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I organise an afternoon where we invite parents and children to out my local Buddhist centre. I put on some craft type activity for the children and then we do a mini reflection and a story. The adults eat cake. Previously I have been shamelessly inspired (i.e. pinched) the ideas for crafts from the local Methodist church (my wife used to go to their family afternoon). But I would really like some crafts and/or activity that are themed around Buddhist practice and or texts and stories.

The children are between 1 and about 7 years old but some older ones did attend last time and it was particularly challenging to think of something for them. I think they got bored. I don't mind spending money on materials - I do that anyway in the spirit of contribution to the centre.

Many thanks for any all ideas

  • I know this is a list question so I have converted to a wiki. I really appreciate peoples responses as it is a genuine need for me so I hope it can stay open. See how it goes. – Crab Bucket Jul 18 '15 at 16:16
  • I vote for keeping this post open. These activities are healthy and might inspire others to practice Buddhism. – Lanka Jul 18 '15 at 16:38
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    Build stupas (models). Copy sutras (as an exercise in calligraphy or in copying exotic scripts like Chinese or siddham). Both of these are recommended practices in Mahayana & scale down to what a kid could do. – MatthewMartin Jul 19 '15 at 19:21
  • And Torma (food sculptures) ref en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torma – MatthewMartin Jul 23 '15 at 2:35
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*You may be able to build an ongoing lesson about the key Buddhist concept of impermanence and ongoing change using various aspects of growing things. From planting seeds indoors in the winter, (or bulbs outdoors in the fall), to caring for the plants, replanting them outdoors once it's warm, watching them grow, seeing them die, knowing they'll grow back next season (if they are perennial or if you save some seeds); tying in rebirth with the lesson. If outdoor space is not available, some indoor pots of herbs might offer the same concept.

*Even if the monks' alms round is not a part of your tradition, it can be explained as part of the culture and practice at the time of the Buddha and a simple cooking or baking lesson (Bodhi leaf shaped cookies? ;-)) could allow the children to be generous and share with one another with a simplified children's alms round.

*The very famous images of the Buddha's footprints could be made in clay or something similar.

*If you can find some tree branches which have fallen and can be cut to size to look like tree trunks, you may be able to make Bhodi trees with leaves cut from green paper and attached to the "tree trunks" with pipe cleaners.

*You can adapt Valentine's Day to be "Metta Day" with blue hearts symbolizing loving-kindness, peace, and universal compassion and an explanation of what Metta means to a Buddhist and how to do a Metta prayer for loving-kindness.

*You could have the children bring in healthy snacks and do an eating meditation; eating very slowly and mindfully and noting the movements and sensations such as lifting hand, bringing food to mouth, feeling warmth or coldness of food, tasting food, chewing, swallowing, etc. This could be paired with a lesson about the interdependence of all things or cause and effect for plants (animals?) to grow and result in food for us. (If it were me, I'd stick to plants to keep it simple.)

*Venerable Yuttadhammo recently mentioned in a dhamma talk, a simile comparing our moments of sila, samadhi, and panna to beads. As we make more and more of those beads, the string that goes through them and holds them together is mindfulness. I think this could be turned into a lesson for children as they hear a story about each bead representing an act of kind behavior (sila), or a moment of being settled and peaceful (samadhi), or an instance of quietly observing the world around us to understand it better (panna), as they string beads for their own "mindfulness bracelet".

*Does your tradition use Buddhist prayer beads to keep count while chanting? String 27, 54, or 108 beads with a tassel (or larger bead) in the middle to make their own set.

*Paper lanterns are traditional for Buddha's birthday. Here's a couple of samples. http://familycrafts.about.com/od/chinesenewyears/ss/eplantern.htm and https://www.pinterest.com/pin/32299322300026496/

*You could make a paper Buddhist flag and talk about the meaning of the colors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_flag

*Tibetan prayer flags are pretty to make and hang around the room and "are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_flag

*The imagery of our "Three Gems" or "Three Jewels" is beautiful. Maybe coloring cutouts of the Buddha, Dhamma (books maybe?), and Sangha for the kids to color in and paste over brightly colored diamond shaped construction paper?

added The traditional Peanut Butter Pinecones or other simple ideas to feed birds and squirrels in the winter can be tied in with lessons on the first Buddhist perfection of Dāna as well as compassion.

added The Story of the Non Returner who "sold" pots on the side of the road could be brought to life with a project of kids pottery making where the parents leave rice, beans, or lentils (i.e. food that can be donated to a charitable organization) as "payment" for one of the pots. If you think a lesson on non attachment might work here also, tell the children and parents the idea is to "buy" a pot that their own child didn't make. ;-)

For the older children:

*They may enjoy putting together some skits of the Jataka stories (referenced above by Sankha) for the younger ones to watch. (Some might be scary though.)

added *Using colored sand, Tibetan-style sand mandalas can be put together, maybe as a group project. Mandalas always have a deeper meaning. A good article here on one built to incite compassion for all living beings. When completed, mandalas are washed away into the ocean, or poured into a jar to be brought to a source of flowing water, as a reminder of the impermanence of all material things.

Good luck with your projects and in teaching the new generation about Buddhism. That is awesome. :)

Lastly, my crafty friends and relatives highly recommend Pinterest for sparking ideas in virtually any craft category.

  • Thank you so much Robin. These are amazing. This is going to keep the Leeds under 16 right livelihood dharma cooperative busy for months and months. I'll post an answer here with pictures when we do our next craft day to let everyone know what we are up to and maybe help other people with this kind of thing. Anyway thank you again. – Crab Bucket Jul 24 '15 at 13:55
  • You're welcome! Glad there was something useful. :) – Robin111 Jul 24 '15 at 13:56
  • @CrabBucket, someone passed along this link in our online meditation group and at a quick glance it looks like it has lots of ideas for Buddhist crafts for children. buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/ebooks.htm :) – Robin111 Jul 29 '15 at 10:51
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I like the story, where the Buddha explains how different people get a different perception of the world because of their individual access (sensual/mind-structure/etc) of the "things". He took the example of an elephant where a group of blind people touch the elephant and shall describe the elephant by what they are sensing (and then extrapolating).
I think that would be a fun for the children - to get the eyes covered and then try to recognize some toy-animal by touching only a part. And then let the children compare what they found out...

One need not reduce this to the question of form; the teacher/constructor of that animal (or whatever) can put different material to different places (feather, leather,...) and so on.

Possibly one can construct analogies to perception of interaction of the people in one family or school: there will be some short scene be played by the teacher (and helpers) and the children can observe the same scene from different locations and/or different filters (no sound, only a keyhole to look at). The scene might be something from the view of the kids: papa gives a bit money to one child and not to another one. Some kinds can see the face of the papa (and the grief on it, because there is not enough money for all) and some cannot see the face of the papa but something else...(room for your phantasy). Then let the kids re-tell what they have seen and how they felt, and let them compare...

Just a spontaneous idea, for what it's worth...

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You could buy some clay and craft a Dhamma wheel or a lotus flower with the kids.

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