Zen Practice for Children

Programs, events and special content for the children in our community:

Buddha's Birthday Celebration

Children's Art Gallery

Ripples Class

Art and Music Classes

Songs for Children


Buddha's Birthday Celebration

This year, Buddha's Birthday took place on Sunday, April 12 from 3-4:30 PM at Countryside Church, 1025 N. Smith St. in Palatine. Scroll down to read more about our annual celebration:

Children are an important part of the celebration and receive instruction in meditation and practice a short period of it. We also complete craft projects, a “Gratitude Flower,” and play a few mindfulness games. The celebration also features a display of art, poetry and essays by children depicting the Six Paramitas.

We are inviting parents to spend some time with their children talking about the paramitas and how to cultivate them (see the Ohigan article in our newsletter for more information). Encourage your children to make a picture or other artwork illustrating one of the paramitas. Pictures could illustrate generosity, patience, tolerance, inclusion, energy or effort, concentration or wisdom in any way your child chooses to portray any of these.

Online Art Gallery

These beautiful pictures, poems and riddles were created by children especially for the 2015 Buddha's Birthday celebration. Scroll down to learn more about the artists and read the descriptions of their work, and click on the images to view larger versions.

Blue Lotus - Beauty and Wisdom

Jack, age 9


I am connected to all things

Maggie, age 7


Courage is important. People use courage to be kind.

Maggie, age 7


The cute but confident baby tiger can be intriguing. I picked the tiger because they are energetic and can be patient and I thought that patient and energetic are a combination.

Sophie, age 10



Olivia, age 12


Gratitude Flower

Dylan, age 3 (with help from Grandma)


A Riddle

by Sophia, age 10

Something that keeps away wars and battles,
riding upon bright, golden saddles.
Coming into our lives with hope and love
Sweeping on in like a sweet morning dove.
High and above a dove does appear
Sounding like music to a delicate ear.
Light can be given from the candle that's lit,
But for now WHAT IS IT?

(Scroll down for the answer)



by Kareena

The whispers of happiness
Dance inside the mind
The whispers of sadness
Swivel up behind
The whispers of anger
Rage a fire in the soul
The whispers of pressure
Force you back into a lonely hole
The whispers of fear
Lead the way to a fright
The whispers of tears
Linger all through the night
The soft whispers inside
Will be your emotional guide
Listen to your Whispers
For they will help you live a good Buddhist life


The answer to the riddle above is: PEACE


Each year we hold our traditional Buddha's Birthday service with the beautiful flower house and refreshments following. If your children would like to participate next year, please contact Myoyu Roshi at s.myoyu.andersen [at] gmail.com or by phone at 608- 325-6248. It's a great opportunity to learn a little about Buddhism, meet like-minded children and have some fun!


Ripples Class

Ripples is a new, 10-week experiential class based on the Noble Eightfold Path, designed to teach children (and adults, too!) the fundamentals of meditation and how to extend this concentration and awareness outward into all aspects of their lives and what they do, say and think about every day. Through a variety of fun, experiential lessons, children learn how their attempt to live a mindful, aware life ripples out to benefit all others. The program can be adapted to serve children of all ages.

Ripples consists of about 10 weekly lessons. Children learn kid-friendly meditation and are supported in developing a practice at home (Helpful Concentration). We explore how to apply this concentration in various activities (Helpful Mindfulness): play; sports; arts; chores; and even self-care skills. We learn a little about how our brains work – what happens when we lose our temper and what happens when we are able to stop and think before we act. We look at Helpful Effort: ways to encourage ourselves to remain mindful and how to look out for what gets us off track. Along with learning about Helpful Speech (and not helpful speech), we introduce the Talking Circle. This is an opportunity for children to learn to really listen to each other without interrupting or judgment and also a wonderful chance for each child to feel really heard. We explore our connectedness to all on the planet and how our actions affect everybody – even plants and animals (Helpful Action). We cultivate appreciation and gratitude for all that is being done for us.

Class participants choose a problem they've heard about in the community and decide on some action as a group to make a difference (Helpful Livelihood). We will also look at how our individual actions at home (remembering to turn off the lights, recycling and so on) have an impact. We also work on becoming more mindful of our own emotions. We practice some simple exercises to cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, inclusiveness and generosity (Helpful Intention). We use our awareness to see the “bigger picture” and tap into our caring and giving nature, instead of thinking just of ourselves (Helpful Wisdom). We see that this actually makes us feel good, too.

Our first-ever Ripples program has just concluded at Myoshinji. We were happy to have about 20 students from a home-schooling network in Green County, WI in the program. Plans are underway for potential programs in a few schools and community mental health organizations in Wisconsin. Ripples is not just for children. A version of the program suitable for a prison population has been developed in conjunction with GPZC member, Anneliese Shogaku Vandre, who is a mental health case manager pursuing licensure as a psychotherapist. Please contact Roshi at 608-325-6248 or email s.myoyu.andersen [at] gmail.com if you are interested in this program for your school or community group.


Art & Music Classes

Summer Art Class Series (July 10-25, 2015)

In this unique six-session class series, children will have the opportunity to collaborate with artist-in-residence Annie Markovich to make a painting/collage of the reclining Buddha surrounded by animals of all kinds. The finished product will be on permanent display at Great Plains Zen Center. Children will draw and paint their favorite animal(s) with brushes and watercolor and mixed media under the guidance of Annie Markovich, an artist who has painted in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

Annie enjoys working with children and believes that “children possess an innate ability to express in painting and drawing what they feel. Their art can remind the adults of the world and what it is to see with fresh eyes.”

Classes will take place 2 – 3 PM on Fridays and Saturdays:
July 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25

Children of all ages are welcome.
Children may attend all or some of the classes.
Suggested donation: $5 per class or $25 for all

Click here to view the printable flyer for our Summer Art Classes

This class will be held at Myoshinji Temple in Monroe, Wisconsin. So that we can have ample materials on hand for all participants, please
pre-register by calling 608-325-6248 or e-mail Susan at s.myoyu.andersen@gmail.com

Sounding Off! Music Workshop (August 7, 2015)

Sounding Off! is a one-day, hands-on introduction to making music using technology geared for children aged 9-14. The course comprises a series of exercises designed to help students listen with greater awareness, understand the basic properties of music and ultimately make their own creative musical projects.

The course begins with an explanation of the properties of sounds, followed by a "sound scavenger hunt" in which students will record sounds indoors and outdoors at Great Plains Zen Center on handheld recording devices. After a brief lunch, students will compare different visual representations of the sounds they've found, then use the sounds as the basis for a musical project.

The instructor, Drake Andersen, is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and composer and performer based in New York. He currently teaches music technology at Ballet Tech, The NYC Public School for Dance. For information about Drake's work, please visit his website.

Click here to view the printable flyer for Sounding Off!

This class will be held at Myoshinji Temple in Monroe, Wisconsin. Register by calling 608-325-6248 or click here.


Songs for Children

The following songs have been gathered and created by sangha members to introduce children to Zen Buddhist practice, and to the principles of compassion, kindness and environmental stewardship, which are fundamental to Zen Buddhism and Great Plains Zen Center's mission.

Recordings are coming soon!

Save Your Bottles
To the tune of "Frere Jacques"

Save your bottles, save your bottles,
Save your cans, save your cans
Bundle up your papers, bundle up your papers,
That’s the plan, that’s the plan.

Love Your Pets
To the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"

Love, love, love your pets,
Love them every day,
Give them food, and water too,
And let them run and play!

If You See a Piece of Litter (Pick it up!)
To the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"

If you see a piece of litter pick it up (clap clap)
If you see a piece of litter pick it up (clap clap)
You will make the world look better
if you pick up all the litter
If you see a piece of litter, pick it up (clap clap)

Hear the Cans Go Crunch Crunch Crunch
To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"

Hear the cans go crunch crunch crunch
Crunch crunch crunch
Crunch crunch crunch
Hear the cans go crunch crunch crunch
Recycle for our earth

Hear the paper go crinkle crinkle crinkle
Crinkle crinkle crinkle
Crinkle crinkle crinkle
Hear the paper go crinkle crinkle crinkle
Recycle for our earth

When You're Feeling Really Mad
To the tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes"

When you’re feeling really mad, really mad,
When you’re feeling really bad, really bad,
Just stop and think before you act out wrong,
Think about this silly song, silly song!

Maya Had a Little Boy
To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Maya had a little boy, little boy, little boy
Maya had a little boy, whose name was Gautama.

He went outside the palace door, palace door, palace door.
He went outside the palace door, to see what life was for.

He saw the world was suffering, suffering, suffering.
He saw the world was suffering, so he said, “No more!”

He sat beneath the bodhi tree, bodhi tree, bodhi tree,
He sat beneath the bodhi tree to save all sentient beings.

To the tune of “Yankee Doodle”

Bodhidharma went alone
To transmit Buddha’s mind seal,
sat zazen for nine long years
and turned the Dharma wheel.

Bodhidharma where’s your shoe?!
Bodhidharma dandy!

Bodhidharma drink your tea,
and travel back to Indee!

Sit, Sit, Sit Zazen
To the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

Sit, sit, sit zazen
to see what is and seems.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily!
Life is but our dreams.

Shakyamuni Saw a Star
To the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

Shakyamuni saw a star;
How he wondered what we are!
(He) Sat beneath the bodhi tree,
Turned the wheel for you and me.
Thank you, thank you, Thus Come One!
Now I know that we are One!