The humble rock. It’s one of my favorite loose parts for play. Rocks can be found just about anywhere and can be used for anything a child can dream up. They can be food in a play kitchen or cargo in a toy boat. They can be pushed around, shoveled, and dumped again and again by busy little road crews in the sand box.
Rocks regularly feature prominently in play activities at our house. Here are two ways we’ve played with rocks recently:
Play Invitation #1: Rock People
Lately I’ve been keeping bowls of white and black rocks easily accessible to the kids. During quiet time recently my son Peanut (age 3) and I used them to create rock people.
I started by making a face on a piece of white felt. Peanut then made a face of his own, naming its facial features as he placed the rocks.
Next, I made a simple rock person.
We then took turns using small white rocks to give our friend a face and feet.
Peanut moved on to creating another rock person, without any help from me. Here he is below. I love this picture. :)
After he’d finished the little guy above, Peanut asked if we could make our original rock person “tall like Daddy”. I said yes and gave him time to think about how we might do this.
With me as his consultant, he added rocks to extend the figure’s legs and neck.
After he’d had enough of making rock people, Peanut brought a little bin of cars and trucks to the play table. He was very careful to make sure that our rock person would not be disturbed by all the vehicles. His little danger signs kept Rock Man safe and sound.
Making rock people is a simple and completely free creative activity that can be done by children of any age (it’s satisfying for adults too!). For a more challenging take on rock people, introduce your older children to Inukshuks.
Play Invitation #2: Black Sand and White Rocks
For this play invitation, I simply poured black sand into a plastic container and added white rocks, arranged from largest to smallest (with more rocks in a small bowl). Depending on the age and interests of the child, a play invitation like this might lead to sorting and ordering the rocks, counting them, forming letters with them, or even just burying and uncovering them.
As a three-year old who is heavily into imaginative play, Peanut used the sand and rocks as ingredients for baking. I confess that I can’t quite remember what he made, as I was tidying the kitchen while he played, but I think it was pancakes with rock “sprinkles”.
The sand and rocks remained in our play table for a couple of days and provided plenty of amusement for Peanut and the little boy who comes to our house for daycare.
Although the black sand was a new and visually appealing material, it turned the boys’ hands black. Next time I’ll take a cue from my blogging pal, Chelsey from Buggy and Buddy and put together a salt tray with rocks instead.
For more ways to play, create, and learn with rocks, here are some fantastic posts from some of my favorite blogs:
Teaching Shapes and Colors with Rainbow Rocks from Fun-A-Day
Make Your Own “Rock” Band from Fantastic Fun and Learning. They have an entire series devoted to rocks with lots of fun and creative activities.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Painted Rocks from Thrive 360 Living. This post includes tips on painting rocks and links to several other beautiful painted rock projects.
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