Does your child have a wish or goodwill blessing he'd like to send out to the world? Traditionally carrying messages of peace, compassion, prosperity, or happiness, prayer flags are a rich part of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Encourage your child's interest in other countries and cultures by helping him create his own colorful prayer flag inscribed with a special message to share with the world.
What is a prayer flag? A prayer flag is a colorful panel or rectangular piece of cloth often hung along mountain ridges in the Himalayan mountains to bless the countryside or send out a message of goodwill. Prayer flags are thought to have originated in Tibet, and later became associated with Tibetan Buddhism.
What You Do:
- Before starting the project, talk about the symbolism and significance of prayer flags with your child and look online for examples. Prayer flags traditionally come in sets of five, using five different colors that represent the elements, arranged in a specific order:
- Blue for sky/space
- White for air/wind
- Red for fire
- Green for water
- Yellow for earth
- A horse, symbolizing speed or transformation, is usually placed in the center of a prayer flag, with four other animals at the corners: dragon, garuda (similar to an eagle), tiger, and snow lion. Encourage your child to draw one or all of these images or an image of his own on the cloth using fabric paint or markers.
- Help him think of a "prayer" to write on his flag. Tibetan flags typically carry blessings for long life, good fortune, compassion, strength, or wisdom. Encourage your child to think of a goodwill message he would like to spread to the world.
- Find two trees or outdoor pillars where air flows freely and hang the prayer flag between them with fishing line or string, pinning the string to the flag using safety pins. Tibetans believe that when the wind blows on a prayer flag, its message is caught and carried on the wind and spread to the rest of the world. Good luck, and good wishes!
Did You Know?
The Tibetan word for prayer flag is lung ta, meaning "wind horse".
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.