How to make garden stepping stones with kids

How to make garden stepping stones with kids

Garden Stepping Stone Supplies

  • a drop cloth or tarp
  • deep containers or molds to pour the concrete in
  • cooking spray or Vaseline
  • one 25kg bag of quick set concrete
  • a large-ish bucket or bowl (like an ice cream bucket) to mix the concrete in that you have no further use for (it will be coated in concrete after)
  • something to mix the concrete with that can be disposed of after (paint mixing stick, an old spatula, branch)
  • a design surface for the loose parts (paper plates, cardboard squares)
  • loose parts to decorate and embellish the stones (dollar store jewels, old costume jewelry, beads, sea glass or other broken bits of pottery and tiles, stones, shells, garden debris like leaves and pine cones, leftover crafting materials like ribbons and glitter etc)
  • Letter stamps (if you want to write MOM etc)
  • Modge Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer

Preparation of Stepping Stones – Loose Parts

Start by choosing a work space, preferably outdoors, that can accommodate the number of children you are working with. I like to use a large drop cloth to define the work space and to keep the concrete dust and debris somewhat contained so kids don’t step in it and spread it elsewhere.

Video

Uses for Garden Stepping Stones

In addition to their aesthetic potential, garden stepping stones also have practical uses throughout the yard:

  • In unmulched planting beds: Garden stepping stones will reduce the amount of dirt tracked into the house.
  • In mulched planting beds: Mulch particles can also be tracked into the house in wet weather; use garden stepping stones to address this problem in mulched planting beds.
  • In the lawn: Garden stepping stones will absorb the pounding of foot traffic, saving your grass from compaction problems.

Concrete stepping stones will also aid you in your efforts at attracting butterflies. Butterflies are cold-blooded, and they’ll be able to warm themselves on any hardscape elements that absorb heat.

10. Elegant DIY Concrete Stones

Source/Tutorial: rosyscriptionThese elegant stones look like something you would spend a fortune for, but they’re really cheap and very easy to DIY. You mold the concrete for these in plastic containers – those containers that you get rolls and cakes from in the deli section of your supermarket. The designs come out beautifully and you can use any size and any shape of plastic lid to get the specific stones that you want.

Source/Tutorial: rosyscription

21. Faux Brick Walkway Stones

Source/Tutorial: etsy.comIf you’ve always dreamed of having a yellow brick road – or maybe just a brick walkway, these faux brick walkway stones are perfect. You just mold the concrete using a specialized mold that turns your walkway into a brick road. I found this great mold on Etsy that makes it so easy to create a brick looking walking stone, and it’s less than $50.

Source/Tutorial: etsy.com

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How to Mix Concrete

When you purchase dry concrete it will have instructions for mixing it on the package. You can find ready-made concrete in home improvement stores in smaller batches. Ready-made concrete is good for repair jobs or doing just a few stepping stones, but it’s much more expensive. If you want to make a larger number of concrete projects, then mixing your own is the way to go. You don’t have to use the whole bag at once. You can mix up as much concrete as you need for your project and store the rest in a dry area indefinitely.

Materials

Make it!

Get started by collecting your materials. You’ll want to use a large bucket or a wheelbarrow to mix your concrete in. A trowel makes a good mixing tool, but you can also get a special concrete mixer. The items you choose to use when making concrete will take a lot of wear and tear and may never be completely clean of the concrete residue, so choose items that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also, keep in mind that concrete is corrosive and so it’s best to use proper safety protection when mixing. Safety goggles will protect your eyes from splashes, gloves will protect the skin on your hands, and a dust mask will protect your lungs. Safety first!

To mix your own concrete, measure out some of the dry powder in your bucket or wheelbarrow. Add water as per the instructions on the bag of concrete. I like to add a little less than the instructions suggest, then mix the concrete and adjust the consistency by adding more water for a looser mix, and more concrete powder for a dryer mix.

If you are pouring concrete into molds, the mix should be looser so that it pours and settles into the form. In most stepping stone projects, however, you’ll want the concrete mix to be the consistency of wet sand. It should hold together in your hands well but not crumble or spill.

The Best Mold To Use For Stepping Stones

For making my reusable concrete mold, I used vinyl chair strapping.

These straps are replacement straps that are used to repair vinyl strap outdoor chairs.

However, there may be a cheaper alternative, such as vertical vinyl blinds slats.

With my vinyl straps, I was limited to making only three molds at a time.

However, since the concrete sets in an hour, it would have been physically difficult to work on more than three at a time, so the three molds sufficed.

Besides, you’ll see in the tutorial steps that you should actually be able to remove the straps after about 10-20 minutes and move on to making the next stepping stone.

All in all, these straps worked out great because of how easily you could mold it into different shapes.

Step 3: How to make the stepping stone

Photo 2: Spread dry mortar in the form

Photo 2: Spread dry mortar in the form

Fill the plastic-lined form to about 3/4 in. from the top edge with dry Type S mortar. Level it with your gloved hand. It doesn’t have to be perfectly flat.

Photo 3: Arrange stones in a pattern

Photo 3: Arrange stones in a pattern

The only rule is to keep the stones close together so they touch and stand up and are not laid flat.

Photo 4: Tamp the stones level to the tops Lay a board across the stones and pound on it with a rubber mallet to embed the stones in the dry mortar and set the tops level with each other.

Photos 2 – 4 show the assembly steps. Alice likes to add a little brown pigment to the dry Type S mortar mix to give the DIY stepping- stones a mellower look. You’ll find cement pigments and Type S mortar at home centers and masonry suppliers. Or you can cheat like Alice does and just mix in a little colored ceramic tile grout. Make sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your skin from the mortar, which can cause skin burns.

You don’t have to plan your pattern ahead of time. Alice says she has a design in mind and just starts arranging the stones. It’s easier to start along the edges or in a corner and work toward the center, though. You’ll have less fitting to do as you fill in the last few stones. Keep the stones close together and oriented with the long axis up and down. While it’s tempting, Alice cautions against laying a stone flat. She says it doesn’t look as good as you think it will and is more likely to pop out later. When you’re done tamping the stones into the dry mortar, inspect the space between the stones to see if there are spots that require more mortar. They should be buried at least halfway. Fill sparse areas with more mortar. Dust any dry mortar off the stones with a small brush.

Step 1: Start by collecting the stones

Alice collects her stones on the north shore of Lake Superior. You’ll find similar stones in most parts of the country. Look for them in river and creek beds or along lakeshores. Wherever you find them, make sure you have permission and that it’s legal to collect them. Another possible source is your local landscape supplier or wherever landscaping stone is sold.

Alice likes to sort them by color. She’s got buckets and cans full of red, gray, white, brown and speckled stones. Keeping them sorted makes it a lot easier for her to find the right one as she creates a pattern.

Embossed Stepping Stones

These gorgeously embossed stepping stones are deceptively simple to make and create the prettiest paths!Active Time20 minsCuring Time1 d

Total Time 1 d 20 mins

Course: CraftsCuisine: Concrete Crafts, Gardening

Keyword: embossed stepping stones, stepping stones

Cost:

Equipment

  • Reusable Plastic Stepping Stone Mold

  • Utility Knife

  • Plastic Mixing Bucket

  • Plastic Gardening Trowel

  • Cut-Resistant Protective Gloves (optional)

  • Chip Brush

Instructions

Place your molds on top of your mat to determine how to cut out your stamps. Trace the shape of each mold. Carefully cut out each shape using a utility knife with a sharp blade. Trim as necessary to fit within the mold. Lightly spray rubber stamp with cooking spray and set aside. Mix sand/topping mix and water until you achieve a thick but pour-able milkshake-like consistency. Transfer mix to plastic mold. Gently push the stamp into the cement. Set someplace warm to cure for 8-12 hours. Gently pull the stamp upward. If it removes cleanly continue to remove. If the cement is still too wet/loose, push the stamp back into the mix and allow a few more hours to cure. Once the stamp is removed clean up any rough edges using rough sandpaper or a chunk of hardened concrete. Remove stone from the mold approximately 24 hours after pouring. Set in a warm place for several days to fully cure and harden.

Notes

For more detailed information on making DIY embossed stepping stones please visit the original post here: https://www.dreamalittlebigger.com/post/how-to-make-stepping-stones.html

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Step 2: Mix Concrete

When mixing concrete, always wear proper safety equipment (rubber gloves and a particle mask). Mixing can be done with a proper concrete mixer, in a wheel barrow with a concrete hoe, or by hand with a trowel in a 5-gallon bucket. If you’re mixing by hand, it’s really important to take your time and get everything completely mixed. For tips on mixing concrete, check out the How-To-Mix Concrete Instructable.
  • First mix the dry ingredients together (Outdoor Pro-Formula / Sacked Concrete Mix). Break up any big clumps or throw them out.
  • If you’re using Outdoor Pro-Formula, do not follow the directions on the sacked concrete. Since it contains a water reducer, this means you will use less water (for more strength) but the concrete will still be flow-able.
  • Slowly start adding 1 gallon of water. Add about 2/3 of it.
  • Mix a little bit and gradually add the last 1/3 gallon. The most common mistake is to wet the mix out too much.
  • If the mix is still dry and gritty, add more water.
Slump Test: A simple method of checking the workability of the mix is to perform a slump test. The slump is the vertical distance the concrete settles.
  • Poke a 1/4″ hole in the bottom of a plastic cup with a pen.
  • Fill the cup with the freshly mixed concrete and pack it in.
  • Place the filled cup upside down on a flat, rigid surface.
  • With your hands, carefully vibrate the cup in a steady lifting motion and lift it up without stopping.
  • The ideal slump should be about half the height of a 15 oz. plastic cup.
After you’ve found a workable mix, it’s time to fill the stepping stone mold.Tip: In cold weather, use warm water to accelerate the set time. In hot weather, use cold water to slow the set.

How to Make Garden Stepping Stones

Step 1

Have each child chose a stepping stone container to work with. Lay out the loose parts, buffet style, and have the children collect the bits and pieces in their shaped container. I frequently use tin pie molds from the dollar store however you can order any number of shapes and designs for your stepping stones, like this butterfly mold from amazon or you could use plant saucers like these.

Step 2

Have the children work with patterns and designs within the mold until they are satisfied with how the finished stepping stone will look.

Once the designs are planned, they can transfer the loose parts onto the cardboard surface beside them, ready for the next step. Keep in mind that once the concrete is mixed it begins to dry fast, so they’ll need to have it ready to place in the mold before you mix the concrete.

Step 3

Step 3

Spray the mold with cooking spray or apply Vaseline to make the finished stepping stone removal easier. Do this before you mix the concrete as it takes longer than you might think sometimes.

Now, mix up your concrete and evenly distribute the concrete to the molds. Be sure each mold is reasonably thick as thin set concrete does not stand up well when children move it around or step on it in a garden.

Working With Large Groups of Kids

When working with large groups of children I sometimes portion out and mix the concrete directly in the mold while they are working on their garden stepping stone designs. Then, I come around one by one to add the water when they are ready to add the decor.

If you go this route, wooden take-out chopsticks are handy for each child to individually mix their own concrete. Just be sure to do a final mix for each child so they don’t have pockets of unmixed concrete in their mold.

Step 4

Once the concrete is in the mold, have children transfer their garden stone decor to the wet concrete.

Remind them to work quickly. If you want to use stamps, now is the time to get stamping!

Step 5

Find an indoor location to store the newly create stepping stones for several days or over the weekend. This will allow enough time for them to thoroughly harden before removing from the molds.

I like to paint the entire stone with a modge podge sealant to give it a shine and protect it from the elements. Let the sealant dry for at least a day.

Wrap up each stepping stone to send home with the

Wrap up each stepping stone to send home with the children. They can then place them in their garden to enjoy for years to come!

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