Choosing sustainable arts and crafts that can be created and kept outdoors reduces our overall consumption of paper products and is better for the health of our planet. Making garden stepping stones is an affordable and easy class project that combines artistic autonomy with the scientific principles of viscosity and states of matter. They make fantastic mother and father’s day gifts, and add a personalized touch to any garden for years to come.
Garden Stepping Stone Supplies
- a drop cloth or tarp
- deep containers or molds to pour the concrete in
- cooking spray or vaseline
- one 25kg bag of quick set concrete
- a large-ish bucket or bowl to mix the concrete in that you have no further use for (it will be coated in concrete after)
- something to mix the concrete with that can be disposed of after (paint mixing stick, an old spatula, branch)
- a design surface for the loose parts (paper plates, cardboard squares)
- loose parts to decorate and embellish the stones (dollar store jewels, beads, sea glass or other broken bits of pottery and tiles, stones, shells, garden debris like leaves and pinecones, leftover crafting materials like ribbons and glitter etc)
- Letter stamps (if you want to write MOM etc)
- Modge Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer
How to Make Garden Stepping Stones
Start by choosing a work space, preferably outdoors, that can accommodate the number of children you are working with. I like to use a large drop cloth to define the work space and to keep the cement off the grass.
Have each child chose a mold to work with. Lay out the loose parts, buffet style, and have the children collect the bits and pieces in their chosen mold. I frequently use tin pie molds from the dollar store, but you can order any number of shapes and designs for your stepping stones, like this butterfly mold from amazon.
Next, have the children work with patterns and designs within the mold until they are satisfied with how the finished stone will look. Once the concrete is poured it begins to dry fast, so the design needs to be pretty solid before you mix the concrete.
Either spray the mold with cooking spray, or apply vaseline to make the stone removal easier. Now mix up your cement and evenly distribute the cement to the molds. Be sure each mold is reasonably thick. Thin set concrete does not stand up well to being moved by children, or stepped on in a garden. When working with large groups of children I sometime mix the cement directly in the mold. That way, I can proportion out the cement while they are working on their designs, and then come around one by one to add the water when they are ready to add the decor. If you go this route, I find having wooden take-out chopsticks handy for each child to individually mix their own concrete is useful. Just be sure to do a final mix for each child so they don’t have pockets of unmixed concrete in their mold.
Once the cement is in the mold, have children transfer their decor to the wet concrete. Remind them to work quickly. If you want to use stamps, now is the time to get stamping!
Find an indoor location to store the stones for several days (or over the weekend) to thoroughly harden before removing from the molds. I like to paint the entire stone with a modge podge sealant to give it a shine and protect it from the elements. Let the sealant dry for at least a day.
Wrap up your stepping stone and enjoy it for years to come!
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