Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mother's Day Gift Idea: How to Make Garden Stepping Stones

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
~ Water

~ 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
~ Seashells
~ 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


  1. What a lovely idea - how gorgeous to have those in the garden! My mom would have loved them so I may make a few in her honor for my own garden. Thanks - as usual - for great ideas!

  2. Thanks, Suzen!

    I made the stepping stones in the article as a gift for my brother's wife. She's an amazing gardener, and he wanted something *extra* special for her.

    I never thought of making stones as a way to remember a loved one. What a wonderful idea!

    Have a terrific day. - Julia

  3. These are *gorgeous*! I so want some for my garden. Any chance you're giving some away??

    If not, I'll have to get my husband over here to make some. Great idea!

  4. What a beautiful idea. Have you considered writing for associatedcontent.com? I write for them and you would do really well on that site. I have links on my blogs if you want to check it out. I found you through the News Gazette. Happy I did!

  5. Those are so cool :) thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for the tips. I was planning to do these with my kiddos this summer. I will be coming back when we get closer to project time.

  7. Erica -- thank you! Tell your husband he's welcome here anytime.

    Theresa -- It's good to meet you. Welcome! And thanks for the recommendation, too.

    Firefly -- I hoped you would come by. :D Since you're such a crafty wonder, I take your compliment to heart.

    Ellyn -- My kids loved this project. And it's great to have something in the garden that shows each child's individual creativity. Hope you come on back to let me know how they turned out!

    Have a Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

    - Julia

  8. My son (whom is now 15) made a stepping stone as a MDay gift in elementary school. It is my most beloved Mothers Day gift ever, and one of my most cherished belongings.
    I have a newly-gorgeous backyard oasis which I dearly love and work in each day... We will be making stepping stones next week, my heart is set upon it.
    Thanks for sharing some great ideas an tips!


  9. These are beautiful! I look forward to making some with my kiddies! Please stop by my Mother's Day party going on now til Mother's Day -You are featured! I would love to get one of these!

  10. How much sand and how much mix do you use at a time?


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