Zen Garden

A zen garden for children to use as tool for self care

This activity promotes development and learning by encouraging children to develop increasing care for self, others, and the environment.

Materials Needed:

  • Shoe box lid or tray with an edge
  • Measuring cup or small shovel
  • Sand and small rocks
  • Plastic fork
  • Small dish for water (optional)

Participants: This activity is intended for adult/child interaction, and independent play.


(See photo examples in PDF)

  1. Take a walk with your child and collect rocks or stones.
  2. Place shoe box lid (or tray) outside or cover your work area.
  3. Have your child use the measuring cup or small shovel to scoop sand into the lid.
  4. Use the fork to “rake” the sand creating a smooth surface.
  5. Have your child arrange the rocks or stones they have collected in the sand. Add small optional dish with water.
  6. Children can rake designs and rearrange their zen garden anytime, especially, when needing to calm and focus.


  • Use sea shells instead of rocks or stones.
  • Use colored sand if available to change or mix colors in garden.
  • Create a variety of sizes of zen gardens, including a large outdoor one.
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
A zen garden for children to use as tool for self care