We went to the beach last weekend, and I picked up a bunch of smooth flat rocks with the idea of painting them.  Then I thought it would be interesting to come up with a way of using the rocks in a game.  The kids have been starting to show interest in recognizing letters in the alphabet, so I came up with this game which provides a nice blend of learning, creating art, and organized social activity (waiting to take turns, etc).

First you need to get a bag of letters (from a scrabble game or similar).  Each player gets a board (I cut two pieces of plywood and painted them).  The painted rocks go on a round circle in the middle (I cut the circle out of a canvas fabric).  The child reaches into the bag and takes out a letter.  If they can correctly identify the letter, then they get to choose a rock from the circle and place it on their board.  When their board is full, they win!

It was a big hit!  The kids were so excited to earn their rocks and add to their artistic creation on the boards, all while learning their letters.  I must say I enjoyed playing it too.

Another variation with older kids could be that each child gets 8 letters.  If they can lay out a word, then they get a rock.  Then they draw more tiles to replace the ones they used.  This way, older kids could play with younger children and all enjoy the same game together.  You could even create math tiles (2 + 2 = ), or object tiles for vocabulary, whatever needed to be learned.

If you want to give it a try, I highly recommend finding some rocks and painting them and making some design boards.  If you don’t have the time right now and want to try a paper version, you can print and cut out some rocks and boards using these templates below.

This game is intended for personal use only and cannot be reproduced for sale. © 2010.

46 Responses
  1. lisa

    really brilliant. I might have said it already but your kids are really lucky to have such a creative dad.

  2. Lori Henriques

    LOVE LOVE LOVE it! :)

    it's all so pleasing: the rocks, the board design, the letter recognition. tactile, beautiful, mindful. thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Kickcan and Conkers

    Speechless :) This is fantastic, I really, really love everything about it – right up my alley!

  4. Julie

    In awe – as is my usual response to your creations. I was excited to blog about some of my favorite things made by Joel today. I agree with jfidz.. pure genius!

  5. Joel Henriques

    Thank you so much everyone. Yeah, I'm excited about this game! I want to make some more now!

    Julie – Thanks for such a very kind post on your blog.

  6. Passelig dose

    Oh my word!!! I love it! We are crazy about rocks in our family, and letters too. I must make this! Thanks once again for sharing your great ideas, Joel!

  7. Lauren

    Amazing!!!You have given SOOO many ideas to this Sydney Mum….I couldn't wait to share your ideas so I have put your blog link on my blog too!!! Thanks Joel

  8. Effie

    What a great idea! And … so beautifully made. In have twins too so when they are a little older (now just 3 years) I can do something like this!

  9. Kim

    hello from san francisco!! i'm a newbie to your blog, but i just wanted to stop by and say i enjoy your posts! i love that you create your own toys for your kids instead of buying tons and tons of things from toy stores.

  10. himarin

    Nice to meet you.
    The home name calls the name himarin.
    The photographs of here are pretty!
    In addition, I come to look.
    I'm japanese^^

  11. heleen

    A read you blog now for some months from behind my computer in France and think it is time to tell you that I enjoy your work very very much. So simple, nice looking and original! Very inspiring.

  12. Tanya

    haha! that's great! we play a similar game actually. only we have an empty garage that we try to fill up with little cars and trucks. we've been using a deck of cards for number recognition ….. letters are not of interest at our house …..yet! you have also inspired my eldest son to learn embroidery! thanks for that!

  13. Joel Henriques

    Thanks everyone!

    Chris – Ha, that's a great article.

    Tanya – Your game sounds great. I know my nephew (who is huge into cars and trucks) would like that version a lot! And that's great your son is doing embroidery! Very cool!

  14. Gwen

    I love your blog, I am so delighted to see the simple and beautiful toys you make for your darling children. It pleases me no end to see how happy they are with simple toys, it is so true, kids don't need all of the plastic *stuff* sold as "toys".

  15. Flying Squirrel

    This is so exciting, as well as beautiful! Imagine the possibilities….anything could be in that bag: multiplication cards, you name it. Whatever you and your kids want to learn or memorize! Wow, Joel.

  16. flo

    hi joel ! I'm writing from France. I printed the template and play the game this morning with my two daughters. The oldest had to learn numbers , that was more fun like this. They loved it and want to play again this afternoon. Next time we go to the beach they will pick up stones ! thank you for your good ideas

  17. Amanda Pedro

    this game is so beautiful and connected. astounding.
    thanks so much for sharing your ideas. this one is going in the list for summer collecting, painting and playing in the garden.

  18. heldin im chaos

    What a beautiful yet simple idea! I just discovered your blog and I'm hooked! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Mommy of three

    Hello Joel. Can I tell you you are amazing? I am blown away by your creativity and ability to get inside the minds of little people. I love this blog and want to spend hours going through it all to be madly inspired. This game is as far as i got before I HAD to comment. I can't wait to share your blog with my small corner of the blog world. Can I repost this with a link to your site? I am a home schooler and this is so perfect for the kind of learning we are interested in.
    Thanks so much,

  20. Joel Henriques

    Thanks so much everybody.

    Mommy of three – Sure, post whatever you'd like. And yes, I get many emails from teachers and home school parents. I love the combination of learning and play. I think the kids like it too.

  21. Kerry Ann

    Thank you Joel, I went out tonight and bought rocks (no river rocks here laying about in Arizona) and painted them. I am eager to play this game tomorrow morning with my boys. I love your blog. It is such a treat.

  22. Prépalipopette

    Sorry for my english. It's a very good idea and i will try in my classroom.
    Thanks so much

  23. Serena

    congratulations for the idea! we have a good supply of freshly harvested sea and rocks in a free moment we create your idea. hello

  24. Jessica D

    How do you get the rocks to be so brilliant in color? What paint do you use for the flat stones in your alphabet game. I would love to make one!

  25. Courtney

    How did I not find your site sooner?! Your work is amazing! This is a great excuse to paint some rocks. For the letters, we will use our Montessori sandpaper letters. Love the intersection of art, learning and fun found here.