A lot of elementary school-age kids love collecting rocks, especially the bits that are small enough to carry or tuck into a pocket when they discover a must-have pebble during a walk.
A child’s collection of pebbles and fist-sized rocks may seem haphazard to you, but there are a wealth of learning activities encompassed in those little rocks.
Direct your junior rock hound into doing more with his collection than sticking rocks in a box that gets slid under the bed. Playing with rocks introduces creative thinking and problem solving along with a dose of science and art.
So let your child bring home yet another white rock – and engage him in these activities.
With so many colors, textures, and shapes, kids usually have no problems with starting a rock collection. They know the rocks that draw them in, enticing them to pick them up. While kids can find rocks anywhere, small bits of mineral, fossils, and other pebbles also make great, inexpensive mementos of vacation spots.
Introduce a mini-ecology lesson if the rock collecting at one location is getting out of control. Point out that rocks help to hold soil in place and prevent it from washing away when it rains.
Simple Rock Activities
Sorting a rock collection is a great rainy-day activity that can bring up memories of the places visited during nicer weather. Encourage kids to sort their rocks in as many ways as they can think of: by color, by size, by texture, by pattern, by weight, and whatever measure speaks to them. Get a book on rocks for older kids, and help them sort by method of formation, classification, and so on.
Even the most basic sorting is a creative exercise – and it also informally introduces kids to how scientists characterize rocks and minerals: by color, hardness, luster, texture. You can also get kids thinking about how a rocks got its shape and texture. Volcanoes and earthquakes form different types of rocks, which then get weathered, or broken down, by rain, snow, ice, plant growth, and other natural forces.
A glass-like black rock could be obsidian formed by a volcano; a gritty, banded rock could be sandstone that formed in layers over years; and a smooth rock could result from being worn down by a river or the ocean at one time.
Kids can sort rocks into egg cartons or divided boxes as a simple, everyday display that shows off a rock collection. A simple rock display can involve setting rocks on a placemat or plate, in a bowl, or outdoors in a special rock garden. The display doesn’t have to show every rock at the same time; even museums don’t display their entire collection at once.
Set pink rocks in a heart shape for Valentine’s Day, show off white rocks on a red and green placemat for Christmas, create a rainbow for St. Patrick’s Day, or make a mosaic pattern.
Children can also stack rocks large and small in standing sculptures. Give kids a chance to work out on their own how they can get one rock to balance on another while learning a bit of physics and engineering.
I’ve supervised kids as they stack rocks … and watch them tumble … and then try again to stack the rocks. Kids will use problem-solving skills without a lot of adult direction; just watch your child’s frustration level and see if they need some guidance.
Learning More about Rocks and Minerals
Encourage your child’s interest in rocks by looking for local nature centers and museums that have rock and mineral displays.
Unlike looking up a bird or a flower in a book, identifying a rock by its image isn’t always possible. This discovery may then get your child interested in a mineral testing kit that takes kids through the ways scientists classify rocks and minerals.
Rock Activities for Learning and Fun
Expand on your child’s interest in collecting rocks by introducing science and art as he learns more about the natural world around him. Whether he likes plain white gravel or interesting river-pebbles, there’s a wealth of knowledge and fun in every stone.© Copyright 2014 Susan McCarthy, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting