If your kids love geocaching or a treasure hunt, there's a new craze hitting Australia they're going to love – especially if they are into a bit of art and craft too.
The idea is to paint flat, smooth rocks in different designs, leaving them for others to find, and then posting hints on Facebook about where to find them. And kids are loving it.
Sydney mum of two Miranda Jenkins says her eight- and 10-year-old daughters are obsessed with painting and hunting rocks.
"We've been out every week during the summer holidays and the girls haven't tired of searching for, and painting, rocks yet," she says.
"We've painted ladybugs, butterflies, happy faces, Australia flags, and words such as 'love', 'peace', and 'happy'. The girls decide what we're going to paint and then I sit down with them to help out. Sometimes I mark up the rock with a sharpie and the girls colour them in. They just love it!"
Miranda says her daughters keep some of the rocks they find in their searches if they really love them, but she encourages them to re-hide them for others to find when she can.
"It's fun, but I don't want a house full of rocks!" she laughs.
Melbourne mum Heather says her seven-year-old boy Jackson found out about the rock hunt through his cousins and now he's obsessed.
"Every day he asks me if we can go rock hunting today," she laughs.
"I want to say no sometimes but I figure it's such a better use of his time than sitting around playing games on a screen."
Heather and Jackson have even met other local families through the hunt.
"It actually came about spontaneously because we saw someone else finding a rock that we had been searching for in a part not far from our house," Heather said.
"We got talking and now we sometimes get together and team up to go for a rock hunt and picnic together."
The rock hunt craze started in the States with a small group called Port Angeles Rocks, founded by a clever woman who thought a community art project would be a fun way for home-schooled kids to interact with one another.
That group has now grown to 7000 members, engaging local families all around the area, and inspiring what is fast-becoming a worldwide movement.
If you want to get involved with your kids, search Facebook for a local group near you and, if you can't find one, why not start your own?
Tips for getting the most out of your rock hunt:
- Search for hints to find local rocks on your group Facebook page.
- Buy rocks at garden or hardware stores. The groups recommend you don't remove them from parks or reserves because they think it's important to teach your children to respect nature and leave things as you find them.
- Use acrylic paints, permanent markers, gel pens, nail polish, white out to paint and decorate the rocks. But leave the googly eyes and sequins off because they tend to fall off and pollute the parks.
- Add a two layers of clear lacquer if you'd like your designs to withstand the elements and last longer.
- Don't feel bad about painting over others' creations. It's an acceptable practice in rock hunting.
Then post hints in your local Facebook group, and don't forget to share photos of any rocks you find in there too.