sand paintings & mandalas

IMG_5402Sand painting is the art of pouring coloured sand or pigments onto a surface to create an image. Sand painting is an art that has a place in many different cultures, including Navajo, Australian Aborigine, and Tibetan. You may have heard of Tibetan mandalas, for example, which are intricate, unfixed sand paintings that are painstakingly created—and destroyed—as symbols of the transitory nature of earthly life.

If you look around in the craft section of your local dollar store, you might come across a shelf piled with little bags of sand in different colours, like red, yellow, blue and green. These aren’t just for filling miniature sandboxes—they’re very handy for making sand paintings, too! For this project, you’ll need a few bags of sand, some small bowls to hold the sand during the class—one for each colour of sand you’ll be using—and some spoons to help the children pour it. If you can’t find coloured sand, powdered tempera paint will also work fine. Assuming that you want fixed sand paintings that the children can bring home, you should also make sure you have glue, and, optionally, a small spray bottle to help you fix the entire painting at the end. Of course, you can always skip the glue and make unfixed sand paintings, for the extra spiritual message!

IMG_5400When you make fixed sand paintings in class, you can print out some mandala templates onto sheets of paper for the children to use as guides. After they pick a template, the children should clear a workspace for themselves and then apply some glue to the sheet where they want their first colour to appear, making sure to smooth out the glue with a stick, a brush, or another tool. Then, they can scoop a little sand out of one of the bowls, and pour it onto their sheet. Some of the sand may miss the glue and remain loose on the paper; they can just pick up the sheet and shift it around until the sand settles onto an area that’s been glued. They can repeat these steps until they’re finished applying that colour. Before applying the next colour, they should wait a little so that the glue dries, and then they can repeat the process with a different colour of sand. At the end of the activity, you can use a spray bottle containing some diluted glue (80% glue, 20% water) to spray the painting and “fix” the sand,

Keep in mind that the key to making good fixed sand paintings is in the amount of glue applied: too little, and not enough of the sand will stick; too much, and the glue won’t dry fast enough for the children to take their creation home. The glue should also be applied evenly to avoid a patchy appearance. If you want to try your hand at unfixed sand paintings, simply skip the glue and have the children work on a clean, flat surface that can easily be wiped clean. You may want to put down a table cloth out of a finely-woven material, so that you can use it to pour the sand into a container at the end.

Sand paintings can be a great group activity to help children learn co-operation, patience, inner peace, and detachment.