Living with small children is like living with prehistoric people. Their manners and wonderment at the world, I would presume, are much the same. Maybe that’s why kids like playing with rocks so much — they’re tapping into their stone-age roots. Unfortunately, rock play has a tendency to involve throwing which leads to blood, crying, etc. By adding a bit of challenge and intention, however, parents can turn their little cave people into modern-day “environmental artists” like Andy Goldsworthy.
Rock stacking is basically like making block towers, but it amps up the difficulty. Stackers must find balance points and flat spots that allow the rocks to settle, one atop the other. For an industrious kid, the game can consume most of an hour. What’s more, it helps with coordination and patience. An added bonus is that it requires being outside and provides a lesson that sometimes the most common things are the best to play with.
Prep Time: Dependent on how long it takes to find a place with rocks
Entertainment Time: 30-60 minutes
Energy Expended by Child: Muscle power to lift larger rocks, mental and physical agility and patience
What You Need:
Rocks. Any rocks will do. However, the ease of construction depends on their shape, of course. Flat creek stones will work best, but angular, sharp-edged stones work as well. Rounded rocks require expert-level skills.
How to Play:
If you live in a rocky area, head outside and collect rocks of various sizes from gardens, woods, or the wild edges of your neighbors’ lawns. Be careful not to dismantle anyone’s landscaping. For those parents who live in urban landscapes, heading to wooded parks should find you in prime rock territory, particularly in or near creeks.
Parents can help kids look for the perfect rocks before building a tower, which begins with a heavy bottom stone that has a relatively flat top. The easiest method for stacking is by size: larger rocks at the bottom and smaller rocks at the top. However, it can be fun to play with a precarious balance and kids can easily have their minds blown by seeing their big rock perched upon a little one. Just know that for every little rock under a big rock in the stack, it gets harder to build a tall tower. The game continues until a tower is built as high as it can go.
A variation on the rock stacking game turns it into a competition: set a timer and see who can stack the highest tower in the allotted time. The winner gets to topple the loser’s tower.
When the stacking is done, rocks can either be scattered or left as a monument for passers-by to enjoy.
Rock stacking is an outdoor activity that promotes motor skills and dirty hands. It’s also a quiet activity that requires concentration and breath. For parents with kids who are builders, it means some fun cooperative play that can frankly have some really cool looking results. The little cave-person in your house will dig it.