How to Make a Mini Sand Garden

A sand garden, sometimes called a Japanese rock garden or zen garden, is simple and inexpensive to make, especially if you make a miniature version for indoors. A sand garden provides decoration, but it also relieves stress as you "play in the sand." 


  • Container: Choose one at least 2 inches deep, like ceramic bowl or planter, a wooden or glass tray, a jewelry or shadow box. 
  • Sand: From a beach, or purchased from a craft or gardening store. Consider decorative or colored sand, although most sand gardens use a simple white or natural sand. If going with a Zen theme, the sand symbolizes water.
  • Pebbles/Rocks: From your yard, or you can buy polished colored ones. For a Zen sand garden, the rocks symbolize mountains and islands.
  • Rake: Make your own from small twigs or dowel rods (1/8-inch, ¼-inch, ½-inch in diameter), knife and wood glue.
  • Essential scented oil, or other small decorative items for a themed garden

Step 1: Choose a Theme

What is the purpose of your sand garden? What room will it be in? Who will be using it and looking at it the most? Consider these questions as you choose the theme.

If you want a garden to relieve stress, choose a Zen theme. Kkeep it simple with a plain box, sand, rocks and rake. Are you going to put it in the bathroom that already has a tropical theme? Then add a miniature umbrella that you swiped from a pina colada at a restaurant. Going to put in a children's room? Create a little sandbox with a miniature toy dumptruck.

Step 2: Prepare the Container

If you have chosen an unfinished container, you may want to paint it. Make sure you clean it thoroughly and that it is dry from water or paint before adding sand.

Step 3: Add the Sand

Prepare sand before adding. If you have taken natural sand from the outdoors, sift through it for bugs or other unwanted materials. Indulge your sense of smell by adding several drops of your favorite essential scented oil to the sand. Shake up in a separate container before placing in container.  

Step 4: Make the Rake

The rake is an important addition to the garden. It can be used to make designs in the sand and then turned over to erase those designs. Cut the larger twig or dowel rod into a 4-inch piece, the medium size to about 1½ inches and the small size into 4 separate ½-inch pieces.

Glue together: the large piece is the handle, the middle the base and the smallest  the tines. Cut notches (or drill) into the wood where you want to apply glue to make the rake more stable.  

Step 5: Place the Rocks and Other Items

Keeping your theme in mind, place the rocks and other toys in your sand garden. Time to play!

Tips and Ideas

  • Pick a scented oil to match your theme, like a salty ocean scent to go with a beach theme.
  • Make wet sand by mixing in some oil if you want to make sand castles or other designs with your sand.
  • Sand gardens can make a fun personalized gift! Store the sand in a jar or plastic baggie during transportation.