Give a child a rock, and they’ll collect rocks forever. Give a child a rock and a paintbrush, and they’ll collect eleventy billion rocks and paint the rocks, your counters, their hands, their clothes, and everything in a 15-foot radius. If you know, you know.
Parents know. Rock painting is something kids love. You can buy rock painting kits – I won’t lie, our little ones love these. Our big ones still love them, too. Kids and art is like popcorn and butter. It belongs together. These days, rock painting is more than just a lot of fun (and mess) for kids. Painted rocks are every where for people to find, and it’s become kind of a game and a fun activity for kids.
You can call it what you want, but the Kindness Rock Project is the name. It’s a trend – for lack of better word – where children (or anyone who wants to) paints rocks, many with kind messages on them, and they hide them. They put them anywhere they want for others to find. Parks, parking lot landscaping, businesses, schools, shopping malls, whatever. The point is that people find them and then either take the rock or take a photo with the rock and share it online. The idea is to share and spread kindness, and it’s such a unifying activity.
The Origin of the Kindness Rock Project
The story is not quite exact, but it’s as good as it gets. Megan Murphy of Cape Cod painted a message on a rock in 2015. The message read “you’ve got this,” on the rock she left on the beach. A friend found her rock, and she began creating rocks of her own. A rock artist by the name of Alice Brock – also from Cape Cod – takes credit for helping to spread the Kindness Rock Project around the world. Allegedly, she sent painted rocks of her own to her friends in other countries as well as in New York City. Regardless who started the project, it really did take off, and now it’s everywhere.
Things To Note About Finding Rocks to Paint
This might come as a surprise to some, but you cannot just pick up a rock off the ground anywhere you’d like and take it home to paint. Sure, my own mother is always asking my kids to bring her rocks or shells from rivers and oceans when we travel, but it’s illegal in some places. For example, did you know that you cannot take a rock from the beach in the United Kingdom? The rocks on the beach have a job – I don’t know what job, but I’d imagine it’s something to do with erosion? Either way, you cannot do that.
You also cannot take a rock from a national park, which is a major bummer for kids who visit. They want to pick things up off the ground and collect them – and who doesn’t love that about kids? National Park rangers, that’s who. In all seriousness, imagine if every person who visited a national park in a year picked up just one rock and took it home. How long do you think that it would be before the rocks were no longer there? It’s for a good reason.
If you’re going to paint some rocks, your best bet is to purchase them. And you can do that anywhere. They’re available at landscaping stores, craft stores, and more. In fact, you can let your own kids take rocks out of your own garden or yard – and they can take them from the side of the road when you’re walking through your neighborhood, etc. However, do know you cannot just borrow everyone’s landscaping and use it for art projects.
The Best Rocks
You can buy them, you really can. But the best rocks for rock painting are almost always the smooth rocks found in a stream or river. They are easier to paint, and they are just so pretty. If you have a stream or a river near your home – and it’s not included in a National Park – go get some rocks. However, do keep a close eye on your children near water (you know that, but it makes me feel better to remind you).
I should also point out that my own kids tell me regularly that their rocks don’t need to be perfect. Our son is a big fan of finding the most jagged, crazy, non-smooth rocks he can find and giving them life. He does not discriminate, so you shouldn’t either. Paint what speaks to you (or what speaks to your kids, I should say).
The Best Paint for Painting Rocks
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but there are some paints that work better than others. Acrylic paint works best on rocks, and acrylic paint pens are a great idea if you want to include some finer detail. These paints are available at any craft store or even stores such as Target and Walmart. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Staples, etc. all carry these paints. They’re also available at online retailers such as Amazon. If you have a specialty art supply store you like to visit, they’re going to carry acrylic paints, too.
Just remember to get all the colors. Kids are painting rocks, and kids are creative. They don’t care about the aesthetic or certain colors. Their little imaginations take them everywhere, and they’ll want all the colors. Trust me – all the colors. Even those two greens that look identical to you – they’re so different and important.
Don’t Forget to Clean Your Rocks
It probably goes without saying that dirty, dusty rocks aren’t going to provide the smoothest or easiest surface to work with – but there is always that one person who didn’t think about cleaning the rocks. You have kids. It’s all right. We all forget something. The good news is that you didn’t forget a child at school or in the store or something. Forgetting to clean the rocks is pretty far down the list of horrid parenting moments. My point, however, is that cleaning rocks before painting them is imperative.
1. Put your rocks in a sink or bowl that’s filled with warm bleach water. Do not use too much bleach, but a half cup for a large bowl or sink of water will suffice. You want to let the rocks soak for 10-15 minutes before you scrub them. The point of this is to loosen any unwanted residue from the surface of the rock.
2. Scrub your rocks. An old sponge will work, but a toothbrush works more effectively. Just be sure your kids didn’t grab their brother’s toothbrush out of the bathroom to use that – do not ask me why I feel the need to point that out.
3. Let your rocks dry completely before you use them. The best way to do this is to place them on a paper towel in the sunlight. Leave them out for a while, and then flip them over so the bottom can dry, too.
4. Using sandpaper on particularly rough rocks is acceptable, too.
Priming Rocks Before Painting
Now, I don’t do this. I let my kids go to town on their rocks without a care in the world. I haven’t the time nor the patience to prime rocks for painting because my kids usually decide they want to paint rocks yesterday, and time is of the essence. However, if you are giving them as gifts, you might want to prime them so they last. One coat of acrylic primer is all it takes. The rocks will need to dry once the primer is painted on, but you can use your hairdryer to help make that faster. Simply use the cool setting.
Rock Painting Ideas for Kids
Painting rocks is something you can do with your kids. You can create your own rock garden at home, hand them out as little gifts to friends and family, or leave them for others to find. You don’t need to purchase a rock kit, but they’re at every craft store and big box store imaginable, so you certainly can. Here are some of my own children’s favorite things to paint on rocks.
5. Happy faces
10. Four leaf clovers
11. American flag
12. Mermaid scales
13. Easter eggs
15. M&Ms (I love this one)
16. Monsters for Halloween
18. Abstract painted rocks
19. Shapes and other designs
Tips for Keeping the Mess At Bay
Left with 30 seconds on their own, my own kids will find the art cart in the playroom and bring it into the kitchen to sit at the bar and paint over our expensive granite. Sure, it comes off – but I still don’t want them painting on the granite. Fortunately, we live in Florida and we have a covered lanai on the pool deck and a covered wraparound front porch, so outdoor painting and outdoor weather is always present. However, you can use the dining room table, the floor, or even the garage floor…just be sure you cover it.
Something I always keep in my art cart is a stack of unopened $1 table cloths from Walmart. They’re plastic, and I keep them there so when the kids decide art is a must right this very second, I have something to cover the table, the island, or our pool deck pavers with. It’s cheap, simple, and it makes cleanup a breeze since you can pick it up with all the trash on it and throw it all away. I put the table cloth on the floor or table, and I let them sit on that to paint.
I also keep art clothes in the art cart – hear me out. All of our kids have art aprons they wear to keep their clothes clean, but they’ll still find a way to get paint all over everything they wear. So, I have outfits in the art cart that they’ve already ruined with paint that I wash and require they wear before the paint again. I also put the girls’ hair up so it’s not dragging in paint or water while they’re bent over their art.
Where to Put the Paint?
All right, here we go. We purchased these darling little…I can’t even think of the name. Palettes? Is that the right word? They’re little white dishes with indentations in them to put paint. The kids love them. We abhor them. Why? Because you have to wash them when you’re done and keep them. I’d rather take a paper plate and let the kids put different colors of paint on the plates. When we are done with our painting, we collect our paint bottles, our brushes, and our rocks, and we gather up everything else with the table cloth and throw it away. Nothing has to be washed by the paintbrushes.
Finally, just have fun. The idea of painting rocks with kids is to have a good time. Their artwork might not be perfect. It might not be flawless. But it’s going to be just as perfect as it should be when they are done. As long as everyone is having fun together as a family, nothing else matters. And, if you’ll allow me to make a suggestion, something we love to do is take the rocks our kids paint and put them out when we are walking down our local bike trails. People love to find them there. They can be left outside of schools, nursing homes, and more. Just put them where you think they will be loved and cherished the most.