How to Make a Rock Garden With Your Kids

Are your kids fascinated by rocks?

Want a cool outdoor project that helps your kids express their creativity?

Create a rock and mineral garden to draw out the inner rockhounds in your family.

In this article I’ll show you how to collect rocks and minerals with your kids and create a beautiful rock garden together.

Enjoy the thrill of the hunt for rocks and minerals, spend time outdoors together, learn about geology, and create a beautiful rock garden.

Why Build a Rock and Mineral Garden?

A rock garden is essentially a pile of rocks and minerals that you arrange in a beautiful or interesting manner.

When you build a rock and mineral garden with your kids, you’ll enjoy the thrill of the hunt; spend some fun time outdoors together; learn about geology, biology and relationships between rocks and minerals; and create something beautiful that comes from nature. There’s something for everyone.

The process of discovery itself will help adventure-seekers develop a love of science, while giving everyone a reason to focus on the world at their feet, from fungus to ferns to furry caterpillars.

There will be opportunities to throw rocks around too. Just be careful where you toss them!

This garden is multi-purpose. It can complement your flower or vegetable garden, become a work of art, act as a table centerpiece, hold rock memorabilia collected from other family adventures or all of the above.

Finding rocks and minerals for your garden can be simple. Take a walk in your neighborhood or head to the local beach, forest or urban rock display.

dad with kids

Grab your enthusiastic rockhounds and head outside.

You can also gather rocks and minerals from family trips: a trip to grandpa’s house or a road trip. Once you have enough, you can build a rock garden filled with memories.

Note: You can also plan a visit to a rock and mineral shop or even a craft store. Many local tourist shops allow you to buy a bag for $2.00 to $5.00 and stuff it with as many tumbled stone “treasures” as you can squeeze in.

Rock Garden Fun Facts

Here are a few fun facts about one of the world’s most famous rock gardens.

kyoto ryoanji garden in japan

Ryoan-ji in Japan is the world’s most famous rock garden. How many of its 15 rocks can you see? Image source: Bgabel at wikivoyage shared via Wikimedia Commons,

  • Japan has one of the world’s most famous rock gardens: the Zen garden called Ryoan-ji Hojo Temple Garden (Temple of the Peaceful Dragon).
  • It’s located in the city of Kyoto, Japan.
  • The rock garden was created in 1450, making it more than 500 years old.
  • On display are 15 rocks located in a bed of white sand.
  • Viewed from any angle (unless you’re in an aerial helicopter), one of the garden’s 15 stones is always out of sight—you can’t see all 15 no matter how hard you try. Note: trying too hard to beat this anomaly could zap your Zen experience.
  • Hundreds of tourists visit this Zen garden every day.
  • Today, Zen gardens can be found not only in Japan, but all around the world, from Brazil to Australia to the Netherlands.

Once you find the rocks, let out your inner artists as you create an aesthetically pleasing rock garden that you can display proudly.

When you’re done, you’ll have an awesome new creation to show off in your home, as well as on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

You Will Need

  • Rockhounds
  • A sturdy bag (to collect rocks)
  • Rocks
  • A rock guide or rock identification app, such as the Common Rocks Reference
  • A tray or planter for your garden

Preparation Time

5 minutes: grab your gear and head out

Activity Time

30+ minutes

  • 15+ minutes to go on a rock-finding mission outside (or to a store)
  • 10+ minutes to identify the rocks in the field or at home
  • 5+ minutes to arrange the rocks in the tray

Location

Your backyard, neighborhood, local beach/quarry/hill or the local rock and gem shop or craft store

All good adventures start with a conversation about what you are about to see and do!

Gather the troops—your fellow rockhounds—and ask how they feel about rocks. What kind (color, size) rocks do you hope to find? What’s the best place to find them? What’s the best thing to do with them? Note: you can also ask these questions after the adventure as a way to extend the experience.

You can even play a game of rock, paper, scissors to get ready.

#1: Seek Stony Places

As previously mentioned, there are plenty of places to find rocks and minerals.

Make it an ongoing project, where you collect rocks whenever you are out on a family adventure or plan an outing specifically for seeking rocks. Head for the hills, the beach, the park, a nature hike or anywhere that rocks abound. (You can even purchase rocks from a rock and gem store if you can’t find them locally and/or want to enhance your garden with shiny rocks.)

While you may want or need to go on a trek in search of rocks, you can also keep it simple. Step outside for a walk in your neighborhood and see what rocks you can find.

child at beach

Seek stones on beaches, hills and anywhere rocky.

Ready? Grab your rockhounds and head out!

Don’t forget your gear: Take a rock-collecting bag (you can share a bag or give one to each family member) and a field guide (if you’re dedicated to unplugging) or smartphone with downloaded app (if you want to stay wired).

You may also want to download bug, plant, bird or animal apps so you can identify everything you come across. Photo scavenger hunt, anyone?

#2: Locate and Identify Rocks

Once on the rock hunt, keep your eyes open for interesting rocks.

Depending on where you live, you’ll come across one of three kinds of rocks.

Igneous Rocks: Once liquid rock, called magma when it’s inside of the earth, igneous rocks have since cooled into stone. An example of an igneous rock is granite, which is popular in urban rock gardens.

kids on rocks

Granite is an example of an igneous rock. Not sure which is which? Check your app!

Sedimentary Rocks: These rocks were once sediment, like mud or sand. They have hardened into stone.

boy in dry river bed

Sedimentary stone can often be found in cliffs or dry riverbeds.

Some sedimentary rock, like limestone, may even have fossils inside. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even discover the next species of dinosaur!

Metamorphic Rocks: Marble is an example of a metamorphic rock, which has been shaped by pressure and heat.

Once you’ve found some interesting rocks and/or minerals, identify them with your field guide or app.

Minerals vs. Rocks

Minerals have their very own unique chemical structure.

Rocks can be made up of several different elements, including minerals.

amethyst

Is it a rock or a mineral? This one is a mineral called amethyst.

If amethyst was combined with another mineral, it would be a rock.

Once you find a rock that you just have to take home, put it in your bag. Find rocks of different shapes and sizes, rocks that look unique or have meaning.

#3: Enhance Your Collection With Local Rocks

The rocks in your neighborhood can sometimes tell a story about what other people, animals and the elements have been doing.

Include at least a few local rocks in your collection to make your rock garden more interesting. It’ll also link your project to your community and offer additional personal value.

rock with flower

This stone has a past: there was a flower made of tape stuck to it.

Some rocks have such a large story around them that entire towns are named after them. We learned about the First Nations legend behind the white rock in our town.

white rock

Our town, White Rock, was named after this giant granite boulder that was dropped off during the last Ice Age. Does your town host a famous rock?

While you can’t take every rock home, you can learn a lot about your local history. Investigate the rocks in your area—you never know what you’ll learn.

No story? No problem. “Discover” a rock in your town and as a family make up a story about it.

#4: Assemble Your Rock Garden

Once you’ve collected a nice assortment of rocks, it’s time to create your rock garden.

Take a small tray or planter and start arranging.

You can make a family rock garden and have everyone work together on the design. Or have each member—including you—create his or her own garden.

assembling rock garden

Assemble the rock garden along with your kids.

Want to add instant glam to your rock garden? Include some tumbled stones, which you can find at a rock and gem shop.

tumbled stones

Add bling to your rock garden with tumbled stones.

To make your rock garden shinier, add in old necklaces, colored sand or shiny pieces of metal or even a rock guardian.

Rock Guardians

A lot of gardens have guardians, like gnomes or gargoyles. Your garden will be more mysterious if you select a guardian to keep watch over your precious stones.

garden guardian

A guardian adds instant intrigue to your rock garden.

You can use a stone sculpture or trinket from a past trip, like old Horus here, who came home with us from a trip to Egypt.

Using a souvenir is a great way to remember past family trips and adventures.

However you arrange your rock garden, it will have your style, along with your memories.

#5: Display Your Rock Garden

Now that you have a beautiful rock garden, display it in your home, deck or backyard.

completed garden

Proudly display your beautiful rock garden.

One of the best things about a rock garden is that it’s never finished! You can rearrange it whenever you want.

Add to your rock garden whenever you come across a really great rock that you just have to take home. Or start a new garden entirely.

looking for rocks

Your rock garden is never finished. You can add to it at any time.

You may end up with a garden full of rock gardens.

Some Final Thoughts

A rock and mineral garden has so many fun and exciting elements for your kids. The nature walk you take to find your rocks will promote outdoor activity and exploration. Plus, there’s a lot to learn when you identify different rocks and minerals and research how they came to be. And there’s the artistic element when you create the actual rock garden.

You may even discover something new about your home and how rocks form the foundation of your community.

However you collect and compile, one thing’s for sure. You’ll have a rock-solid bonding experience with your family.

What do you think? Have you ever collected rocks with your kids or created a rock garden? Are you planning to? What kinds of rocks abound in your area? Where will you explore? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. We’d love to see a pic of your rock garden, too!

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About the Author, Amy Dunn Moscoso

Amy Dunn Moscoso is a Vancouver freelance writer who writes for and about business, entrepreneurs and online marketing in publications and at www.contentsiren.com. Other posts by »


  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Amy! What a fun project! My boys love rocks and this gives us something to do with their collections of pretty ones. I like the idea of adding a guardian, too.

    PS: In college I was lucky to visit Ryoan-ji. It is very peaceful and calming. (And it’s true, you CAN’T see all 15 rocks.)

  • Chris Sabbarese

    Cool project idea! No I know what to do with all those rocks my kids have been collecting all these years!

  • Amy Dunn Moscoso

    Hi Jennifer,

    I’d love to see your boy’s rock collections.

    It is a peaceful place, isn’t it. I hope you didn’t try too hard to see all 15 rocks! (My husband’s friend was an engineer who had to go back a second time to enjoy the peace.

  • Amy Dunn Moscoso

    Hi Chris,

    Yes, get those rocks together and send us a picture!

    What kinds of rocks do you have?

  • Ritu

    Great article, Amy!! Ishaan loves collecting rocks…it’s actually hard for him to ride his bike without stopping to grab a few rocks (and then of course trying to hold on to the rocks AND ride the bike…). I think he would love to make a rock garden!
    I love the idea of downloading the rock app. I vaguely remember classifying rocks in school, and I’m sure I would not be able to do it without some help now!

  • Amy Dunn Moscoso

    Hi Ritu,

    Thanks for commenting. Maybe Ishaan could get his wagon hooked up to his bike for his rocks? Would love to see his rock collection.

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