Stay Creative! Mini Zen Garden Asian American Resource Center

Activity Duration: 1 Hour. Recommended Ages: 6 - 10 Years Old.

There are times when things can get very intense or stressful. When that happens, it is nice to have a space where you can find peace. For this Stay Creative activity, we will be making our own mini zen garden!

What is a Zen Garden?

First of all, what is zen? Zen often refers to being in a "meditative state," which is to be quiet, calm, and at peace. When you are experiencing zen, you can say, that you are having a look into the "true nature of your mind." Zen comes from traditions not just in Japan, but also in China, Korea, and Vietnam.

A zen garden is a rock garden that originated in Japan. They usually consist of water, rocks, lanterns, twigs, leaves, and various plants. The zen garden is often a very calm and quiet space and is meant to show the symbols of life. For example, water symbolizes calmness, the rocks symbolize longevity, and plants symbolize the joys and pains of life.

Here are examples of some real life zen gardens you can one day visit!

This is the zen garden at the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
An example of a zen garden you can visit one day! This is our Zen Garden at the Asian American Resource Center in Austin, Texas.


  • Rocks
  • Plant(s) [grass, leaves, twigs, etc.]
  • Rice, Quinoa, Lentils.
  • Bowl, Tray, or, or a Deep Plate
  • Stick (or something similar)
  • You can add whatever else you like to your mini zen garden!


  1. Add your grains to the bowl first.
  2. After that, you can add the rest of your materials. Place your rocks and plants in various places around the bowl, wherever you feel is the best.
  3. If a placement of a rock or plant does not feel good, go ahead and move it to another spot on the bowl.
  4. Once you are happy with your zen garden, you can use your stick to create a design in the grains! Draw lines, waves, swirls, what every makes you feel calm and happy!

Here is an example of a finished Mini Zen Garden. Your zen garden does not need to look exactly like this. Try out different combinations of rocks, plants, and designs!

Make your garden a place for you to feel at peace. When every you feel tired or stressed, come back to your garden, use your stick to create new, thoughtful patterns in the grains. Work on the new lines and swirls until you feel calm.

Feeling at peace and want to share? Snap a photo of your Zen Garden and send it to us at aarc@austintexas.gov. We will post your DIY Zen Garden on Instagram!

We would love to hear your feedback! Complete the short Programs and Events Survey today!

Interested in more fun and free online activities? Check out the AARC's Education Program for more!


Created with an image by jggrz - "nature japanese garden zen"