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The world has really been…something lately, hasn’t it? On top of all the usual stresses, it feels like the past few years have tossed quite a few extra worries at us collectively. I’m lucky to be well-aquatinted with an incredibly experienced licensed psychologist who’s been able to help me navigate the ups and downs (thanks mom!) and so, for this peace garden project, I asked her if she could provide some simple, actionable ideas for calming rituals that parents might be able to easily help their kids put into practice.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, nature and art are the two things I always turn to for a little solace and perspective. These little peace gardens combine both of my favorite calming pastimes for an invitation to design artful gardens celebrating hope, light, and peace. They’re a wonderful opportunity to experiment with supplies, practice some positive thinking, and discuss what peace means with your little ones. But these gardens also hold some special secrets…each one includes its own simple calming activity. Whether your little ones are experiencing anxiety at home or at school, processing personal or community stress, or simply looking for a way to express their feelings, these gardens offer lots of ways to slow down and create a more peaceful place (literally and figuratively).
Want to see one of our relaxing little peace gardens in action? Hit play to watch our paper leaf “worries” slowly disappear…
You can use this inspiration to work on ONE of these concepts or create your own miniature garden site using ALL of our calming tips. As you become more comfortable with the concepts, you and your kids can design/redesign your own little peace gardens and peaceful exercises to better fit your kiddo’s specific needs or concerns.
Though I love the idea of combining these relaxation prompts with an artful little garden, almost all of the ideas can be practiced without any props at all, so your little ones can find relaxation wherever, whenever.
To make your own miniature peace gardens you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Scrap cardboard, wood blocks, egg cartons, air dry clay, recycled packaging materials, plastic containers, etc.
- Cardstock or construction paper
- Acrylic or tempera paints and foam brushes
- Decorative art and craft supplies, fabric scraps, etc.
- Nature supplies
- A hot glue gun or craft glue (I use this low-temp glue gun with kids)
- A Drill and bits (+ sandpaper)
- Rice paper (like this) or bleeding tissue paper (like the kind we used)
- A set of DIY peg dolls
Kids DIY Miniature Peace Garden Instructions:
- Gather cardboard, little boxes, old packaging materials, and more
I’ve made five very different kinds of miniature play gardens using many different recycled supplies. My hope is that these examples will give you LOTS of ideas to use or recycle items you already have around the house to make mini-gardens featuring your own style and details!
The foundations of our gardens are built from scrap cardboard, woodblocks, shoebox lids, and recycled packaging. Take a quick tour around your house to find unconventional, artful uses for similar materials!
- Design your gardens
Half the fun (and therapy) in the project is the garden creation. You can try to recreate our peace garden examples, or come up with your own creative variations on the ideas!
- Practice, practice, practice
So you’ve put your peace gardens together, you’ve tried one or two (or all!) of these techniques…so what next…? Practice! All of these calming exercises are concepts you can practice regularly with your kids to create healthy, life-long habits.
No two kids are alike, so while some may respond to a daily scheduled ”peace garden time,” others may get the most out of these exercises by practicing as they need it. Some children might like a “peace partner” or practicing as a family, while some may prefer this be a private activity. Giving your kids authority and autonomy, while encouraging routine is part of the lovely balance of this activity.
Kids Peace Garden Introduction: Find Your Relaxation Spot
There are two major therapeutic components to this project. The first is the therapy that comes through art and creative creation. The second is learning to redirect and refocus energy. Here are a few tips to help you kick off this project in a way that can cultivate life-long coping skills through calm artistic creation…
- Let your kids choose a special spot for their peace gardens. This should be a space that feels particularly comfortable for them. A place they can retreat to when feeling out of control, or a spot that’s nice and quiet (or loud if that’s what they prefer!) when they need a bit of a time out.
- Encourage the incorporation of nature. Research out of Stanford University suggests that spending time outside for as little as 15 minutes can improve cognition and reduce stress. Take a nature walk to collect your peace garden supplies, or let your kids pick a special peace garden spot outside.
- Use mantras. Once your mini peace gardens have been created, come up with sayings that you can use with your kids to help find mental focus in their miniature garden spaces. Repeated mantras like,“I am at peace. I am relaxed.” can help kids get out of their heads and embrace the spirit of their calming gardens.
Kids Miniature Peace Garden One: The Best Thing
We start our garden tour off with a stop at “The Garden of Best Things” – a place where you can vocalize the very best things that happened throughout the week. Now, having been a kid myself, I’m well aware that this exercise is going to be a piece of cake some weeks, and other weeks it will feel IMPOSSIBLE. But the key here is that the only requirement is to think of at least ONE good thing.
The calming secret to this little peace garden is recognizing happiness (in small or large amounts). A kid-friendly alternative to activities like gratitude journaling, this exercise helps children acknowledge and appreciate simple joys. You can write them down on colorful pieces of paper, fold them up, and collect your ”best things” as pictured here, or just say them out loud.
- Our Miniature Garden of Bests features:
- A cardboard half-circle base covered with crushed green tissue paper
- A cardboard half-circle background with a half-circle cutout that’s been backed with rainbow-colored tissue paper strips glued onto a half-circle of parchment paper
- Painted egg carton flowers and DIY peg dolls finish off our colorful, welcoming garden
Kids Miniature Peace Garden Two: Bubble Breathing
Take a visit to our “Bubble Garden,” and you’re guaranteed to learn a few ways to control and focus your breath for maximum calm and comfort. This garden comes equipped with its own bubble wand + bubble ”pond” to help kids pause, focus, and gain control of their breathing + mental state through slow, steady breaths. Visitors to this mini garden can grab the bubble wand, dip it in the solution in our “bubble pond” and circle it around while inhaling for 4-5 slow seconds. After a long, slow inhale, exhale through the wand for another 4-5 seconds, blowing continuous bubbles until you’ve run out of breath.
Instead of the peaceful miniature cherry blossom tree I included, you could insert a pinwheel, or spinning paper flower your kids could use for exhaling practice.
- For this mini peace garden we used:
- Unfinished wood blocks (one left natural and one painted) + a drill and bit to make a small hole we could use to hold the mini cherry blossom tree
- Small bits of torn pink tissue paper hot-glued to sticks to create our cherry blossom tree
- A small, shallow recycled plastic pill container filled with bubble solution
- A smooth river rock
- Craft wire we doubled over and formed into a bubble blower
Kids Miniature Peace Garden Three: Leaves in the Pond
Got troubles? Grab a tissue paper leaf and take a walk around “The Disappearing Worry Water Garden”. This little peace garden invites kids to name their worries, then let go of them by literally watching them drift to the bottom of a small “pond” (or even disappear!). Identifying negative thoughts can be a difficult concept for kids, so encouraging them to write their specific concerns on paper leaves (or simply vocalizing them) can be a simple but incredibly constructive exercise.
Taking it one step further, we used bleeding tissue paper leaves which the water eventually dissolves, successfully demonstrating the idea that we can overcome our worries and anxiety.
- For this miniature garden we used:
- A shoebox lid with a circle cut out for our ”pond”
- A clear recycled plastic lid for our ”pond”. We painted the outside ONLY with blue acrylic paint so the inside could hold water.
- Painted paper leaves hot-glued to sticks and pushed into the shoebox lid
- Various nature finds (bark, cedar trimmings, and river rocks that are perfect for picking up and using as worry stones)
- Bleeding tissue paper ”leaves”. You can use any kind of paper to make your own leaves, but the benefit of using bleeding tissue paper is that the color seeps out and leaves a tissuey, see-through skeleton of your leaf. Your worry has basically “disappeared” before your very eyes! You could also use rice paper or another water-soluble material.
Kids Miniature Peace Garden Four: One Good Deed
Congratulations, you’ve made it to ”The Garden of Good Deeds” – one of my very favorites! The concept we’re exploring through this miniature peace garden is positive feelings through positive action. Each one of those ribbon ties represents a good deed, and no good deed is too small to recognize (just like in real life, BIG acts of kindness are wonderful, but it’s the small ones that add up over time).
By providing a concrete visualization of the change they’ve helped create in their family or community, this mini garden helps kids turn good actions into good feelings and vice versa.
- For this little peace garden we used:
- A rectangular recycled brown box
- A green cardstock ”hedge”
- A strong but flexible length of thick stem cut from old foliage
- Scrap fabric strips to use for the good deed ribbons
Kids Miniature Peace Garden Five : Picture Your Peace
And here is the shining jewel of our peace garden – the Picture Peace Garden. This concept can be presented as a prompt to help your little ones visualize their dream ”peaceful place”. You can ask them what objects or animals might be there, what they see, hear, taste, or smell to make it the ultimate peaceful spot. Maybe their peaceful place garden is inspired by a specific story or an illustration they saw in a book.
This is a garden that invites variations on the theme, and you don’t have to stop at making just one! Instead of creating a vision of their own peaceful place, this garden can represent a peaceful neighborhood, city, country, or world.
Our own peaceful place is inspired by Ukrainian artist Maria Primachenko.
- For this small world peace garden we used:
- Recycled paper pulp packaging, sponge-painted with two shades of green paint
- Construction paper flowers with twig stems and a cardstock painted peace dove
Because I’ve always been more of a hands-on learner and do-er myself, I’m also designing one handy printable calm kid toolkit you can download (coming soon!) to keep on hand and use in a huge variety of ways. It’s basically like putting my mom in your pocket – and if you knew her, it’s the FIRST thing you’d want to do – ha!
Try making a DIY magic zen jar for meditation, cook your own water beads for a calming sensory activity, make some relaxing scribble art, or try building a different kind of playful mini garden space with our cardboard foldout secret garden.
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!