A Scrappy, Tactile Art Project: Our Very Own Mandalas

Mandala coloring books have become a big trend, and rightfully so. These books are not only fun, but have a very soothing and relaxing effect on any artist- littles and bigs alike. The word ‘mandala’ is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘circle’ and it “represents harmony, wholeness and the infinite nature of the universe.”   The mandala image is a series of concentric circles that contain different interlocking geometric patterns.

In order to color each shape in a mandala, you have to stay intently focused on the present, remaining very attentive and calm, so it makes for a great mindfulness activity. Researchers have studied the healing effect of mandalas and found that coloring a mandala for 20 minutes can have greater improvements on anxiety levels than free-form coloring for 20 minutes.  In another study participants who “created mandalas (versus those who drew static objects) demonstrated significant improvements in mental health, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.”

We have tried several mandala coloring books and one of our favorites is: Mandala Designs.  My 5-year old loves mandala coloring so much that she even took over her auntie’s adult mandala coloring book called: Stress Less Coloring – Mandalas: 100+ Coloring Pages for Peace and Relaxation. Another one of our favorites is The Ultimate Travel Coloring Book, which is not a mandala book but offers similar intricate geometric patterns and requires mindful attention.  There’s also tons of free mandala coloring pages online that you can find as well.

Creating our own mandala

Recently my girls and I decided to take mandala coloring a step further and actually tried to make our own mandalas at home. I wanted it to be a scrappy project using things we already had at home, and was hoping for something tactile which we could explore together.

To start our project, we first took 3 paper plates- one for each of us.  We drew a small circle in the middle of the plate.  We then created a few outer rings with the same epicenter.  Once we had these rings we started drawing different patterns in each one.  We continued oscillating between drawing rings and patterns until we hit the perimeter of our plate.  I found little trinkets around the house to help trace some of the geometric shapes.  At first I noticed that my rings weren’t uniform circles, but as I filled out more of the mandala pattern I realized that it didn’t matter whether the circles or patterns were super crisp.   My 5-year old tried to follow my patterns in her design but added her own flavor. My 2-year old just scribbled of course and was very happy to be included in this project.

Once we established a design for our plates, then we wanted to fill it in.  We used markers and glitter, but also different grains, rice, lentils and chia seeds to fill in our patterns.  This required a lot of patience and meticulous attention to fill in such small spaces with grains. This is not something we wanted to rush through, so it’s still a work in progress.  My older daughter keeps asking when we can finish our mandala pieces, but I’m waiting for the rainy days to subside so we can take the project outside as it does get very messy.  The current state of our mandala pieces are pictured below.

The project was really relaxing and an awesome mindfulness activity. The 3 of us, including my 2-year old, probably sat for over an hour working on our pieces.  We played music, talked and were totally in the zone, so we are looking forward to completing our project soon and exploring other mandala art we can make.