The world of Harry Potter has been captivating people of all ages with thrilling adventures, mystical spells, and beautifully designed environments. People all over the world have been spellbound by the stories of JK Rowling for decades. Our house has been no different, with books, movies, posters, and fan art filling our rooms! With such vivid inspiration, it’s no surprise that we have adapted our favorite stories into our science experiments as well! In this post, I’ll share some of our favorite ways to combine the thrill of the Harry Potter universe with the fun of science experiments you can do at home!
Whether you’re planning Harry Potter parties, hosting wizarding events, or just experimenting with some polyjuice potion for fun, there’s a whole world of science that can be adapted into the series! Below, you’ll find ways to incorporate polyjuice potions, screaming mandrake root, verisiterum, and sparkling unicorn horn into your world of wizarding science!
The Properties of Polyjuice
“The Polyjuice Potion, which is a complex and time-consuming concoction, is best left to highly skilled witches and wizards. It enables the consumer to assume the physical appearance of another person, as long as they have first procured part of that individual’s body to add to the brew (this may be anything — toenail clippings, dandruff or worse — but it is most usual to use hair)…”
Polyjuice potion is a carefully crafted and time-consuming concoction that allows one who drinks it to assume the appearance of another person. With this twist on a favorite chemistry experiment, you can use creative storytelling to create your own polyjuice potions to demonstrate how to use potions to take on the identity of another! This experiment will focus on demonstrating how adding certain ingredients can change the properties of polyjuice. This will be represented by a change of color to your solution, when your ingredients are added to it!
WARNING: This potion is NOT one that you can drink. Use this as a demonstration of the properties of polyjuice only. To make drinkable potions for your kids to try after learning how it works, try these recipes here and here!
2 cups of finely chopped red cabbage
Pyrex or other large heat resistant bowl
Knife or food processor
Tall glasses, narrow vases, Erlenmeyer flasks, or potion bottles
Essence of Dragon (Vinegar)
Powdered Troll Skull (Baking powder)
Snake Venom (Ammonia based household cleaner (we use Awesome Cleaner as it’s non-toxic)
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Take two cups of finely chopped cabbage and place them in the heat resistant bowl. Cover with hot water and let stand for approximately 10 minutes. Observe as the water changes color as the pigments of cabbage seeps into the water.
Pour the cabbage water through a strainer and into the pitcher. Discard the solid cabbage pieces. Add 2 cups of water to the pitcher to dilute the solution (you’ll get a brighter color change with a diluted solution).
Pour even amounts of your indicator solution into three cups. In the remaining three cups, pour the Essence of Dragon (vinegar), Powdered Troll Skull (baking powder), and Snake Venom (cleaner).
Pour one potion ingredient into each of the indicator potions. Discuss the properties of each as you pour, and watch your kids delight in the color changing properties of their potions ingredients! The polyjuice potion takes on the properties of their additives, so if you have pieces of troll, your polyjuice will fizz and change to a milky color! Your snake venom will turn into a bright green, while the essence of dragon will change to a brilliant red!
As with chemistry, crafting potions requires skill, patience, and the discipline of paying attention during your potions class. Sometimes, when you get too ambitious, or if you get careless with your ingredients, things can go terribly wrong! If you were to drink an improperly crafted polyjuice potion, you might end up turning into something else entirely! Or, you might spurt an arm out of your forehead! Sometimes, an improperly mixed potion can blow up right in your face! To demonstrate how careful you need to be when crafting your potions, let’s take a look at what happens when things go awry. What were to happen if you were to try to mix TWO polyjuice potions together?
Concentrated Troll Skull (Baking Soda)
Essence of Dragon (Vinegar)
Polyjuice base (red cabbage indicator solution)
3 tall glasses, narrow vases, flasks, or potion bottles
Fill one of your glasses halfway with indicator solution. In one of the cups, mix 1 Tbsp of Concentrated Troll Skull (baking soda) with 1/2 cup of water. Slowly stir to combine the mixture, then pour it into your indicator solution. Observe the color changing effect as the polyjuice base takes on the properties of Trolls.
Fill your remaining glass halfway with Essence of Dragon (vinegar). Discuss what might happen if you were to try to mix a polyjuice potion with the properties of two different substances. Would you be able to take on the characteristics of both subjects? What do your potions pupils suspect might happen if you were to mix these two together?
Pour the Essence of Dragon into the polyjuice potion. Stand back and watch as the two mighty beasts battle it out in your potions vial! Who will win, the bulking strength of the Troll, or the mighty prowess of the fire-breathing dragon? What would happen if you were to try to drink a polyjuice potion of two different subjects? This demonstrates how quickly things can go wrong if you don’t pay attention in potions class!
Screaming Powdered Mandrake Root!
A Mandrake, also known as Mandragora, is a plant which has a root that looks like a human (like a baby when the plant is young, but maturing as the plant grows). Whenever unearthed, the root screams. The scream of a mature Mandrake when it is unearthed will kill any person who hears it, but a young Mandrake’s screams will usually only knock a person out for several hours. It is usually recommended that any herbologist wears protective soundproof earmuffs to protect against the screams of the young mandrake.
With this demonstration, we’ll explore the properties of mandrake by examining it in its powdered form. Herbologists have long been studying the properties of mandrake and its effects in various forms. With this experiment, you’ll demonstrate how you can capture the cry of the Mandrake root, even in its powdered form!
Large plastic storage container
Pennies and other assorted coins
This experiment works best outside, on a flat surface. Don’t try this on the kitchen table!
Use your oven mitts to pick up your dry ice and set on a flat surface. Use your hammer and screwdriver to break off a few small chunks from your dry ice.
Use your tongs to pick up a few pieces of dry ice, and set them into the plastic storage container. Once you’ve got a few pieces in there, it’s time to put on your gloves and get to experimenting!
Pick a flat piece of dry ice, and set a penny on it so it’s laying flat. Use your finger to press down on the penny for approximately 1-2 seconds. Do you hear the shrieking sounds it makes? Lift your hand away from the penny after 2 seconds, so the freezing temperatures don’t hurt you!
Now, try the same thing with a variety of coins! Try a nickel, a quarter, or any other metal coins you have. Do you get the same result?
Try pressing your spoon against a chunk of dry ice. You can even try your tongs, and your screwdriver!
Try placing a variety of materials against the metal. Do plastics, cloths, or rubber yield the same results?
LOCUST SLIME WITH POWDERED UNICORN HORN
What science demo-day is complete without a run of everyone’s favorite science activity? Of course, we’re talking about SLIME, and you can adapt any slime recipe to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, with just a few additions to your slime ingredients!
¼ cup of liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle)
¼ cup of clear school glue
¼ cup of water
Large plastic cup
Potions Class Ingredients:
Powdered Unicorn Horn (glitter)
Locust Slime (green food coloring)
Griffon Claws (shredded coconut)
Wormwood Leaves (loose leaf tea)
Spider Eggs (lentils or beads)
Pour your water and glue into one of your large cups and stir for approximately one minute, to ensure that they are thoroughly combined.
Add several drops of food coloring to the glue and water mixture and stir to combine.
Pour your liquid starch into glass bowl, then grab your glue and water mixture, and pour it into the starch. Grab your plastic spoon and start stirring!
You should notice your starch immediately begin to thicken as the glue and water bind to the starch. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes until it thickens enough to peel away from the edges. Then, take it out and play with it!
The more you play with this slime, the stickier it gets! When you are finished playing with it, seal it inside your plastic bag so you can use it another time.
Once your slime is primed and ready, it’s time for your wizards to add their spells and potion ingredients to their slime! Let them choose from their potions cabinet to add whatever materials they would like to their locust slime. Then, seal the bag, and they’ll have oozing Locust Slime to play with for weeks to come!
That’s it! With these experiments, you can turn any day of science into a thrilling Harry Potter adventure! If you’d like a full list of ingredients used within the series, or all things Harry Potter, you can check out Pottermore, the Harry Potter Wikia, GryffinRoar, or the Harry Potter Lexicon for more information!