I don’t quite know how to kick this post off other than to say that there is one important thing you need to know about me. When I have an idea…I really go to town with it. There are no half-measures to be found in our home.
So, way back in the springtime when we were having a general chitchat with the kids and picking their brains about what their ideal day would look like, and Eli piped up that his dream day would involve going to Hogwarts…an idea was born. During our 10 day summer break when we were enjoying all things ‘stay-cation’ related, we were going to create our very own Harry Potter themed day.
We were subject to a few time constraints so not everything turned out exactly how I would have chosen it but both Meg and Eli said it was one of the best days of their summer holiday. And perhaps it will inspire you with some ways in which you can make your own Hogwarts or Harry Potter experience at home too. Whether you are looking for inspiration for a party or you just want to wake up the magic of Harry Potter, I will take you through the day as it happened for the kids; although you can trust that there was a whole lot of scurrying around for myself and James the night before!
The kids woke up to discover that they had both received a very special letter in the night. I don’t think I will ever forget the squeals of delight when they spotted the owls on their doors. You need a little bit of creativity here (thanks to James for his artistic skills!) but all it required was a white balloon with an owl drawn on in marker pen, some red ribbon and a letter I designed myself and printed off using the actual letter from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone as my guide. We attached them to Meg and Eli’s bedroom doors using double-sided sellotape.
The Hogwarts Express
I purchased a brick shower curtain to make our very own entrance to Platform 9 3/4 (the lounge) and used a printable I found online to show the kids where to go. There are absolutely tons of different ways you could make your own moveable brick wall but this was by far the simplest one I could think of. We simply pinned it to the door frame and cut a slit through the middle. It baffled the dog for a fair while but Meg and Eli thought it was brilliant.
Once through the kids discovered that unfortunately, the Hogwarts Express had been taken to pieces and without the use of magic they had to work out how to put it back together. They spent absolutely ages doing this and all it involved for us was a little bit of assistance now and then. To set this up we simply gathered together a number of cardboard boxes different shapes and sizes, a roll of white paper (which I think we picked up one time in IKEA) and some coloured marker pens.
The Sorting Hat
I’d actually kind of forgotten that the kids would expect to be ‘sorted’ into their houses once they reached Hogwarts so we had to improvise a little. Thank goodness for Spotify and the purchase once upon a time of a floppy brown hat which I’ve never actually worn but which served the purpose quite well. Poor James did his best impersonation on the hat too. We had to abandon our true houses and place them both in Gryffindor to stop any arguments although Eli, my darling boy, you are solidly a Hufflepuff and one day you will have to accept that.
Lesson One: Wand Making
We began with wand making because this was the most labour-intensive thing we did all day and had to be completed in several stages. We used this fantastic video from RedTedArt as our guide. This was where pre-planning came into its own as we had to source pinecones for our wand ends, chopsticks, acrylic paints and a glue gun ahead of time. I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out and, in fact, James spent a good part of the rest of the week coming up with even more elaborate wand designs off the back of it which the kids are still playing with to this day! We also took a trip down memory lane and purchased some ‘bangers’ (anyone else remember these?!), which we then used the following day when our wands were fully dry. Every time the kids made a ‘move’ we threw one down and BANG, SNAP, POP. It was truly magical. If a little intense on the arms.
Lesson Two: Quidditch
This is the one I would do differently if we’d had a little more time. We started by making our own beaters out of pool noodles which we all thoroughly enjoyed, especially when it came to naming them. Where I feel we were a little let down was with the actual hoops we used. I had a grand plan to fashion rings out of wire and then wrap them in gold paper but we just ran out of time with work and other commitments. So in the end, I popped to our local Home Bargains store, dismantled some giant badminton rackets for the clear hoops within and attached them to the light stands I use for filming. Not so glamorous but effective enough. We used broomsticks which the kids already owned, and balloons for the Quaffle. I couldn’t quite work out the logistics of including a snitch so we basically ran around for the best part of an hour, smacking a balloon and trying not to trip on the sticks between our legs. Fun!
Lesson Three: Potions
Now this was by far the best lesson we did, and it was so effective but so simple. We picked up some glass jars for super cheap in one of our local Pound stores and then some blackboard labels online. I also bought some cauldrons although if I were to do this again I’d go for smaller ones, or be forewarned that we would need more of every ingredient to fill it. We then scouted round the house and in the Pound store again for things we could pretend were more magical than they really were. So strawberry scented washing up liquid became dragon’s blood, kale became gillyweed, glitter became pixie’s dust and so on. We also used a very basic science experiment to wow the kids into thinking they had made their very own potion. It was so straightforward but really impressive.
I’ve included a picture of the potion recipe below. To help you out: the ‘dragon’s blood’ is washing up liquid, the ‘ground unicorn horn’ is baking powder, ‘Cornish pixie dust’ is glitter, and ‘Veritaserum’ is white vinegar. What you are really after is the mixture of white vinegar and baking powder which bubble up and froth over when mixed together. The coloured washing up liquid gave the mixture volume and colour and the glitter was just because. We also ended up sprinkling flower petals in to give it that extra oomph.
Then came the tasting of the ingredients, again something which was very easy to set up and lots of fun. I can say that because I was taking pictures and didn’t have to get involved!
We had filled some larger jars with food items; we had spaghetti in tomato sauce which were ‘rats tails’, pickled onions which were ‘blind cats eyes’, we mixed raisins in with green jelly to make ‘spawn of newt’ and we also ate some gillyweed. The kids enjoyed the raisin jelly but not much else, though it was lots of fun to watch them squirm as they tried to decide if they were brave enough to give things a taste.
We finished our wands after potions, and left them to try whilst we wound down. What better way to do that than by watching one of the Harry Potter movies?! We feel that some of the later films are too dark for the kids just yet, so we stuck with good old number three! My video is below if you want to see some more footage of what we got up to on the day.