Sometimes the secret ingredient to having fun with kids is as simple as a rock. Stones can be the surprisingly creative jumping off points for crafts and games to while away an afternoon of at-home summer camp, serve as a focal point for a playdate, or amuse a child—or several—for hours on end. Whether you paint them into paperweights, hide them as a scavenger hunt, or arrange them into zen art, rocks can be the start of some stone-cold fun. And you can use rocks of varying sizes—pebbles to play a game of mancala, medium sized rocks to paint as paperweights, or larger ones to turn into doorstops. Pick whichever options seem most fun to you and get ready to rock!

Rock Crafts

A symbol that wards off bad luck, the Evil Eye is found all over the Mediterranean. All you need are a few paints and a brush to turn a round rock into an Evil Eye paperweight as a lucky gift or auspicious souvenir. (For a how-to, click here.) But it’s just one option that’s graphic, fun, and easy to paint on a rock.

Other rockin’ options for kids to paint on their own, or for you to DIT (that’s Do It Together) include:

Darcy miller designs, camp darcy, rocks, ladybug

Pets—add designs, googly eyes, or stickers to create chicks, puppies, cats or whatever is your favorite furry friend
Ladybugs—little round stones are perfect for these lucky red-and-black insects
Fish—paint a whole school of them, add some jellyfish, octopus, and crabs, too, then display them in a fishbowl to create a whole undersea world!
Monsters—paint on bloodshot eyes or scary teeth
Creepy Crawly Rocks—Have each kid paint a rock a different color and line them up to create a caterpillar

Fruit, Flowers, and Nature
Cherries (perfect for small rocks)
Kiwis (for medium)
Watermelon slices (for longish rocks)
Flowers—paint or draw a bloom on a rock, or cover rocks in paint and arrange them to become petals and a center for a daisy.
Rainbow—have each kid paint a series of rocks in one color then everyone gets together to arrange them in an arch to create a rainbow.

Darcy miller designs, camp darcy, rocks

Patterns and Symbols
Jackson Pollock’s splatters
Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots
Attempt a whole masterpiece by turning a rock into The Scream
Shapes—from squares to stars, paint one on each rock
Emojis—paint on your favorite face to use IRL
Lips—paint two rocks and make them a kissing pair
Striped rocks—wrap strips of tape around the rock, leaving space in between. Paint the taped rock, let dry, and rip off the tape. You can also use the tape to create any stencil shape to paint over.

Darcy Miller Designs, Camp Darcy, Rocks

Letters & Words
Alphabet rocks—paint a letter on each rock, then use them to spell words
Personalized rocks—grab a fine brush, toothpick, or paint pen and write a name on each rock. These make great paperweight gifts.
Inspirational rocks—using the same tools as above, write motivational words from “Be Happy” to a simple “Breathe!” and place them around the house or outside for people to find.
Wish rocks—write your secret hope on a rock with a marker. Find a pond to throw it into and make a wish!
Secret code rocks—use chalk to write messages on a rock; when your fellow spy reads the note, they can erase it and write their own message back!
Place cards—write names on them and place them at each seat at the table, or on the picnic blanket. If you have more than one table, you can use rocks to write table numbers, too.

Darcy Miller Designs, Camp Darcy, Painted Rocks

Faces—paint your best friend or your whole family!
Rock Family—find rocks of different sizes and paint the Daddy rock, baby rock, and so on. (You can make them look like your family, and then use them at each place at the dinner table.)

Rock Games

Lucky Rock Hunt—Set each kid out to find a “lucky” rock. Have them hold it to make a wish, then put it in a special box—give them a wooden one and paints to decorate it themselves—for safekeeping. Or, if someone’s celebrating a birthday, pass their rock around so everyone can have a turn making a wish for them, and even put their initials on it as a souvenir of the day, and it becomes their lucky rock.
Scavenger Hunt—Paint numbers on rocks (using paint, nail polish, a paint pen, whatever!) and hide them in the yard or around the room. Once they’ve all been found, whoever has collected the most wins.
Stacking Rocks—See who can build the tallest tower.
Rock Garden—Grab a tray, some sand, some small rocks and a plastic fork and set up your own zen rock garden to rake (with the fork).
Tic Tac Toe—Find (or paint!) different colored rocks, draw lines in the dirt or sand and see who gets three in a row.

Darcy Miller Designs, Camp Darcy, Rocks

Truth or Dare—Instead of saying which option they choose, have players flip over a double-sided rock (painted with both words, one on each side) to reveal the Truth or take the Dare.

Checkers—Paint 12 rocks one color and another dozen a different color and you’re ready to play.
Chess—paint rocks different colors or with figures like knights, horses, and a king and a queen (or just write out the names of the pieces). Then let the game begin!
Rock Toss—Take turns tossing rocks along a yardstick or extended tape measure to see who can throw theirs the farthest (make sure no one is in the way!)
Skipping Rocks—If you’re near a pond or ocean, this is a go-to
Concentration—Write a symbol on each rock with a marker, flip them over and see who remembers which is where
Lottery—Write a message or number on each rock and have kids pick one out of a hat to see which activity to do next. Will they get a ½ hour of workbook or a ½ hour of screentime?
Mancala—create your own version of the African classic using rocks and 12 small bowls. (See how to play here.)

Arranging Rocks

You can arrange rocks in any shape. You might consider forming them into:
Spell a name or a word
Make a symbol like a heart.
A monogram on the ground or as a table centerpiece
An arrow as a wayfinder for a game or get-together (or spell YUM with an arrow pointing to the table at a barbecue)
A happy face or HBD for a birthday
Math games! Spell out 5 X 5 in pebbles and have a kid write the answer
A pun—may we suggest You Rock or Rock On?
A collection—pick up rocks and then place them in a bowl or vase to remember the place or time where you found them. If you’re in a group, have everyone write a message to each other on the rocks.
“Night lights”—use glow in the dark paint to decorate rocks, then set them out in the yard to line pathways or serve as surprises after the sun goes down

1. Wood Box 2. Craft Paint 3. Stones 4. Googly Eyes 5. Dot Paint 6. Crystal Kit 7. Book 8. Cards 9. Chalk Markers 10. Terrarium Kit 11. Rock Tumbler