School is out in less than three weeks and I for one feel as if I’m on some twisted carnival ride where the floor is about to drop out from under me. I am bracing myself for the sudden abyss—wide-open days without any structure to rest on. Without the sure footing of predictable schedules and the built-in enrichment that comes with formal education, I am crossing my fingers—and toes—that a handful of camps, sprinkling of sitters, plus impromptu play dates adds up to enough time to manage my household, meet my work deadlines, and keep my sanity. While it may mean I have to resort to putting on workout gear, heading to the gym to drop my kids off at daycare, then darting out the back door to sneak in my grocery shopping at some point in the next three months, I refuse to be the mom who creates spreadsheets to plot my way through the complex algorithm of activities and—worse—the gaping holes of non-activities.
My strategy is all about minimalism. My dad, not typically one for pat phrases that gloss over nuance, always reminds me to just “K.I.S.S.!” which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” So to keep my kids busy this summer, I’m after simple activities that present infinite opportunities for variations and interpretations—with minimal moving parts. Think: rocks + paint + little else = something cool. Now, Martha Stewart has a wonderfully elaborate series on rock crafts, but many of them require artful gluing and intricate infrastructure using dental floss, clay, toothpicks, and coffee-stirrers. Since my very summer feels like it will require a random assortment of above items to keep everything copasetic, I’m sticking with the simplicity of 2- or 3-step art projects that require little in the way of moving parts.
My dream is to hand my kids a tray of rocks and paint (plus a few brushes) and see what they come up with. Here are some ideas to get them started:
1. Rock Monsters
Rocks + paint + googly eyes = monster friends or foes
My boys will love hunting for rocks and letting the natural form play into friendly or sinister monster features. I love how Cocoa Bean suggests using neon paint to really make a bold impression. You can use googly eyes if you have them, or just use the back of a paint brush to create a perfect white circle, then let dry completely and add black at the center. The activity is over when: Your children have painted one another with neon paint and stuck googly eyes all over their faces.
2. Rock Bees
Rocks + paint + wire = colony
These bumblebees from Crafts by Amanda are adorable and only require yellow, black, and white paint, plus a little wire. My boys will love creating them to decorate our deck and attract friendly pollinators—and perhaps even sell along with refreshments at their next lemonade stand. The activity is over when: Honeybees spiral into colony collapse disorder.
3. Rock Letters
Rocks + paint = alphabet
My kids love spelling their names and using letters in creative ways to convey meaning. My 3-year-old watches in awe as my nearly-6-year-old spells out messages. My little guy thinks his big brother is a wizard the way he works with words. I plan to make two sets of these rocks from Momtastic so each child can have his own, plus work together to write funny words. I’ll encourage them to name birds, label plants, and use letters as clues in scavenger hunts. The activity is over when: Words like “poop” and “fart” begin to be spelled out.
4. Rock Dominos
Rocks + paint = game
My kids love playing games, but I really don’t want random plastic pieces getting lost in the ground cover or getting sucked up into the lawnmower and promptly breaking it. That’s where rocks are ideal for creating game pieces. True, you’ll still want to keep them out of the grass, but you won’t mind if these simple, painted dominos from Martha Stewart evolve into part of your landscaping because the kids were happily playing in the garden. The activity is over when: The dots on rocks remind your kids of chocolate chip cookies and they come running in for snack time.
5. Socks & Rocks
Rocks + socks = art objects
This may be the easiest rock craft out there—and perhaps the most artful one. RecycLart shows how to take a too-small or orphan sock and create sock rocks! For older kids, create your objet d’art using needle and thread. For younger kids, set them up with socks, rocks, scissors, and rubber bands. The activity is over when: Tube socks become nun chucks.
What’s your favorite rock craft? And how will YOU know the activity is over?