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DIY Zen Garden

DIY Zen Garden Activity

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Gifts from the Heart

Your child can soothe any stress by raking sand and arranging stones in his own DIY Zen garden—a Zen tradition! A cultural twist on the classic diorama, this craft teaches about Japanese customs and calms as well.

What You Need:

  • Empty shoebox, with lid removed
  • Sand, about 3 cups
  • Dollhouse-sized rake
  • Stones collected from outdoors
  • Optional: shells collected from a beach

What You Do:

  1. Tell your child about Zen gardens, a Japanese tradition. They are also called Japanese rock gardens or “dry landscape” gardens because they do not use plants that need water. Typically, they use just sand and stones. The sand is raked to make it look like water ripples, and to give the raker a peaceful exercise in patience and concentration. Stones or rocks add to the natural feel of the garden. Zen gardens can be indoors or outside; your child will create one for indoors in a shoebox.
  2. Provide your child with the empty shoebox and sand. Let him measure and pour about 3 cups worth of sand into the empty box. The sand should be about 2 inches deep inside the box.
  3. Your child can collect stones, rocks or pebbles from outdoors. They should be small enough to fit inside the box. Smooth stones look nice, but any kind of rock is fine. He can also add shells if he chooses.
  4. Provide your child with a small dollhouse-sized rake to be left in the box. Such rakes can be purchased at toy shops or sometimes from garden shops that sell “fairy garden”-sized furniture.
  5. Model for your child how to rake the sand and arrange the stones into various patterns. He may want to pile the stones on top of each other, or scatter them in other arrangements.
  6. Remind him that he can always turn to his Zen garden when he wants a peaceful, relaxing activity. Feel the Zen!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Updated on Oct 1, 2013
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See more activities in: Third Grade, Recycled Crafts
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