13 Things to do with Rocks

by Deb on September 16, 2010

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Rocks just sit around the garden, not doing much of anything.  Right?  Well, here are some ways you can make them earn their keep and entertain the kiddiwinks for a while.Rocks for Climbing

  1. Climb on them – most successful with large ones, this one depends on how relaxed you are and how co-ordinated your children are.  A bit of movement may just make it more interesting.  Smaller and more stable piles are great for crawlers to practice with uneveness.
  2. Build with them – from dams to fairy houses, rocks have always made a great building material.
  3. Paint them – Remember pet rocks?  Or the uneven shapes can inspire abstract patterns or miniature landscapes.
  4. Make stepping stones – walking on things that wobble or having to take longer steps is good practice for toddlers.  And they are a great bridge to imaginative play.
  5. Put them through a funnel – they will go through differently to water or sand, but if you have a funnel with a wide enough mouth (such as a milk bottle minus the base) it is mesmerising for older babies to put them through.  It is also a good problem solving activity for older kids to get them to go through and not get caught, you can test different sorts of rocks or different speeds of pouring them in.Sorting
  6. Sort them – Rocks come in all sorts of fascinating shapes, sizes, colours, hardnesses, bumpinesses and sharpnesses.  We don’t seem to be able to walk anywhere without collecting rocks, every now and then we gather all the collections and sort them into different groups.
  7. Cut with them – the earliest knives were rough flakes of broken stone.  See if you can make some and how well you can cut with it.  Then admire our ancestors for managing it!  (I have done it, very badly – I deeply admire them.)
  8. Spot them being used – rocks are actually still an important material.  See how many you can spot being used around you.
  9. Go to a Museum – Most museums will have some lovely displays of the unusual rocks, including crystals, gemstones, tectites and meteors.
  10. Drain water through them – make a water filter.  In a funnel put some charcoal, clean sand on top and rocks on top of that.  Then put some dirty water through and see how it comes out.
  11. Test them for hardness – the absolute scale of mineral hardness is called Mohs scale, with talc at the bottom and diamond at the top.  But you can do a simple comparative test called the scratch test.  Get a collection of different types of rocks and use them to scratch each other.  The one that gets scratched is softer.  Keep testing them all against each other and you can make a scale from softest to hardest.Collage
  12. Collage with them – They work best on wood rather than card, but small rocks can make great collages.  As a variation, forget the glue and make a mosaic in the ground with your different coloured stones.  Or give toddlers the joy of pushing them into the dirt 🙂
  13. Play Mancala games – these are a set of games in a similar style from around Africa and Asia, the world’s oldest board games.  The boards consist of lines of pits or holes and use counters, they can be bought as actual boards or you can play by digging some holes in the dirt and using small rocks.  Kalah is a very simple one that is perfect as a children’s game, they can become more elaborate and as strategic as chess or go.

This post is part of the We Play linkup at Childhood 101.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy September 21, 2010 at 9:19 am

Great ideas all! I particularly like the idea of introducing Mancala games. I think my 7 year old and 5 year old would love them. I’ll have to give it a try.

My eldest, who is on a big geology kick at the moment, would probably add “Collect, identify and read about them” to your list. Her ever-expanding cabinet of geological treasures bears testament to that 😉


maryanne September 21, 2010 at 10:52 am

Ooh, I especially like #10 – I hadn’t thought of that one before, but my kids would love it! Thanks for the idea!
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amandab September 21, 2010 at 11:05 am

since they added a new area to our local park the stepping stones have become one of our favourite piece of equipment. They start out narrow, then fan our on each side, then back to narrow again, so we each get at one narrow end then race to the other end and se who makes it first. Would help me win if someone called out “Go!” before they were halfway through! LOL


jenny @ let the children play September 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Thank you for sharing such a terrific list of ideas 🙂
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Juliet@ I'm a teacher get me OUTSIDE here! September 29, 2010 at 6:17 am

This post rocks! (Sorry). I’m quite an enthusiast about earth science. I’ve several rock and stone posts on my blog including http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2009/03/reflections-on-rock-collections.html and this post about an amazing school geology trail http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2010/08/geology-at-coombes-school.html There’s a link at the bottom of this post to some excellent “Primary Earth Science Outdoors” which have lots of ideas based around 5 big science questions.
Juliet@ I’m a teacher get me OUTSIDE here!´s latest amazing offering ..Reading Books OutdoorsMy Profile


PlayDUcation via Facebook March 11, 2012 at 11:25 pm

love it!


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