Rocks are a great example of natural loose parts. In play, loose parts are materials that can be moved, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and rearranged in many different ways. Loose parts don’t have a defined purpose, rather they are what you make of them!
Rocks can be found almost everywhere and make versatile loose parts. Collecting rocks is tons of fun and a great motivator to get exploring outside. Look for rocks with all different properties: large and small, different colors and shapes, smooth and rough, flat, and round.
So now you have a collection of rocks. What kinds of fun is to be had?
Sorting is an engaging introductory math activity for preschoolers and rocks make great natural materials for sorting. Sorting together offers opportunities to encourage looking closely, comparing and contrasting, and introducing vocabulary such as sharp or speckles.
Try sorting by texture:
Which rocks are bumpy, sharp, smooth?
Try sorting by color:
Which rocks are white, grey, pink, or speckly?
Try sorting by size:
Which rocks are large or small? Can you line them up smallest to biggest or biggest to smallest?
Build rock towers and structures.
Can you balance your rocks?
Make rock mosaics.
Use your rocks to make pictures. You can use them to make temporary pictures or place them in wet cement to make stepping stones or other permanent pieces of art.
Paint your rocks.
Paint solid colors, patterns, faces, bugs… whatever you can imagine!
Learn about the 3 types of rocks:
Metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. If rocks are igniting your curiosity, dig a bit deeper into geology. There are lots of great books and videos to explore the three types of rocks and more.