Shortly after the shelter-in-place order came down, a sweet girl in our neighborhood came up with a great idea: a painted rock scavenger hunt. She posted about her idea on the neighborhood social media sites. Then, she kicked the whole thing off by filling her front yard with painted rocks and even went so far as to gather and prime a whole box of rocks for kids (or adults) in the neighborhood to paint and hide.
The painted rock hunt took off like you wouldn’t believe. Our son quickly became obsessed with looking for rocks like only a toddler can. Suddenly the kid who would whine by the time we passed our next door neighbor’s house on a walk, didn’t want to stop walking. We were going on multiple walks a day looking for different rocks. My son knew exactly where each rock was and memorized what each said. He’d excitedly “read” the rocks to us as we passed them. The level of distress that occurred when someone moved a rock actually got to the point that I posted on our neighborhood forum asking if anyone knew where a specific panda-looking rock was. Nobody answered. Luckily, a certain little person in our house forgot about it after a couple weeks.
I think the neighborhood-wide excitement about the painted rocks has slowly declined, but it most definitely has not in our house. For about 2 months, we have gone on at least one rock-hunting walk every day. Fortunately, we are not the only ones to have kept with it. About a month ago, a bunch of 80’s hit-song themed rocks made an appearance. Then, shortly after that, someone made a cookie monster sign and painted a ton of rocks to look like chocolate chip cookies with bites taken out. A week ago, a bunch of glitter-covered rocks appeared. And frankly, glitter was all this family needed to finally paint our own rocks.
While the neighbor that started the whole event has kept her box of primed rocks full, we implemented a strict “look, don’t touch” on all of the primed and painted rocks available for painting and viewing. While the gesture was sweet, with the whole coronavirus thing going on, we didn’t want to risk it. Instead, when it came to painting our own rocks, we went searching in our own yard. While our horrendously rocky soil is a giant pain in the rear end when doing any sort of yard work or landscaping, it made finding rocks to paint incredibly easy.
Before painting, we hosed all the dirt and grime off the rocks and let them dry in the sun. Then, we pulled out the crazy cheap white spray paint we bought for some forgotten project years ago from the paint closet and coated all sides of the rocks in a couple coats of white. Priming the rocks probably isn’t a requirement, but it definitely helped the lighter colors of paint to show. Plus, we had white spray paint on hand.
Luckily, spray paint takes a little bit to dry. We may have exaggerated the amount of time required for it to dry while we waited for our paint pens to arrive. We have zero interest in dealing with the mess associated with toddlers painting with brushes and puddles of paint, so I ordered the pens. I literally cannot say enough awesome things about these paint pens. They had decent reviews and weren’t too expensive so I figured they would be worth a shot. Oh my goodness, it’s like using a marker. We had zero issues with pooling or clogging or air bubbles or any of your typical paint pen issues. We even managed to keep the toddler relatively paint free. He almost didn’t need the paint shirt we forced him to wear. Almost.
Because we’re impatient and paint takes a while to dry, we busted out the trusty hair dryer to speed up the process. This worked pretty well for my husband and me as we know how paint works, but our son insisted upon putting paint on top of paint on top of paint. No matter how many times we blow dried it, he’d paint over the same spot and reconstitute the dried paint. But he’s 3, so it is what it is. We were able to save the paint pens by scribbling on some cardboard to get the darker colors off the tips.
Finally, with our masterpieces completed, we sprayed them with a quick coat of polyurethane. A lot of the paint on the older rocks around the neighborhood has started to wear off and our rocks are far too beautiful to suffer the same fate and this way, they’ll be painted forever! (or for as long as polyurethane actually lasts.) We’ll wait and make a big deal about “hiding” the rocks on a day that we’re itching for something exciting to do.
If your neighborhood is still under lock-down or a shelter-in-place order, I highly recommend rock painting. In the past couple of weeks we have spent quite a few evenings finding, prepping and painting rocks. It’s made for a great, cheap, time consuming, family activity.