towel, table cloth, sheet, or shower curtain liner. This defines the working area and makes clean up easier.
- Give kids a wash cloth so they can wipe their hands during the activity. Especially if you have a child who doesn’t love being messy, providing a wet cloth can be a game changer.
- Be careful with grass! This combination of materials (especially baking soda and vinegar) can kill grass. If you plan to try this activity outside, make sure to consider your grass.
Halloween potion bin FAQs
Always have a wet wash cloth at the ready AND an exit strategy in mind. When they finish, what’s your plan? Have this though through before you begin. I often put the kids AND the materials into a full bath – everything and every kid comes clean. Easy peasy.
Nope! Food coloring is water soluble – and heavily diluted in this activity with the vinegar. Food coloring will rinse of little hands (if any gets on) and come out of clothing easily (just set the clothing is cold water for a few hours).
It’s not. But if you have a little one who might put stuff in their mouths while mixing, limit to baking soda, vinegar, corn starch, and water.
It’s been 10 days since my kids did this activity and they’re still talking about it. Why?
Because this was a really epic and really good activity.
It was full of “yes” moments from their grown-up and overflowing with moments of independent learning.
This activity, while messy and gross and a little wild, is the kind of activity that makes childhood an absolute joy.