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Activity 7: Create a Zen Garden

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A small, low-sided box, such as a shoe box, for each child
  • Play sand (available at hardware stores) or unscented clay kitty litter and a scoop
  • Small items such as attractive stones, acorns, shells, etc., a handful for each participant
  • Plastic forks

Preparation for Activity

  • Begin a sample Zen garden to show the children.
  • To save time during the session, mark each box with a child's name and fill it to one or two inches below the top with sand or kitty litter.

Description of Activity

Gather the children at work tables and say:

The original Zen gardens were made by Japanese Buddhists to create an outdoor space that invited anyone who saw the garden to take quiet time to meditate. Zen gardens are usually quite simple, with gravel raked into neat patterns, and a few rocks, plants or grassy areas carefully arranged. We're going to create our own miniature Zen gardens with boxes, sand and little objects you can arrange as you like. We'll use forks to rake our sand in any pattern you like. Arranging the items in your Zen garden and raking the sand around them is a kind of meditation, a way of getting quiet and focused, so we're going to try to be quiet as we create these gardens. Remember, a Zen garden should be simple. Do not try to crowd too many items in your garden. Leave some space just for the sand.

You may like to give a two-minute warning. Invite children to view one another's Zen gardens as they help clean up.

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