Friday, February 4, 2011

Make Your Own Mary Grotto

Last year when I was trying to come up with a craft idea for my kindergarten religious education class for the chapter on the Blessed Mother, I was really happy to come across this nice round up of crafts for the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes on Catholic Icing.  In particular, I was interested in the Mary grotto that was made by Charlotte of Waltzing Matilda (She has great Catholic coloring pages, too.)

While I found Charlotte's post on making a Mary grotto that's similar to the somewhat pricey kit from Illuminated Ink very helpful, I still had to take some time to figure out just how big the cardboard and the picture needed to be in order to make the grotto look right.  After a little trial and error and a couple instances of pondering whether or not I was insane for wanting to tackle this craft with eight kindergarten children, I got it figured out.
In making the classroom example, I came to the conclusion that certain portions of the grotto construction are best done ahead of time if time is limited.  In my case, time is certainly limited as we only have an hour for class, and that class has to include prayers and the chapter lesson.  I allocated 20 minutes for this craft with the vast majority of the construction completed ahead of time.

To make a Mary grotto you'll need the following supplies:
  • cardboard cut to 5 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches
  • a holy card of Mary or a coloring page shrunk to 3 1/2 by 5 inches
  • crayons or colored pencils if you aren't using a holy card
  • popsicle sticks
  • glue stick
  • tacky glue
  • aquarium gravel in colors of your choice
The first and easiest step is to locate and cut out a piece of good sturdy cardboard that can be used for the  craft.  I prefer to use cardboard that is plain on both sides for aesthetic purposes.  You want something that will be able to survive being coated in glue.

Next I would suggest picking a nice holy card of Mary or finding a coloring page that you can shrink down to 3 1/2 by 5 inches.  I like this coloring page from Waltzing Matilda.  I shrink this coloring page to 25% and then color it in for my students.  I color it in before hand to save time and to also ensure that no green alien Blessed Mother grottos leave my classroom.  Just call me a control freak.

Once I have the coloring page colored, copied and cut to size (You didn't think I was coloring them individually, did you? I'm crazy, but I'm not insane!) I take my glue stick and glue the picture to the cardboard.

Then I take my tacky glue (because it holds well and dries fast) and glue the bottom and side popsicle sticks around the picture.

Once they are done, I assemble a cross made from popsicle sticks that were cut.  You'll need the upright beam cut to 3 inches and the cross beam cut to 2 inches.  You can use a sharp scissor or wire cutter to cut the sticks to size.  I don't like rounded ends on the cross so I cut the sticks so I'm left with squared off ends.

Then I glue the upright beam on to the cardboard so that only 1 1/2 inches of the cross protrudes from the top.  After that, I add the crossbeam.

Once that's all in place, you add the popsicle sticks that form the top of the grotto.

After the glue has dried then you can proceed to adding the aquarium gravel.  I recommend being generous with your use of glue, but don't go totally overboard or the glue will run over the edges.
Once you have covered cardboard and the popsicle sticks you'll have a lovely, inexpensive Mary grotto that you can display.

I use the Mary grotto that you see in the first picture on the prayer table in my kindergarten religious education class.  To make it stand nicely, I glued the back of a 2x3 picture frame on to the back of the grotto.  If you want to use this craft to encourage your child/students to learn a specific marian prayer such as the Hail Mary, Memorare, or Hail Holy Queen, you could glue it to the back of the grotto.

For around $12 I was able to get enough gravel and popsicle sticks to make close to 75 of these grottos.  I was able to find store brand tacky glue for $.79 a bottle.  One bottle is enough to cover 8 to 10 grottos.

You could also use this grotto set up to make the stations of the cross during Lent.  I may give that craft idea a whirl in March or April.  


  1. Karen, thanks for this tutorial. It's just waht I needed to see. we ran out of our Illuminated Ink Grottos, and now I'm sure I can do this by looking at how you did it. and I've got just the picture for the middle. Yours turned out beautiful!

  2. I'm glad it helped you. I had a hard time trying to decide which coloring page of Mary I should use. If I had a bigger variety of gravel I would have tried an Our Lady of Guadalupe. I think this would also work with a Divine Mercy picture and red, blue and white stones.

  3. I LOVE this! I'm going to have to add these to our art projects for this school year! Regarding your comment above...I think making a whole set of these for feast days throughout the years would be a great idea.

  4. Thanks for this tutorial! I will be using it tonight for my 1st grade class!

  5. Where were you able to find tacky glue that inexpensive? I'm going to be using this craft for almost 70-80 college girls and know i'll need a lot of tacky glue :D

  6. Where were you able to find tacky glue for that inexpensive of a price? I'm going to be making this craft with over 70-80 college girls and know i will need a lot :)

    1. Hi Hannah, I usually buy the tacky glue at A.C. Moore, but I have also purchased 16oz bottles of it for a decent price at Wal-Mart. When I plan a grotto craft for VBS I usually make sure we have about 48oz of tacky glue on hand for 120 kids, but we always wind up having a lot of it left over.

    2. So making it for the VBS, about how much gravel do you buy? Is a 20lb bag too much? or do you normally use it all?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...