In the middle of busy days and weeks, why not pause and take time to tend a mini mindfulness garden? Based on the idea of a Zen garden this DIY sand and rock project is easy to make, and a good way to slow down your mind. To add an element of fun and kawaii (a Japanese term that means cute), this garden uses pastel colors and some not-so-scary dinosaurs.
Japanese rock gardens or dry landscape gardens are often connected with Zen Buddhism, as they help create a way for people to meditate, especially while forming patterns in sand or pebbles. The designs, made with rakes, represent waves or ripples of water. Traditional gardens like this are large enough to walk through, but still considered miniature landscapes with lots of symbolism.
This mindfulness garden project is even smaller so you can bring the same peaceful sensory experience to your desk each day!
Although not designed specifically with children in mind, kids will also love trying the rake to comb the sand or perhaps play with the dinosaurs. It's a lighthearted way to introduce them to the art of slowing down one's mind for a few minutes.
The most essential elements of a Japanese rock garden, large or small, are the sand and rake, followed by rocks and other elements like plants or statues. This tutorial shows you how to make your own mini rake, as well as some cute plants and figures. You can easily swap out some elements to customize your desktop meditation garden.
Each element of this DIY sand garden goes together fairly quickly, but they do need time for paint or glue to dry. You can work on the different pieces as you wait for others to set up.
Now, let's get started!
Equipment / Tools
- 1 paint brush
- 1 craft knife
- 1 sheet sandpaper or emery board
- 2 to 3 small plastic dinosaurs
- 1 tube acrylic paint
- 4 square chopsticks
- 1 container wood glue
- 1 sheet felt
- 1 container craft glue
- 1 small tray
- 1 container fine sand or aquarium substrate
- 15 to 20 smooth stones
Paint the Dinosaurs
Paint the dinosaurs with a base coat (or two) of white to help cover the original color of the plastic. After the base coat dries, paint the dinosaurs with pastel paint. Add as many coats as needed, letting the paint dry each time.
Make the Rake
Leave one set of chopsticks connected, if possible. Separate the second set.
Working on a protected surface, use a craft knife to cut 4 cm from the large end of the connected chopsticks. This will be the rake head. Separate the remaining section.
Cut a 1cm long piece from the small end of each chopstick. These will be the rake tines. Choose one long chopstick piece for the handle.
Use sandpaper or an emery board to smooth the ends and rough edges.
Use wood glue to attach the four small rake tines to the rake head. Let the glue set up before adding the handle.
Finally, glue the handle to the rake head. Allow up to 24 hours for the glue to fully set up (or whatever time recommended by the manufacturer).
Make the Plants
For the flowers, cut narrow strips of felt and then cut scallops on one edge. Make the scallops different sizes to add variation to your flowers.
For the foliage, cut wide strips of felt and then cut tall zigzags that look like grass. You should be able to get two foliage pieces from one wide strip. Make the leaves different heights and the strips different widths so your plants all look unique.
Tightly roll the felt strips to form the flowers and foliage, then secure the end with craft glue.
You can also use other miniature plants if you'd prefer.
Set up the Garden
Spread fine sand or aquarium substrate in the tray. Keep the sand or substrate more shallow on one half and deeper on the other.
Set rocks and plants in the shallow side of the sand, arranging them close together.
If you want to make the elements more permanent, you can glue the plants and rocks to the tray before you add the sand or substrate then fill in the sand after they dry.
Nestle the dinosaurs in around the rocks and plants, or even directly in the sand.
Use the rake to make designs in the sand, then smooth it out and start again. You can also use the dinosaurs to make tracks and patterns in the sand. It may not be as relaxing as dragging the rake, but it may make you feel better!
In addition to combing the sand, you can also try rearranging the stones and "tend" your garden as you pause for a bit of peace in your day.