Rock Painting Fun with Kids

Are you looking for a way to encourage your kids’ creativity and keep their little feet moving on the hiking trail? Maybe those two things don’t seem related, but they are! Today, adventure travel and homeschooling mom of three, Rebecca Jimenez, is sharing her tried and true secret to getting kids excited about hiking – rock painting! Not only put all those rock nature treasures your children adore to good use, but your kids will have artistic and creative fun, and will be begging you to hit the trails so that they can leave them behind! This is a game-changer, my friends! Hiking with kids “ROCKS!”

A child is excited to draw, paint, and create rock art! She is going to take the painted rocks out hiking so she can hide them for other hikers. Children love to get creative and go outside.

Family hiking

Our family loves to hike. We are always looking for the best trails to hike and the best mountains to climb. If your kids are like mine, they have tons of energy, and they are always ready to run around, be loud, and explore their surroundings.  Spending time hiking is a great way for kids of all ages to get outside in nature. Children need to exercise and breathe in the fresh clean air. Kids can be themselves outside! They can be loud, and they are free to run around, explore, and see what kinds of treasures they can find in nature.

Hiking with kids can be an amazing adventure and a great way to spend quality time as a family in the great outdoors. But, sometimes kids get bored on hikes, or easily distracted. A perfectly planned family hike can quickly become a literal uphill battle both mentally and physically. That’s no fun for parents or kids. Even my kids that love hiking only have “so much” they can take. Sometimes we need an activity to keep those little feet moving down the trail. That’s when we discovered the beautiful simplicity of leaving painted rocks on our hikes. This simple activity made our hiking adventures so much more fun for the kids. Let me explain…

Kids love rocks

My children have always been fascinated by rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, smooth or rough. It does not usually seem to matter. It makes me smile whenever my child hands me a rock, and says, “Look, mommy! Isn’t this the best, most colorful rock you’ve ever seen?! I bet it’s super old! Maybe as old as the dinosaurs!”

Sometimes I can see them feeling shy holding what they perceive as a “special rock” and they want to ask me more about it. My kids have sometimes asked me if the rocks could be “real gold” since there is often a fleck of shine to them. Maybe silver? Maybe a diamond? It must be a special mineral of some sort, right? Kids are always daydreaming of striking it rich with their miraculous finds. 

A child hiking and finding rocks on the trail. Streams and Rivers are a great place to find rocks!

“When a child gives you a gift, even if it is a rock they just picked up, exude gratitude. It may be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you.” -Dean Jackson

Rocks are everywhere

If you’re like me, you love everything your child gives you. I always want to “exude gratitude” when they give me a present. Since our family spends most of our time outdoors, the presents my kids kept giving me were rocks. Yep, rocks.

Lots and lots of rocks. Small rocks. Big rocks. Heavy rocks. Dirty rocks. Sometimes rocks with little creepy crawlies on them. Sometimes rocks with a unique shape, a smooth spot, a special color, or a cool fossil.  Our pockets and packs are always filled full of rocks, and still… the rocks kept coming. I’m just as guilty – I love looking for unique rocks and showing them to the kids. Every now and then, one ends up in my pocket, too!

When we come home from a day outside, the kids empty their nature treasures onto the table. Sometimes we have other nature goodies like leaves, acorns, and sticks, too. But always rocks. They are a constant. Rocks are always fun and so easy for kids to find. We then and sort, count, and often times clean the rocks that the kids found. 

Children playing with rocks at a lake in the mountains

What to do with all these rocks?

Our rock collection was starting to get a bit unwieldy. With so many rocks at home, this got me thinking about how could I make finding (and getting rid of) rocks even more fun for kids? I got the idea to paint the rocks to look like real gold, silver, or diamonds. More fun than that would be painting rocks with bright colors, fun designs, inspirational quotes.  We’d seen “kindness rocks” around and loved the idea of making our own to place in fun spots on our hikes. I had a feeling my kids would love this. And I was right! 

Creating rock art with kids is as easy as 1, 2, 3

  1. Your kids will have a blast finding rocks (they probably already do).
  2. Everyone has a super fun time painting rocks and coming up with unique designs.
  3. It’s even more fun hiding, and (re-finding!) beautifully painted rocks.

A painted rock with a sunflower that reads

Painted rocks and hiking

Now instead of bringing rocks home to live in our house forever, we were turning them into art and taking our painted rocks with us to leave on the trails. A hide and seek of sorts. Now the kids were actually asking me to go hiking! Yep! You heard that right. They were actually begging me to take them on long hikes to hide and look for more rocks!

Share the rock painting fun

Do you know what makes hiding rocks even more fun? Including others. People you don’t even know. We loved the idea other rock painters and rock painting groups did to brighten people’s days and share their painted rock art. So we started leaving messages on the bottom of the rocks for other people to take photos of the rocks! We make it easy by using a hashtag so we can see where the rock will ‘travel’!

If you’re impatient like me, the hashtag is #RunWildRocks, but more on that later.

A rainbow painted rock with beautiful intricate designs.

What inspires you and your kids?

Motivating children to spend more time outside is not as hard as it seems. What is your child really into right now? Maybe it is dinosaurs, cars, fairies, superhero characters, space, rainbows, unicorns, bugs, or monsters. Try easy ways to incorporate what your children love into your rock art. You can also do seasonal rock art. Creating ghost rocks around Halloween or ladybug rocks in Spring are both super simple and they look cool too. 

Remember, you don’t have to be a Picasso to have fun painting rocks! If drawing a dinosaur sounds like a daunting task, simple words work great! “Beep beep” for cars, “bam” for a superhero, or the word “magic” for fairies work great too. Make it easy on yourself and fun at the same time. If all else fails, it is hard to go wrong with a smiley face, heart, sunshine, cloud, or rainbow.

A Curious George painted rock. It says Stay Curious

Getting started painting rocks with kids

Getting started painting rocks is easy! All you really need are some rocks, some paint, and some creativity! The main thing to keep in mind is these rocks will be outside. So, washable paint or other supplies that are easily cleaned up is not ideal. I also would not recommend using crayons, washable markers, watercolors, chalk, or colored pencils. If it can wash out of your clothes, it can wash off your rocks. So dress for mess and let’s get started!

A rock painted with a beautiful night time camping scene with a lit tent and a little campfire

Supplies for rock painting with kids

  1. Rocks – Large, flat, smooth stones work best for rock painting. Include the kids when you’re finding/collecting your rocks. Make sure your rocks are also washed and dried before painting. Kids are great at washing rocks!
  2. Waterproof paint – I like to use inexpensive craft paints such as acrylic paint. Acrylic paint comes in squeeze bottles, tubes, paint pens, and little paint craft kits. You could also use nail polish, permanent markers, or paint pens. 
  3. Brushes for each color – Acrylic does not wash off easily between colors, so I suggest buying a cheap pack of brushes to keep things simple and clean. 
  4. A paint holder – I like using plastic paint wells to keep the paint separate. 
  5. Paint smock or messy clothes – Painting can be fun, but let’s remember to dress for mess. Don’t dress your kids in anything that you wouldn’t mind getting ruined or covered in paint. 
  6. A flat surface that will be painted on – I suggest a paper plate, table cloth, or even a poster board. All these items can also be turned into works of art.  
  7. Stencils – Stencils are optional, but they can be a tremendous help if you are intimated by art or want to make something more intricate.

If you are looking for additional supplies suggestions or a full list of recommended rock painting art supplies, I’ve got you covered. Just click this link and see all my rock painting supplies suggestions.

Art Supplies Needed for Successful Rock Painting

Every child is an artist.” -Pablo Picasso

Tips for successful rock painting with kids

Rock painting with kids will be most successful if you ensure the following key points are met:

  1. Make sure to have your “art studio” ready.
  2. Have all your art supplies ready.
  3. Dress for mess and tons of fun!
  4. Come prepared with some creative ideas for art.

Spark creativity with a comfortable studio

Kids love to be independent. Especially with all things messy, right? Set your child up for rock painting success by creating an “art studio”. Get creative with your studio setup. An outdoor art studio on the back patio or on a picnic table at the park can be an amazing way to spend a day outside. Let your child take charge with their paint and creativity. I promise you will be rewarded with lots of smiles. 

Where is your child most comfortable? Sitting in a chair? Lying on the floor? Bouncing up and down? Find the spot that works best for you and your child. Giving your child the space to stretch out may keep the creative juices flowing, and the rock painting fun lasting longer. 

A child painting a rainbow on a rock with a paintpenA child laying down while painting rocksRock Painting Fun Rainbows and Art Supplies

Ideas for rock art

Everyone enters creating rock art at different artistic stages. There is absolutely no wrong place to start rock painting. Younger children and beginning artists will likely fall under the beginner’s section below, but they may be interested in trying more advanced ideas. There’s no right or wrong way to paint rocks – it’s more about the fun than anything! Roll with it and enjoy painting rocks with your kids.

Beginner rock painting ideas

Small children love to get messy and create their own work of art. With your young artist, I’d suggest just letting them have fun making whatever they want. Super messy toddler rocks oftentimes are the sweetest rocks to find on the trail. Here are some examples of easy to do beginner rock painter

  • Thumbprint art works well at this age. You can assist by making thumbprint hearts, bugs, and butterflies.
  • Children who are beginner painters do great with simple art projects such as suns, hearts, smiley faces, and rainbows.
  • Simple words are always fun too. One of my favorite rocks we made had the word “hi” and a smiley face.
  • Splatter art can also be really fun for beginner painters. Jackson Pollock is a famous abstract expression artist that is famous for his “splatter art.” 

Splatter art is easy!  All you need to do to create amazing splatter art is:

  1. Start by placing your rock in a shallow box to prevent mess.
  2. Paint your rock completely in any solid color, and let it dry.
  3. Splatter contrasting colors onto the dry painted rock!

Child Painting a Sunshine on a rock

Intermediate rock painters

For the intermediate painters, I’d suggest more slightly more elaborate painting and longer words. For example, add a cloud above the rainbow, snow on top of the mountain, a sparkle on the water, or trees in the forest.

Words of inspiration are also amazing on intermediate rocks. Some words we like to use are: love, hope, smile, dream, wish, peace, and happy. If you’ll be leaving your rocks on hiking trails, consider adding hiking words like: keep going, you’re doing great, almost there, hike away, or hiking rocks.

Extra decor on rocks is also fun! Don’t be afraid to add a little glitter, sparkles, feathers, pom poms, or glue on some google eyes to those little bugs or monster rocks!

little girl with painted lady bug rocks

Advanced rock painters 

For the advanced artist, there are so many fun things you can do with your rocks. What inspires you? Longer quotes or messages of hope and inspiration can be a magical way to adorn your rocks. Intricate patterns, flowers, scenery, nature, and animals are also an amazing way to express your creativity. Draw your favorite cartoon character, book character, animal or portrait. Mandala-style rocks are a fun way to introduce intricate patterns onto rocks.  

colorful rock art painted in a variety of colors, rainbows, mountains curious george and Bluey

Hiding rocks for others to find – #RunWildRocks

A really fun aspect of painting rocks with kids and then hiding your painted rocks is leaving them for other people to find! I’m so excited to help you with that! Follow these easy instructions so that we here at Run Wild My Child can see your rocks!

Using a permanent marker or paint pen write the following on the back of your rock: 

  1. Take a pic and post to #RunWildRocks
  2.  If there is room on your rock, you can add: “Keep, move, or hide me!”
  3.  Take a picture of your rocks and use the hashtag #RunWildRocks on Instagram so we can see your beautiful works of art!

painted ladybug rocks and #runwildrocks painted rockChild hiking and leaving painted rocks on a trail

Tips for hiding painted rocks with kids

Once you’ve painted your rocks, hiding rocks is just as much fun as painting and finding them!

  • We like to leave rocks in obvious places so that the youngest hikers can easily spot them.
  • A child’s eyes are low to the ground, so make sure to leave your rocks so that a child can easily find them.
  • Avoid bushes or placing the rocks where they could easily fall over.
  • It’s fun to leave the rocks at the beginning, middle, and toward the end of the hike. That way the children feel that extra reward when finishing a hike.
  • We like to leave rocks at obvious bends in the trail, and significant stopping points or views.
  • Position the rocks so that they can be seen from far away.
  • We often prop our painted rocks on other rocks or trail signs. 

Art book recommendations for kids

If you want some extra fun reading material about art, painting, and even rock painting, here are a few of our favorite art books for kids:

Let’s rock

I hope you and your family are motivated and excited to make amazing rock art with your kids! Your family is going to have the best time hiding and finding your beautiful works of art outside! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #RunWildRocks on the back of your rocks so we can see your beautiful works of art! Post them to Instagram so we can share!

Are you ready to hit the trail with painted rocks?

About the author

Rebecca is a wife, and mom to 3 thrill-seeking, hiking-addicted, and healthy-living kids. wasn’t always that way. This multicultural family was living the fast-paced city lifestyle outside of Miami, Florida. After seeing so many screen-addicted indoor kids, Rebecca and her husband decided to make some drastic changes. They began an epic homeschool road trip across the United States! Now, based in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, you can find Rebecca and her family exploring and seeking adventures in the great outdoors. They are always finding the best mountains to climb, and the most epic trails to hike. They particularly love finding adventures in the US State and National Parks. The family enjoys all outdoor activities and spending time in nature. They enjoy hiking, camping, rock climbing, paddleboarding, and looking for native plants and animals. She is passionate about creating an active and healthy lifestyle for her family and getting kids (and adults!) off screens and outside!

You can find Rebecca online in the following locations:
Instagram: @familyonthetrail

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