Enabler Publications

Books to feed the Mind and Spirit

The new youth arts and crafts bookThe new youth arts and crafts book

Sample from this book:


Blowing bubbles holds a fascination for children, but have you ever watched the poor souls trying to make bubbles with washing up liquid? Right – it doesn’t work at all well.

We don’t know why British washing up liquid doesn’t blow good bubbles – nor do we have any evidence of an anti-fun conspiracy on the part of detergent manufacturers! Although it sounds utterly ludicrous, the only way to make good bubbles is to use American washing up liquid. Luckily, suppliers like The Big Top in Glasgow (see Suppliers Guide) import the stuff, so all you need to do is buy it off the shelf. Inevitably it’s expensive, but if you avoid using it for washing up dishes it will keep you in bubbles for a fair length of time!

The good news is that bubble making has been transformed by the arrival of ‘bubble wands.’ Even better, they cost a fraction of the cost of a big bottle of ‘Joy’ or ‘Dawn’ (the American stuff you need to get hold of)

The bubble wand is a pole and slider arrangement. Two loops of fabric are connected to the end of the pole and to the slider. From this simple contraption, gigantic bubbles can be made to appear – it’s a magical and addictive process.

Bubble Solution

First you need to make up some bubble solution. Follow these directions carefully (Howie didn’t first time around and discovered that warm water kills the solution!)

  • Measure 10 cups of water (and one or two extra cups on a hot, dry day) into a clean bucket followed by one cup of Joy or Dawn. We recommend that you add three or four tablespoons of glycerine at this stage to make the bubbles more durable (now you know how TV ‘bubble magicians’ do their tricks – lots of glycerine!)
  • Stir the mixture very gently to avoid frothing it, and leave it to settle.


Gigantic bubbles produce copious amounts of slippery liquid, particularly around the solution buckets, so avoid smooth surfaces like worn pavements, metal grilles and covers etc.. Wash away spillages with clean water when you’re finished.

This is an outdoor activity which should be kept well away from roads to avoid distracting drivers. Bear in mind that children like to chase bubbles to burst them so make sure that your downwind playing area is safe. In any event, anything above a light breeze will make bubble blowing difficult so you may have to find a sheltered spot.

Remember that these detergents are powerful – excessive contact can do horrible things to your skin – make sure that children rinse their hands often, so have plenty of clean water nearby. Have some disposable gloves with you for children with sensitive skin or allergies and for the staff member on bubble duty! Avoid suds in the eyes.

Gigantic Bubbles

Make sure you have a bubble wand for each person, unless you want to referee arguments about who gets them first! If you can, provide a solution bucket for every four or five people. There is a simple technique for using the wand and this should be demonstrated to the group. You can pick it up yourself by following these instructions.

  • Skim away any froth from the surface of the solution – froth stops bubbles from forming properly on the wand.
  • Make sure that the fabric loops of the wand aren’t tangled and move the slider to the bottom of the wand, i.e. all the fabric hangs from the end of the wand.
  • Now immerse the loops in the solution and leave the soaking for a few seconds. make sure that all of the fabric is coated with solution but do not stir!
  • Raise the wand until the loops are out of the solution, but keep the wand over the bucket to catch the drips. Open the loops a little by pulling the slider and look for a film of solution between the loops. If it’s not there, soak the fabric in the solution again for a few seconds.
  • This is the bit that needs some hand/eye co-ordination! Blow a gigantic bubble by pulling the slider along the wand towards you – as you wave the wand to create enough draught to form the bubble – then almost immediately push the slider back to the end of the wand to close off the bubble.

If you leave the wand ‘open’ for too long, you’ll create a long sausage shaped bubble – fun, but they don’t last very long. With practice, you’ll learn how to control the size and shape of the bubbles by varying the distance you pull the slider towards you, how quickly you wave the wand, and when you close it. During your session, keep the wands and buckets ‘froth free’ for best effect. You can get several bubbles from each ‘dipping.’

You can easily find smaller scale bubble blowing ‘gizmos’ in toy shops and department stores (often sold as part of a kit). These can be fun to use to make, e.g. different shapes, masses of tiny bubbles etc.. We didn’t find any of them particularly easy to use – they are typically made of plastic and the solution sometimes doesn’t adhere to them too well.

Clearly, the manufacturers of the bubble wand knew what they were doing when they used a fabric loop! If you can incorporate a covering of fabric or cloth tape on your bubble blowing implements you will achieve outstanding results. Big Al found a fabric and wire coat hanger in a junk shop and it works a treat – as long as you pull it out to a circular or oval shape! The tricky bit is removing the kink where the wires twist together; you may need to use pliers for this.

In fact, many ‘found’ objects can be used to make bubbles. Remember that you’ll need to find a suitably shaped container for your gizmos, e.g. a large dish or frying pan for the coat hanger. Baking trays come in handy for items like:

  • Plastic ‘six pack’ can holders.
  • Two straws and a loop – thread a piece of string through two straws and tie off to make a squarish frame. Dip in the solution, carefully lift it out and pull it towards you to make the bubble. The knack is in flipping the frame to close off the bubble.
  • Kiddie’s fishing net frame.

You can blow loads of bubbles into the baking tray itself to create interesting effects. Do this using a straw which is first dipped in the solution (to create a film on the end). Now hold the tip of the straw just above the bubble solution and blow a bubble directly onto the solution. Blow it to a fair old size if you can and then carefully withdraw the straw and repeat the process as often as you like.

The most impressive bubble blowing feat we’ve heard of (at a Fair Play for Children in Scotland annual event) is life sized bubbles. Unfortunately we did not see this demonstrated, but we are assured that it works very well. To try it for yourself, apart from plenty of bubble solution, you will need a large tyre (lorry or tractor) and a Hula Hoop. The tyre is sliced in two laterally to make two containers for the bubble solution (although you may only want to use one of them.) The Hula Hoop should be covered in fabric or cloth tape, and is placed into the solution in the tyre and allowed to soak for a minute.

A volunteer can now stand in the middle of the tyre and be encased in a bubble created by a couple of people lifting the hoop out of the solution and over the volunteer’s head to create a bubble. Again the knack is in how you flip the hoop to close off the bubble.

read another sample from this book - circus skills

The new youth arts and crafts bookThe new youth arts and crafts book

Alan Dearling and Howie Armstrong

Published by RHP

184 pages

ISBN 898924 75 9

£14.95 plus £1.50 p&p

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