If you and your housemates need a relaxing activity, head outside for some mandala making. Mandalas are geometric arrangements of objects or symbols, used in a variety of spiritual traditions. They’re sometimes used to focus attention, establish a sacred or special place, or facilitate meditation.
For our purposes, making a mandala is simply a way to get outside for a creative, centering activity that gets you looking closely at and listening carefully to the natural world. While gathering materials and creating a design, slow down, listen, and look at what’s happening around you.
It’s often during these quiet times in nature that we see the most amazing things – a shy bird, a nest or woodpecker hole, an unfurling plant, an interesting insect, a beautiful seedhead.
Bring a basket or container to collect materials. Here’s all you need to do:
- Walk around looking for materials. Whatever appeals to you. Pine needles, sticks, acorns, seedheads, leaves, pinecones, dead grass stalks, stones, shells.
- Since nature is just beginning to unfurl her plants, encourage children to use last year’s materials, e.g. old leaves, acorns, sticks on the ground, rather than newly budding leaves.
- When you have a variety of materials, find a place to create your mandala. You can clear some bare ground, make it on a flat stone, design it on a grassy area, on the forest floor – anywhere.
- Pine cones can be used whole or broken into pieces (like the squirrels do!), sticks can be broken into uniform lengths, acorns can be used whole or separated from their caps, seedheads can be broken apart into seeds….experiment with your materials.
- While personal preference governs design, mandalas provide an opportunity to teach children about symmetry and how to create a design where every element (except the center point) has a ‘mate’ (so to speak) located opposite the center. The concept of symmetry is easiest to demonstrate by example.
That’s it! It can be fun to make a beautiful mandala next to a sidewalk for others to enjoy, or in an out of the way location as a surprise for some future traveler. Or, make it in your yard to enjoy until the next windy day.
So, take a break from the day’s education plans and head out for some relaxed time creating beauty and symmetry out of natural objects. Take a picture of your creations to remember the fun and recapture the quiet moments.