By Sara Bloomberg
How many times have you casually cleaned out your child’s pockets or lunch bags and found a vast collection of rocks which your children have meticulously hunted? For most 3-6-year-old children, rocks are the stuff of dreams. To children, rocks are often more valuable than the most precious metals. Each rock holds the memories of the light, the smells, and sounds from each rock hunt. Rocks are full of promise and potential.
Your children are all rock connoisseurs who will jump at the chance for a family rock hunt. Orchestrating a rock hunt is simple and should be stress-free.
Here is what you will need for a rock hunt:
- 30 – 45 minutes total (for setting up, for the actual rock hunt and for conversations after)
- Some rocks (either found organically in nature,) or you can search for rocks on the links below. Whether you are inside or outdoors, make sure you have enough rocks. For toddlers, you can invite your children to hunt for five rocks. For 3-6-year-olds, make sure you have ten rocks per child. You can build from there and add more on a later rock hunt.
- Here are the links for rocks
- An indoor or outdoor hunting ground in which you will either have placed the rocks or in which the rocks naturally occur.
- A pillowcase, (your delineated workspace), which you can place in the middle of the space in which you are hunting.
- A magnifying glass (not completely necessary can be used for further scientific observation of the rocks.)
- A small container or bucket for your child to store their rocks. (This is for for your child/ren to hold,) they need the gross motor experience involved in this adventure.
- A flat tray, a baking sheet, or a plate.
Be sure to have some wonderment and a sense of humor. This experience should be joyful!
Wherever you choose to roam (indoors or outdoors), try to have a silent walk in which your children hunt for and find ten rocks. (Don’t forget you were once young so you can hunt for rocks too!)
Invite yourself to be patient with your children. Restrain yourself from finding rocks for your child. (If you step in and find the rocks for your children, they won’t have the same sense of accomplishment and attachment to their rocks.) If it’s too hard for you to stop yourself from stepping in, then you can use this as a meditation walk. Each rock you find can be a reminder to inhale and exhale. You don’t need to lift the rock; the rock can be a bell of mindfulness.)
Once each participant has found their rocks and placed them in the bucket you can gather at your pillowcase.
- Place the bucket on the upper left-hand side of the pillowcase.
- Slowly invite your child to take the rocks out as they wish. (Ideally, they can take one rock out a time and place them on the pillowcase in any order. 3-6-year-olds who are veteran Montessorians will lay their rocks out differently than a toddler. Any way your child engages with these materials is perfectly okay.
- Once you have taken all your rocks out of the bucket, you can:
- Invite your child to arrange them from largest to smallest.
- Ask your child to lay them out from the darkest to lightest.
- Your child can arrange the rocks from the roughest to the smoothest.
- You can notice their overall shapes and find other similar shapes in your home and place these found objects under the rocks.
- You can look around your home and find objects that are similar in color to the rocks and place those objects below the rocks.
Books About Rocks
Here are some books you can read that might add to the wonderment and joy.
- If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian: This book is so calming and its illustrations are beautiful.
- A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel: This book invites us to ponder what it’s like to be a rock or an animal on a rock.
- Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor: This book needs to be read over some time. It is a very thoughtful book that inspires super conversation. The illustrations are expansive and beautiful.
Simple Learning Activities to Do with Rocks
Collect your ten rocks and transfer them from the bucket to a bowl. You can use a tray or a pillowcase as a workspace.
Seriate the rocks from largest to smallest.
Grade the rocks from darkest to lightest
Once you have had this experience, you can gather these rocks in a bowl or on a flat tray, and you can observe them later using the magnifying glass.
More Activities with Rocks
Now that your little scientists have been studying their ten little rocks, have any of them noticed how vivid the colors of the rocks are in the bright morning light? Have you dipped them in water and noticed how much brighter they are when they are wet? Have you built structures from smallest to largest with them? Have you heard the sounds they make as they fall? These rocks can bring so much delight to your children’s lives.
You can use these rocks to set up a few works for your children. These works help develop eye-hand coordination. They help strengthen the muscles in the hand, forearm, core, and back. These kinds of works help grow your child’s focus, their sense of independence, and order. They help to teach care of others and care of the environment too.
These materials are set up for people who read English. So they are set up to be read and worked on from left to right. This means that we start working with the materials on the left. We transfer them from the left bowl to the right bowl. Then to complete the work, we transfer the rocks, one at a time back to the bowl on the left. In this way we leave the work just as we found it, ready for the next person.
Once all the rocks have been transferred to the bowl on the right, transfer the rocks back to the original bowl (on the left.)
Other extensions are incorporating a spoon into the work. So instead of using your hand to transfer the rocks, you can use a spoon. As your child masters this work, you can change the size of the spoon to make this work more challenging.
Remember, as with every Montessori material, there is no rush to master this. Allow your child the time and the space to explore the work and try not to interrupt them when they are working. This is their work and their time to be with the materials in any way they wish. They might transfer the rocks and then might start reenacting a recent book they have read. This is perfectly acceptable and just what they need.
About Sara Bloomberg
Sara is a teacher trainer at Duhovkha Montessori teacher education program and head of Orange Tree Montessori play group. Sara is a LGBTQIA+ presenter, author, and activist. Sara consults with families helping to integrate the Montessori pedagogy into their daily lives.