A Crafting Series

By: Jill Stockburger

Recently, I heard someone describe the current COVID-19 season as a period of ‘fluid loops.’ This description resonated with me as awareness and longing for structure greets me from within. A loop, a circle, invites us to dream about what it holds. For most of us a circle is the first shape we learn. Or maybe we remember the attempts at an early childhood game; the hula hoop. Within many cultures, the circle is a symbol of promise and the sanctuary it provides. It is a gentle structure found throughout nature and even the human body taking us to places of nurture and care.

We talk often about felt safety and creating a high nurture, high structure environment through playful engagement. We practice outside the moment, create routines, provide visual schedules, manage transitions, and proactively seek one on one time through a little play.

In the early part of the 20th century, psychologists studied the physiological and psychological aspects of perception and they were able to demonstrate that the brain possesses self-organizing abilities which cause people to be attracted to certain forms or “good gestalts.” Good gestalts have characteristics such as regularity, stability and wholeness. “Children’s preferences for certain shapes such as the mandala demonstrate their search for order, harmony, and balance.” – Lisa Hinz

Mandalas conceptualize the circle and curiously surprise us in all sorts of places.

Think of the pattern of sunflowers, seeds, the inside of a cantaloupe or bell peppers. Consider the shapes of shells, snowflakes, and spider webs. And, even the patterns of our eyes, the so-called windows to our souls.
Look at how fun structure can be!

Supplies: Indoor option 1: cardboard, string, buttons, pipe-cleaners, beads, recycled materials, glue etc.
Indoor option 2: paper plate or another plate, a variety of colorful food
Outdoor option: rocks, flowers, shells, pinecones, leaves, etc.

Ages: 3+

Exercise: This exercise can be done individually or as a family, but before you get going, head out for a nature walk exploring all the mandala that are inherently in nature. This forms calls to us from all directions providing gentle structure with the nurture of beauty in nature.

Indoor Option 1: Create a circle out of the cardboard and begin to
arrange your collected items in a symmetrical pattern moving from
the center of the circle outwards. After you have finished arranging,
glue your items to the circle. Notice what the different items feel like
as you glue them.

  • If you are having a hard time creating your pattern, you can
    search “mandala” and find a variety of options to give you an

Indoor Option 2: Take your plate and arrange a variety of colorful
foods from the center of the plate outwards. This could be a really
fun way to move into snack time and try a new food with some
favorites on the plate.

  • For example: You could place your favorite dipping sauce in the center of the plate, then arrange a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables outward creating an edible mandala.

Outdoor Option: This one is magical! And, you got it. Use whatever
nature is offering to create a mandala working from the inside out in
a symmetrical pattern.

Additional Options: Indoor Option 1: Trace the circles with one finger slowly noticing your mindful breaths as you do so.
Indoor Option 2: Try feeding one another one item from your plate.
This is a fun connecting activity that Dr. Purvis used at times during Camp Nurture.
Outdoor Option: If you create a large outdoor option, try slowly
walking the circles one at a time similar to a labyrinth using those
mindful breaths we were returning to.

Don’t Forget: All three of the options use 3D objects with a variety of colors and textures. There is a significant sensory engagement along with the perceptual organizing engagement. Sensory engagement is one of the first physiological layers to self-regulation, so draw awareness to the somatic sensations that occur throughout the process. The variety of colors provides a release within the affective state; make connections to feelings before, during, and after you create your mandala.

About the author: Jill Stockburger is a counseling intern with Memphis Family Connection Center as she obtains her Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy through Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.
Jill loves to see all the arts modalities of visual art, music, drama, dance, and creative writing integrated with TBRI principles.
Categories: News


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