* Use them for counting. Remember skip counting as well.
I like this idea from The Artful Parent and plan to try to do something similar this year...so if you have a little more time on your hands you might want to also. :-) More to use indoors then outdoors.
Need: smooth rocks, fabric, and modge podge.
* For older children use the natural colors of the rocks to sort by color, design, shape, size, texture. Or you can paint sets for sorting and graphing.
* Use permanent marker and write numerals on them to encourage numerical order, counting forwards and backwards.
* Use the rocks to talk about more/less and the concept of odd/even.
* Use rocks in a scale to explore with weight.* A great fine motor activity: encourage your child to place pebbles in a narrow neck container. You can add tongs, tweezers or just use pincher fingers. Add a little science by providing a set of the same container and encouraging to explore with sounds. What do the bottles sound like if they have a lot of pebbles. What if there is only one or two. Order the bottles by the amount of pebbles in them.
* Use rocks to create their name, create shapes, letters, numbers, lines.
* Add a craft/fine motor/art activity by providing plaster of paris and a lid with edges (like miracle whip lid) and having them make a design with their rocks.
* Throw rocks (have a set area for them and remind that we only throw rocks in supervised activities so we all stay safe) and measure distance, using appropriate vocabulary. This is a lesson in good sportsmanship also.
* Use rocks to measure equipment or even a chalk outline of themselves. A good lesson for them...nonstandard measurement...using objects that are the same size. Can't measure with a big rock and a little rock. They need to be similar in size.
* Talk about perimeter. I use that term in our gluing. "Glue around the perimeter then make a X across the center." Children can collect enough rocks to form a path around the perimeter of a play item.
* Place a few rocks in your sand box. Make sure you have sieves available. Encourage conversation! Amazing how many concepts they'll "touch on" on their own when you encourage conversation.
* Rocks are a good way to touch on the science of what's living and what's not.
* Use rocks in water play. It naturally leads to discussion about water displacement, capacity. This summer we went camping and I knew this lake had an abundance of rocks so sons and I went on a rock hunt. :-) Checking them out in the water to find interesting ones then letting them dry out to see what they look like. Always look different in water and that is something that really keeps the interest of the children!
* Encourage the children to find a set of 3-5 (or more for older kids) that order from large to small or vice versa. Or for younger children, make a set for them.
* If you have space and have access to large rocks, encourage them to create a path that leads to a "rock garden". Builds self confidence, touches on design/art, and you can incorporate many a gross motor movement.
I'm sure there are plenty more ideas...those are off the top of my head that we've done recently or in the past. Feel free to tell us about more!