I love using rocks to teach children! We’ve made pet rocks and number rocks both at home and in the classroom, and they have always been a hit with the kids. For this go, I used a larger collection of rocks. This way, my preschoolers could use them for learning shapes and colors, along with patterns and sorting. We always seem to have a large amount of rocks around, so why not use them?!
Making Rainbow Rocks
Please forgive me in advance if they aren’t as pretty and well-painted as they could be! As the Laurie Berkner Band says . . . “I’m not perfect, but I’ve got what I’ve got.” Yes, I’m showing my preschool teacher stripes again! 🙂
To make the rainbow shape rocks, I grabbed all of the acrylic paint I had on-hand. I’m one of those people who picks up art supplies when they are heavily discounted or just a few bits at a time. It’s amazing how much accrues over time, just doing that!
I had a lot of colors to choose from, so I settled on using all of the basic colors young children need to learn — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, white, brown, black, and gray. I didn’t have brown or gray, so I picked up brown paint and just made my own version of gray.
Once the acrylic paints were
all over nicely laid out on my kitchen table, I grabbed the rocks. Again, river rocks are often found in my craft closet. I settled on making 3 rocks of each color, so I made sure I had more than 33 rocks. That definitely wasn’t a problem! Engineer had a good stash too, as he was painting his own rocks alongside me. Oh, and in case you’re wondering why there are two versions of blue, that was Engineer’s doing. So I ended up with a total of 36 rocks!
From there, it was just a matter of painting the rocks. I painted both sides of the rocks with a few coats of paint each. Obviously, this didn’t happen in just one day. It was done in spurts of 20 to 30 minutes when I got the chance!
Once the rocks were super colorful, I went back and added shapes to one side of each rock. Again, I focused on shapes that young children are familiar with or need to learn — square, triangle, rectangle, circle, oval, diamond/rhombus, star, crescent, and heart. I wasn’t going to include a crescent at first, but Engineer suggested it. With 4 of each shape, that ensured that all 36 of my rocks had a shape.
After everything was dry, I did end up going back with a clear acrylic sealer. This way, the paint should last longer when little ones are playing with them! This is the only picture I took of the sealed versions — they look the same, but shinier! 🙂
Learning Shapes and Colors with Rainbow Rocks
Yes, 36 sounds like a ton of rocks! However, I want to be able to use these rainbow shape rocks with my preschool class in a variety of ways. Having so many will help me work on a variety of math skills with the kids.
Below are some of the ways my students will be learning shapes and colors (and more early math skills) with these rainbow rocks. I’m sure the preschoolers will come up with MANY more ways to use these rocks!!
- Sort by color and by shape
- Create patterns with the colors and with the shapes
- Identify the shapes and colors
- Put the colors in rainbow order
- Match the colors to items around the classroom
- Explore one-to-one correspondence
- Search out shapes that correlate with the shapes on the rocks
- Count the rocks
Why use rocks for learning shapes and colors, along with other math concepts? Oh, there are so many reasons to do so!! Because children love playing with rocks. Because having rocks inside the classroom is a different experience, making it more memorable. Because rocks feel different — their textures, shapes, and weights create a unique learning experience integrating different senses. Basically, because they’re fun!
How have you used rocks with your children/students? I’m always up for new ideas, so please share in the comment section below!! 🙂
A Full Week of Playful Rainbow and Rock Theme Ideas
Save time and get right to the playful learning with our printable lesson plan sets. Each set includes over 30 playful learning activities related to the theme, and we’ve provided different versions for home preschool families and classroom teachers so all activities are geared directly toward your needs.
Originally published August 22, 2013.