You can make or buy pebble meditation bags for this activity. They can be small, perhaps 3 by 3 inches. You can buy special pebbles or collect them in nature. Put four in each bag. (You can also have the children make their own pebble bags and collect their own pebbles. You need to have circles of soft, thin cloth already cut, the size of an adult plate. Have yarn and enough embroidery needles ready– the eye of these needles should be big enough for your yarn. The children can draw on or paint their cloth bags. Let them dry and then show the children to sew big stitches an inch away from the edge of the cloth and pull the yarn closed to make a pouch. They can choose pebbles carefully, looking for one that reminds them of a flower, another that looks like a mountain, then one for clear water, and another for space.)
Take the pebble meditation bags to a nice spot in the open air (where there are trees or bushes) and hide the bags all around. You can hang them on tree branches or on bushes, hide them beneath fallen leaves…etc. Then when everything is set, take the children to this spot and let them hunt for their pebble bag. One bag is allowed for each child, or they could help each other find them for one another.
Before the Hunt
To help the children see the beauty of the practice of pebble meditation we can emphasize its value by seeing the pebbles in the bag as being jewels and a treasure to discover, hence the idea of the treasure hunt. We can orientate them before the hunt and tell them that they are about to seek an object so vital for their happiness. The children are most likely to see how special their pebble bag is when they have made the effort to seek it out.
After the Hunt
The children return indoors, or to a space more enclosed than the open air, this can help the concentration of the children. Small tags can be handed out so that each child can write his or her name on and attach onto their pebble bag. The bags will be collected at the end of the session and placed onto the altar of the children’s room, or a special corner that has a sacred meaning. This helps the children and everyone see that the pebble bags and the practice of pebble meditation is special and sacred.
Sharing the Practice of Pebble Meditation
The children can sit in a circle with the pebbles taken from the bag and placed to either their left or right side. Click here for the pebble meditation booklet transcribed from Thay’s teachings on Pebble meditation to help you guide them in the practice.
If we have our own experience on the practice of pebble meditation, or even our own experience of guided meditation that we can interpret into children’s language, it will enrich the sharing with the children.
After the sharing and practice we gather all the pebble bags (already with the children’s name attached to their personal bag) and place them on the altar. They can be left on the altar until the practice can be done again, each time the bags taken down from the altar and given out to the children. It is nice if the practice can be done for five or ten minutes at the end of each day, or at least during the course of the evening activity time, (perhaps contemplation of one pebble at a time, and the completion of all four pebbles by the end of the week).
At the end of their stay, or the end of the retreat, the children get to take their pebble bag home with them, along with the small booklet, to help them continue to practice at home.