This is the easiest activity for a wide range of ages – (approximately 2 – 9 year olds) If you have kid friendly paint already, there is no planning ahead. Just a bit of set up and clean up.
First, take them on a rock hunt. They piled into their little red wagon so we could put the rocks we found in there. This is easy, unless your part of the Earth is covered with snow/ice. Even still, you should excavate some rocks together. These could be any size the children want them to be/ whatever you can find. Take your time, no rushing, let them walk and explore.
When you get home, wash the rocks. Let the kids do this. They love it! We put ours in a plastic dish pan with water and a bit of dish soap, be sure you use a non scratch surface. Give them a paint brush or scrub brush to clean the rocks. When the water is dirty, dump it out and refill with fresh water, no soap to rinse the rocks. Lay the rocks out to dry. This is a good time for lunch/ nap. When the rocks are dry, set out paints and rocks on a painters drop cloth or wherever you do messy activities. I put the rocks they were painting on a sheet of yardstick for even easier clean up. Put on paint shirts.
tip : you should have a large sheet or washable/wipeable drop cloth to use for all messy activities and some sort of cover for clothes. I got a pack of too large tee shirts for them and that’s what we always use for painting or anything messy)
You could go with a theme or just put out all the colors. We did this a few weeks before Valentine’s Day so I put out red, pink and white paint. If you are teaching toddlers a certain color use that but add another color such as white or black so it mixes different shades of the color they are learning as they paint.
Depending on the age of the kids, and their artistic skill level, they will take it from there. Younger kids will just brush the paint on, older kids might make heart designs or letters or simple pictures. If they are old enough to paint letters, they could paint “Welcome” on a large rock, to put near the front door. Give them creative freedom.
Brodey is four years old and he had the most fun mixing the colors to see what color it would become. I use little condiment cups for squeezing paint into.
The finished product doesn’t matter. Please keep your perfectionist tendencies buried inside. I put theirs in an empty flower-pot on their balcony but if you want to preserve your rocks from weather, spray a clear sealant on the dry paint.
Some kids will spend more time on one step than another. Go with their lead on that. Some will wash the rocks for a half hour. On this particular day, they were not as much into the gathering of the rocks but other times they were so into it that I had to make them stop collecting and leave some of the rocks out in nature! This time, Brinley (two years old) had a much longer attention span with painting, while Brodey didn’t care as much about getting the paint onto the rocks as he did about squeezing paints into the cups and mixing the colors to make new colors. Other days, it is a different story.