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3-d mandalas and more

Three dimensional mandalas

by Linda Chapman, MA, ATR-BC
reprinted from Art Therapy Institute of the Redwoods website

Leading art therapist, Linda Chapman, shares a 3-D mandala technique which she finds useful and interesting, as well as suggestions for working with children and teens.


I recently purchased 12” very inexpensive cake rounds (also called cake boards, or cake circles) in the baking department of a large store. I find the round media is fascinating to children and teens, and they all enjoy making three dimensional mandalas.

I begin by showing them examples of two and three dimensional mandalas, and then offer a variety of media to them to create.  If paint is used, it is best to use the matte surface as the paint may peel off the coated side.  I then offer a variety of sticks, beads, shells, foliage, sand, and other three dimensional media along with various types of glue.  During the artmaking, I offer brief bits of information about the history, use,  and variations of mandalas from various cultures.

The results are so varied and very creative, and most children and teens are surprised at the beauty of the mandala as well as the calming aspect of the mandala making.


In this fast paced world, taking time to do small things often proves worthwhile in the clinical setting.

For example, noticeable are the surprised and pleased reactions of children and teens when they discover that before I place their art in their portfolio, I write their name, the date, and a few words about the art on each drawing.

Similarly, having their individual portfolio in the studio when they arrive has resulted in more than one child stating, “You didn’t forget my art or me.” Having preferred snacks, art media, or tools mentioned at the previous session has elicited similar responses.

A useful method of creating and maintaining a connection is noticing and making a very brief comment rather than asking questions. For example, a teen arrived yesterday with newly designed fingernail paint. Knowing this is important to her, I commented that her new nail design was very artistic. She answered, “Nobody notices and I work hard at it.” Brief noticing is often a conversation starter.

Lastly, the predictable and repetitive environment affects the child’s feelings of comfort and safety. The studio is free of clutter and is a low stimulus environment. We always sit in the same place, begin with the same warm-up art activity, and end the session in the same way. The structure of the environment provides the boundaries, safety, containment, and predictability the clients often lack.

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For more therapy tips and techniques, as well as information on Linda's workshops, go to:

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