IN an age dominated by smartphones, computers and tablets, how do we find a way of reconnecting children with the living world beyond their screens? Could the answer be introducing them to a little bit of natural magic?

Herbalist Davina Hopkinson has held a children’s potion club at Dilston Physic Garden for three years, which she set up in order to give children a safe space to learn about the wonders of plants’ medicinal purposes and traditional uses.

With classes of up to ten, children can explore the physic garden’s multitude of foliage, and under supervision pick their own ingredients from the physic garden to use in their lotions and potions made in the classroom.

“The great thing about the classes is that is a multi-sensory experience,” said Davina. “Children are encouraged to be hands-on and spend time touching and smelling the plants and infusions, and that really helps to keep them engaged and interested.”

The most recent potion club was centred around creating natural remedies for insect repellents to keep the bugs at bay this summer, ointments for bee and wasp stings and a handy hayfever relief lotion.

Known natural insect, lice and tick repellents (also used in many high street products) including tea tree, peppermint, spearmint and patchouli are poured into a group measuring jug during the class, along with geranium to helps nourish the skin, and Rosalinda for its high antiseptic properties.

Davina then administrates adding a small amount of vodka and water before pouring it into individual bottles for the children, where the concoction is given a “good shake” before being able to be used.

To make the soothing and healing cream ideal for insect stings, scratches and sores, the children helped to melt down beeswax and cocoa butter, ideal for softening and healing the skin, and then added the “wonder-plant” aloe vera gel, which is used to cool to wound.

Calming lavender oil and antioxidant vitamin E are also added to the mixture.

“I think many people either don’t realise, or they discount, the benefits of natural medicine,” said Davina. “The club provides a way for children to learn about natural medicine and alternative practices, without the concept being shoved down their throats.

“They can see the results themselves when they put to use the potions which they’ve made, and feel a sense of reward that they’ve made that medicine from scratch.”

Davina said the popularity of the potions class was linked to young people’s rising interest in protecting the environment, a cause which this year has led school-children around the world to protest against climate change.

“Whilst we can’t always force change on a big scale, I feel like the club helps on a smaller scale to get children interested in nature.”

As well as teaching children about the medicinal properties of plants, children are encouraged to put their numeracy and literary skills to use when they measure out the ingredients and work from the instruction book.

Parents can also join in on the action by helping to pick ingredients, and sit in on the classes, where they too can learn to make these magical medicines at home.

Parent Michaela Charlwood brought her daughter Katie to the class because she believed it helped to “fire up the imagination”.

“I’d like Katie to have a interested in nature, and understand its importance,” said Michaela.

“It’s a safe, tranquil place where children can just be children outdoors, and learn some basic gardening skills.”

“It also provides some much needed downtown for mums!”

To book a place on future potion club visit