Rockhounding is a term used to describe the process of collecting and studying rocks and minerals in their natural environment. You don’t have to be a geology buff to learn about rock formations. Rockhounding can be a fun and simple activity for getting kids outside and teaching them how rocks and minerals are formed.
Why I Love The Concept Of Rockhounding
Crystals are a huge part of Whimsy + Wellness. Every year I take a trip to Tucson, Arizona with my husband and our girls to visit the world’s largest gemstone and mineral show. This is where I source almost all of our crystals for the shop. It’s fascinating to see such beautiful colors and rock formations all in one place.
I love bringing the girls with me to the show. They are still little, but letting them see and experience all of the different crystals gives them an up close look at the colors and textures of so many beautiful rock formations. As we’re sourcing, we like to meet the miners, hear their stories, and learn about their process.
Where Can You Go Rockhounding With Kids?
While I know our family has unusual access to experience many different types of rock formations, you can go rockhounding with kids anywhere! It can be as simple as taking your kids to dig in your own backyard or as adventurous as hiking and observing the many rock formations of the Grand Canyon National State Park. Keep in mind, it is illegal to remove rocks from state and national parks, but there are many different ways to rockhound (see below!)
The goal is to simply get outside and learn more about rocks and how they are formed.
The 3 Types of Rocks And Where To Find Them
We are fortunate in that we have many different types of rock regions in the United States. You don’t have to go far to go rockhounding with kids! The best rock collecting sites are with adult supervision near quarries, road cuts, or natural cliffs. Open fields are typically a poor place to go hunting for rocks. Instead, look for hills and steep slopes.
Here are the 3 different types of rocks and where to find them in the US.
Sedimentary: interior plains, the vast and flat region in the central United States and the lowlands of the Midwestern states with the Great Plains province to the west
Igneous: mountains and piedmont areas of New England, the Appalachians, the Western Cordillera, all the land area in Hawaii.
Metamorphic: mountains and piedmont areas of New England, the Appalachians, the Western Cordillera
What You Need To Go Rockhounding with Kids
You can make rockhounding with kids your own unique experience depending on where you live, the ages of your kids, and the level of interest in the activity. Here’s everything you’ll need to put a basic rockhounding kit together.
- A sketchbook and pencils for drawing interesting rocks you find but may not be able to take with you
- A shoe box to store your special finds
- A small shovel/spade for excavating
- A tooth brush for cleaning specimens
- A small hammer or rock pick
5 Ways To Go Rockhounding With Kids
Geocaching with an app and a sketchbook
Did you know that there are millions of geocaches hidden around the world? There are most likely some near you! Geocaching is an alternative to traditional rockhounding in that it is an outdoor activity used to track down hidden “gems”. Kids use the Geocaching app on a mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.
This is a great activity to tack onto a family road trip, but just as fun to do locally right where you live! Download the free Geoacaching app HERE to get started. Don’t forget to bring a pen for logging your find and bring small trinkets (such as small erasers, items from the dollar bin at Target, etc.) to leave in the container you find.
A local geology hike
Google kid-friendly hikes in your area, pack a backpack with snacks and water, and bring some rockhounding kit supplies from the list above. If you visit a state park you cannot take rocks with you, but you can often find the same types of rock on nearby land. You can also observe and identify the different rock formations you find and sketch them in your geology notebooks. Younger kids also LOVE using tooth brushes to “clean” off rocks, providing endless entertainment, even if you are unable to bring the specimens with you!
A good dig in your own backyard
If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm state year-round, rockhounding is an activity you can try throughout the year. Otherwise, wait till the spring for the ground to thaw and soften up. Wear a pair of old clothes and bring your rockhounding kit to perform your own excavation in a parent-approved section of your yard! Rinse off your specimens in the garden hose and use your toothbrushes to clear off extra dirt. Store your rocks in a shoebox and mark with labels recording where the rocks were found. Use this Everything Rocks and Minerals book by National Geographic kids to identify which types of rocks you may find!
A site-seeing trip to a national park
There are 419 national parks, spanning 84 million acres across states in the United States – that’s a LOT of geological observation opportunities! Even better? If you have a fourth grader, your family gets FREE access to national parks with the Every Kid In A Park program. It’s easy and completely free to sign up for an annual pass. Bring a set of binoculars, a sketchpad, and a rock or mineral guide to identify the types of rock formations you run across.
Paint, Hide, and Hunt Rocks
Rock hunting takes a crafty spin when you unleash your imagination and dress up ordinary rocks with different patterns and designs. Hide the painted rocks in public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds, for other people to find. The finder can then re-hide the rock in a different location or keep it if they choose.
The Benefits of Rockhounding With Kids
We know that anything involving fresh air and sunshine is an instant mood-lifter, but what are the other ways rockhounding can be beneficial for kids?
- Family bonding/shared memories
- Discovery of new places you may not have found otherwise
- A break from screens
The minute the weather turns and the sun begins to poke its head out, I hope you’ll take a moment to try rockhounding with your kids. Hit up your local park, your backyard, or the grandeur of a national park and view the world through a geological lens. Tag us with #livewhimsy on Instagram so we can see your finds!