Walking is a fabulous activity. And winter walking is great—no humidity, bugs, or mud. While adults might be keen to let our minds wander during a long ramble, or even practice a walking meditation, kids might need more of a mission to keep them engaged—or to even agree to the activity.
Enter mission: Nature mandalas, a simple yet rewarding activity for kids ages three and up. Added bonus: This is an experience that immerses the participants in nature.
- A bag to collect found/fallen objects in nature
- Pruners to cut found/fallen objects (for adult use only)
- Nature—a park, beach, playground, forest, or conservation area
Step 1: Prepare
Before leaving for the walk, do a quick online search of nature mandalas to spark excitement in the activity and to provide a visual reference of the sorts of materials to look for.
Step 2: Start walking
Pick an age-appropriate distance. You may need to spend up to 30 minutes walking over a variety of terrains in nature a find a diverse array of materials.
Step 3: Be on the lookout
Look for fallen objects in a variety of colours, textures, and materials. Great mandala-building materials include:
- Small fallen evergreen boughs or branches
- Long pine needles
- Sumac berries
- Dried flowers, grasses or plants
- Berries, like mountain ash berries
- Rocks of all sizes
- Fallen bark
- Sticks of varying sizes
- Leaves that aren’t decomposed
Step 4: Say yes to most items
Use the pruners to cut down larger fallen branches into manageable pieces. Remember not to cut anything from a living plant or tree, but you can take a few dead flower heads (leave the rest as cover for wildlife). Make sure the adults handle the berries to prevent inquisitive youngsters from sampling them.
Step 5: Assess the haul
Once you have been walking for a while and have a good collection, inspect your findings. Ask yourself:
- Is there a good variety of colours? What do you see?
- Do we have different textures represented? What do you feel?
- Are there a variety of plants, trees, and minerals? What does each smell like?
Step 6: Find an open space to create the mandala
Now, you need a canvas. A swath of unmarked snow is ideal, but you can also use a patch of grass, a frozen ice surface, sand, a clear part of beach, a patio, deck, driveway, or the sidewalk.
Step 7: Start creating
Most mandalas are circles and often incorporate spirals or other patterns, but let your imagination run wild. You could create a shape like a peace sign or even try to design a bird, fish, or tree. Use a variety of materials and try to contrast colours to make details pop. Use rocks to weigh down some of the lighter materials in case of a wind gust.
Step 8: Stand back and admire the creation
Be sure to take some photos. You could even leave a note weighed down by a rock explaining that the artscape was created using only fallen objects along a nature walk and challenge the finder to do the same. This would create a great ripple effect of activity and artistry.
Winter walks are great, but sometimes it’s nice to have a specific goal in mind. This activity also appeals to the artistic kids who just love to create. Remember to teach respect for nature and safety with found objects.
Next steps: Make a series of mandalas or artistic creations, take a photo each time, and create a collage or an album! Challenge the family to complete a series of walks and mandalas every month throughout the changing seasons. Keep moving, and keep creating!