Skills Building: Zen Shorts (PK-5)

Zen Shorts Book

Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Pre- Reading Questions 

  1. What do you think “Zen” means? (Zen is the Japanese word for meditation.)
  2. What do you know about mediation? 
  3. What do you think this book is about? 
  4. How do you feel when you look at the cover? 
  5. What colors did the illustrator use? Why do you think he chose these colors?

Post- Reading Questions

  1. What was your favorite story that Stillwater told and why? Share with the person sitting next to you. 
  2. The stories that Stillwater told all have morals (lessons) in them. What is one lesson that Stillwater was trying to teach?
  3. In the last story, what did the monk mean when he said, “Why are you still carrying her?” 
  4. Is there anything that you’ve held in your mind that made you mad or upset for longer than it should? 
  5. What do you think this story was meant to teach us? 

Creative Enrichment Activity: Winding Watercolors (PK-)


At school, academic stress continues to build for kids as expectations and learning gaps rise. In this activity, students will rest their minds and meditate by focusing their attention on the patterns they create.


  • Watercolor paper or white cardstock 
  • Sharpies (regular markers will bleed through the paper)
  • Watercolor paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Small cups of water
  • Calming background music

Duration: 35 – 40 minutes 

  • 2 minutes – Explain meditation
  • 3 minutes – Explain the activity
  • 2 minutes – Hand out materials
  • 20-25 minutes – Create watercolors
  • 2 minutes – Clean up
  • 3 minutes – Gallery walk
  • 3 minutes – Reflect on the activity


  1. Seat students at tables. 
  2. Explain that mediation is simply giving our attention to one thing in order to become calm and relaxed. Remind the students that when they give all of their focus to one thing, they are meditating. Today they will be meditating as they create a work of art.
  3. Introduce the activity and share an example of what the students will be making. Remind them that each work of art will be unique and it is important to let their mind become free of other worries, focusing only on the lines.
  4. Pass out watercolor paper and sharpies to students. Do not use markers because they will bleed through the paper. If you don’t have sharpies, you can also use crayons. 
  5. Turn on calming background music and have students focus on it.
  6. Next, have students use the sharpie to draw a continuous line of winding swirls around the page. Tell students to keep their sharpie on the paper and not to pick it up. Have them continue to draw their winding line until they are satisfied and the page is full. 
  7. Pass out watercolors, paint brushes and water. 
  8. Have students focus on their painting and fill in the shapes they’ve created with different colors, staying inside the lines. (Note: Having students focus on staying inside the lines and filling in the shapes is itself a form of meditation.) 
  9. Allow students to continue until their entire picture is full of different colors. They will need to fill the entire page, leaving no white space. Challenge students to try to keep shapes of the same color from touching one another. 
  10. Once done, have students lay their works of art on another table to dry and clean up.
  11. After cleaning up, allow students to go on a gallery walk to view all the different works  created. 
  12. Remind students they can look with their eyes but not with their hands. Also remind students that we only use words that are kind and encouraging.
  13. Gather students back together.

Reflection Questions

  • How did you feel when we turned on the calming music?
  • What were you focused on as you were drawing your winding line? 
  • Was it easy or difficult to focus on your art? Why? 
  • How did this project help us to meditate? 
  • Did you know that this type of activity is a form of meditation? 
  • How did you feel when you were creating your art project? 
  • How did you feel when you finished filling in the shapes you created?