The Magic Potion Game: When You Want to Chat with Friends

The Magic Potion Game: When You Want to Chat with Friends

Do you ever hope for a good chat with your friend on a play date, and end up with your child clinging to you like glue, interrupting every two seconds? You’re not alone!

You want some adult company and conversation, but then… uggggh. Your child wants to sit on your lap and play with your hair. Or is suddenly starving and needs food (even though they ate just before you came out). Or they whine that something is wrong. Or they interrupt every time you try to speak. Or maybe they start thumping you. Pretty soon, it’s time to go home. You’ve barely chatted to your friend. You begin to wonder, what’s wrong? Why can’t my child just run off and play?

I’ve been there. I know how frustrating it feels when you just can’t seem to start—or finish—a conversation.

Here’s a game that has helped me:

Back in the summer of 1999, when I lived in Britain, I met with friends in Devon to witness a total solar eclipse.

As we waited, four kids ran around playing. The adults were busy chatting and the kids got increasingly cranky.

A gorgeous warm-hearted older woman noticed. With a twinkle in her eye, she asked the children, “Would you like to help me make a magic potion?”


“Okay! I’ll need you to get seven sprigs of purple heather.”



The kids scampered off. When they returned, the woman sent them to forage for more ingredients. The children were engrossed, and in between orders, the woman got to chat.

I remember wondering, “What on earth is was going to do once they’d made the potion?” But of course, I was missing the point. That was enough: the woman’s warmth and playfulness and a game to play made the kids feel connected and able to get on well together whilst they waited.

Eventually, the skies darkened, the birds fell silent and colours drained away leaving us in an eerie grey landscape. The game was forgotten.

It made such an impression on me that some 10 years later, when my first born was a toddler, it popped back into my mind. I was now in Brisbane and had met up with a couple of other Mum’s for a play date. We adults were all in need of a good chat and the more we talked the more our kids felt disconnected. They became demanding for our attention. So I started the Magic Potion Game.

Sure enough, our toddlers quickly took the idea. They wandered off to find gum nuts and green leaves. I got to have a good natter with friends and our kids stopped being needy of our attention.

Even now, 18 years after the solar eclipse, the game still works. Last week, as I chatted with a friend, my 5 year old asked to make a Magic Potion and my 10 year old joined in. I’m so grateful to have witnessed that wonderful woman invent the game.

Maybe it could work for you too!

What helps you balance that need for adult chat with your child’s need for connection on play dates?  – I’d love to hear!