Home-made stepping stones make the perfect Mother's Day gift. They are easy to personalize, fun to put together, and when done right they will last a good long time.
The first time I made stepping stones was about eight years ago. My mother placed a request with all her children's families. She wanted a stepping stone in her garden from each of her grandchildren for Mother's Day. At the time, my oldest child was still an infant. So my husband and I sat down to plan his stone for him.
My husband's job was to figure out the best concrete mix to use to survive frozen Northeast Winters. My job was to design the stone. I am a stained-glass artist and my workshop was filled with scraps and shards of colored glass. So, I made a mosaic ocean scene with seaweed and cute fish. My mother loved it.
Then, two years ago, we did a similar project for my Mother-in-law, who had recently built a shade garden. She has 10 grandchildren, so we gathered more kid-friendly supplies, had the Dads mix some cement, and spent Mother's Day at Grandma's house making stepping stones for her. She loved them, and the children love walking through her garden and seeing their creations.
For this project, you'll need the following items:
~ Portland Cement
~ Coarse Sand
~ Transparent, light plastic planter drip trays (to use as molds.) You can find them at your local garden center in a variety of sizes. I like to use the largest size, 14 inches in diameter.
~ Colored glass beads or gems
~ Polished rocks
~ Colored glass pieces (for mosaic designs)
1. First, Mix your Cement. (Here are some basic mixing instructions and the proportions of cement to sand to water.) Because the stepping stones should have a smooth appearance, we have avoided using gravel aggregate. Instead, we increase the proportion of sand in the mix to make the stepping stones resist cracking. Some hardware stores sell cement mix with embedded fibers in the mix. This can be a great option for those wanting to purchase a ready-made mix. [Note: Cement can burn skin with prolonged contact. Be sure to wear work gloves and appropriate clothing. This is no time to make a fashion statement.]
2. Next, arrange the circular mold on a level surface situated where you want the stepping stone to dry. The area you choose should be part-shaded and free from any sort of falling leaves or other tree debris. (So, not under the Maple tree!) Pour the cement into the mold, filling it right up to the top.
3. Gather your decorations and arrange them in a pretty design. You can make hand-prints or scratch a child's name into the stone, too. As the cement rests, water will rise to the surface. Gently press the decorations farther into the cement at this point, making sure that outer edges (especially anything sharp) is buried in the stone. If you're using beads, this extra pressure will bury them deeply enough to keep them from popping out as the stone wears.
4. Leave the stone undisturbed to dry for the length of time listed on the cement packaging. If you're planning to ship the stones to Mom, keep them in their tray-molds (like those pictured). If you're going to place them in your own garden, just gently flip the dried stone over and cut away the mold with a utility knife.
These are fun to make and are guaranteed to please the gardener in your family. They don't cost a lot to make, but trust me, Mom will think of you every time she looks at your stepping stone. Because it is a gift that lasts, garden stones will help Mom feel the love of her family every time she steps into the garden.
In my mind, that's a very good thing.
- Midwest Mom