I never imagined my kids would learn so much by painting rocks

Sometimes a simple creative project can turn out to be the most rewarding. Jenny Dix shares what one such project taught her kids

I never imagined my kids would learn so much by painting rocks, but they really did.

  1. While my children were away at school for the day, I began our little project by gathering stones from my backyard. I tried to select stones that had at least one side that was fairly smooth. I washed them, and set them on a towel outside to dry in the sunshine.
  2. When my kids came home from school, they were greeted by my bowl full of rocks and a palette full of acrylic paint, and I explained the project idea to them. Here were my instructions.
    Project: Paint a heart onto each stone. When the paint is dry, we will take our stones outside again and place them around our neighbourhood where people might find them.So my children painted the rocks.
  3. At first, my son didn’t like the process. A perfectionist to the core, he was quick to declare, “My hearts don’t look good enough!” I told him to try imagining a person walking along the street and randomly finding his rock somewhere. Could the rock make the person smile? Might it brighten someone’s day? After a few moments of studying his rock, he looked up at me, smiled, and said “Yes!” From that point on, he was perfectly content painting away at his rocks, happily chatting about where he should place the rocks and who might find them. In that moment, he learned that his best try didn’t need to be perfect—that what he had to give was good enough to brighten a little piece of the world for a moment, and that it should be good enough for him, too.
  4. My six-year-old daughter, who dreams of becoming an artist, was excited about painting the rocks from the start. Unfortunately, her first try at painting a heart created more of a pink blob than a heart shape, and she knew it. But my daughter continued to pick up stone after stone and gave it her best try every time. By the time she got to her last stone, her heart shape was perfect. And in the end, she was proud of all of her stones. It was as though she understood the beauty of each try. I hope she continues to see that beauty in her life every day.
  5. Once the paint was dry, my son suggested we outline the hearts with a permanent marker to make the hearts stand out against the rocks more. I hadn’t planned on this step, but I think he was right.Then we gathered their painted stones and headed out into the world.
  6. My children giggled as they ran along the sidewalk, planning the placement of their gifts. They scattered them along park benches and garden walls, on manhole covers and flowerbeds—anywhere they thought a person might find them.

The next day we noticed two stones had been taken from their spots. Two more were removed the day after. We don’t know how many stones are gone now, but we did notice one on a fire hydrant today; a spot that is passed by hundreds of people every day. It’s just waiting for the right person, I guess. Someone will find it when she needs it. And when that person finds the stone, the little painted heart will hold on to its secret about two little kids who put their all into these tiny gifts to strangers and, with happy hearts, asked for nothing but a smile in return.

This was first published in the June 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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