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.


Posted in art

artistic expedition

bosch gardensAn “artistic expedition” is an outdoor activity where children are asked to draw or paint something in nature. The idea is to teach the concept that whatever has been created reflects the attributes of its creator, as well as to give children the chance to get to know and appreciate the environment around them.

Choose a spot with a great diversity of natural subjects–hills, mountains, flowers, trees, bushes, rocks, birds’ nests, streams–is best, to allow the children as much freedom as possible in terms of what to draw/paint. Time alloted for drawing/painting depends on the children’s age and their ability to focus on their task; younger children (7-8 years old) might lose focus after fifteen minutes, whereas older ones (10-11 years old) might be able to work on more detailed art for up to half an hour.

As follow-up, ask the children to observe each others’ art, paying attention to positive qualities that set each child’s art apart. If the children are stuck for ideas, you could briefly ask them what the main focus of each drawing is, or, if they have some knowledge of the principles of art, ask them to evaluate the use of colour, harmony, or balance. Then, ask the children if they can tell what each drawing says about the child that created it. For example, a child who used many different, vibrant colours may might appreciate variety and diversity; a child who added birds, squirrels or other creatures might have a great love for animals; and so on. Finish by explaining the activity’s key concept: that which has been created reflects the attributes of its creator. Now that they have completed the exercise with each other’s creations, ask them to take a few moments to think about their experience in nature. What sort of attributes and qualities does nature reflect?

religious symbol stencils

world religion day activitySince one of the foundational principles of the Bahá’í Faith is progressive revelation—the concept that all religions come from the same Divine Source and promote the same spiritual Message—there are always occasions when a children’s class will want to talk about the various religions of the world. One of the activities we’ve used for this topic is to create stencils out of symbols for the world’s different religions, that can be used for tracing, painting, spray painting, and more. This activity features prominently in our lesson plan on the oneness of religion.

Below you’ll find a number of templates for stencils depicting common symbols of some of the world’s religions: The Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Sikhism. Print out the templates at the desired proportions and cut them out onto heavy paper such as bristol board. Some of the more complicated symbols may be better suited to cutting out with a pen-knife or utility knife instead of scissors.

In our class, we prepared nine-pointed stars to apply the stencils to; these were then applied to the wall with tape to create a colourful display in the classroom. They could also be used as decorations on walls or windows, or as part of mobiles.



colouring pages

my love is my strongholdOne essential part of any class for younger children is colouring. Thankfully, there’s a steadily growing wealth of colouring pages for teachers of Bahá’í children’s classes to use in their lessons. Here are some places to look!

painting variations

There are plenty of ways to make regular painting more interesting. Here are a few of them:

  • Blow painting: Prepare small cups of tempera or diluted acrylic paint in different colours—red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple—along with a bunch of straws and coloured paper. Show the children how to pick up the diluted paint with the straw (just cover the top of it with your finger). Ask them to drop bits of paint onto their paper, and then blow it around with the straw to make fancy shapes.
  • Celery painting: Instead of using brushes, use chopped-off celery bottoms to make beautiful, rose-shaped patterns.
  • Finger painting: Instead of using brushes, use—guess what? (Make sure to clean up well afterwards!)
  • Tape painting: Put a base coat of paint onto a canvas or canvas board, and let it dry. Children can then lay tape down in an interesting pattern and paint the sections in between the tape with different colours to end up with an abstract geometric painting.
  • Udder painting: Fill up the fingers of a latex glove with paint, prick a hole into the fingertips with a pin, and squeeze the paint out as if milking a cow’s udder.



blow painting

sidewalk drawings

finishing touchessidewalk chalk is easy to come by, and makes a nice, fun activity for kids who feel the need to move around a lot. as well, it has the added benefit of leaving a visible trace for neighbours and passers-by to see what we’re doing.

An alternative to chalk for sidewalk drawings is sidewalk paint—you can make it yourself fairly easily with corn starch, water, and food colouring: two tablespoons of corn starch, four tablespoons of water and 6–8 drops of colouring will make enough for a day’s worth of sidewalk art.

You can also make your own sidewalk chalk with plaster of Paris, water and tempera paint—it’s a little bit more involved, but you get the extra thrill of making your own custom chalk!