Recently, I stumbled upon a trend for spreading kindness that I’m absolutely in love with. Not only do I love it, but my four-year-old does as well. We started painting kindness rocks to hide and spread joy to others!
It’s a great way for us to spend time together and is proving beneficial in so many ways. It’s also such an easy way to spread happiness!
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What are Kindness Rocks?
Kindness Rocks originated with a woman named Megan Murphy who began The Kindness Rocks Project. You can read all about her story on The Kindness Rocks website, but the basics are that she decided one day, through some of her own introspection, to leave a few encouraging notes on some rocks on the beach. The hope was that someone that might need these words would find them.
She continued to make the project larger until she was sustaining several “gardens” of rocks in her town. They were all adorned with beautiful messages. Messages of hope, love, worth, and encouragement. These messages were meant to make an impact on those who found them.
The impact spread much farther and became a phenomenon. There are now countries all over the world that decorate and leave rocks of kindness for others to find. And they aren’t just left in designated locations anymore. They can be found virtually anywhere from gas stations and grocery stores to beaches and playgrounds.
Quite simply, they are a way to share joy. A way to spread love and happiness to complete strangers. A simple way to send a smile to someone who may need it.
While this is where painting Kindness Rocks started, it has morphed since it began. What began as quotes and sayings has turned into beautiful artistic treasures.
Many still leave simple quotes or statements such as “You are enough” and “Smile!”
And there are many children, like mine, that participate and simply do what they’re capable of. And sometimes I’ll add a phrase or word over his creations if he wants me to.
Although Murphy requests that groups continue with the #kindnessrocks hashtag and register on her site so that others may find groups near them, local groups are popping up everywhere. My local community, for example, has multiple Facebook groups, the largest of which has 5,000 members and is growing daily.
Why participate in painting Kindness Rocks?
There are so many reasons to participate in this project. Personally, I, get a lot out of painting Kindness Rocks!
- It makes others happy. Some people will hide their rocks and wait in the area, say sipping on a latte after hiding one at a cafe, to catch the finder and see their reaction.
- It increases our own happiness! It’s almost impossible to make someone else feel good with one of your actions and not feel good yourself. It’s also crazy fun to find them yourself. Especially if you have kids; they get super excited!
- It serves as a great creative outlet. It can be really hard to make time for ourselves to do things we enjoy and we often have to force ourselves sometimes. But because this can be a family activity and makes others happy, it has a purpose. It’s much easier to allow ourselves to spend time doing something we think is productive or purposeful, and not just for fun or for ourselves.
- It’s a great family activity. I love spending time with my son, and even my husband, painting rocks. It’s something different than just coloring in a coloring book or playing a game. We can talk and share ideas while we paint, and we can spend as much time as we want doing it.
- It’s a great, interactive way to teach kindness to kids of all ages. They know how happy they get finding them, and even painting them, and that helps them understand how it can make others happy. It also demonstrates a kind of giving in which you aren’t necessarily giving a specific thing. Often, we talk about donating clothes or money, or helping serve at a shelter or church. This is simply spreading joy. Sometimes, people aren’t necessarily “in need” but we can all use extra love and kindness.
- It’s another simple and inexpensive outdoor activity. Between the gathering of rocks, hiding rocks, and searching for rocks, it results in a lot of time outdoors! And it costs next to nothing (more on cost in the next section).
- It reinforces certain skills in kids (and adults!). My son is like a grasshopper; he is never still for long. But put a rock and some paints in front of him and he can sit for a while. His patience is extending with this activity. He’s also trying new things, like trying to paint pictures he hasn’t before. He’s learning to be okay with mistakes, like when he makes an error in his art and has to find a way to fix it. And those mistakes are also teaching him to be okay with making mistakes and the need to sometimes change the plan if it’s not working out the way you want. These are all really important for kids to learn at a young age and this activity can combine them all!
How to get started
It’s really easy to start taking part in this project. There are, however, a few different ways you can do it. Here are some of the basics for painting Kindness Rocks.
Joining Groups and Other Options
First, a quick search on Facebook will tell you if your town has a group related to painting Kindness Rocks. Search for your city or town name along with phrases such as “kindness rocks,” “rocks,” or “rock painting.” If it does, most of the time you can just request to be added, if it’s a closed group, and get to know how they function.
Be aware that these groups likely have rules. For instance, the large local group here expressly forbids hiding in national parks (as it’s actually not permitted by the parks themselves). They also ask that all rocks be kid friendly. Another request is to put a specific tag phrase on the back of every rock so the finder knows where to share it.
Obviously, anything that happens outside of the Facebook group really can’t be monitored in the real world. It’s up to everyone to abide by the rules. However, some people just don’t like the rules and decide not to be part of the group.
In this case, they may stop referencing the tag phrase of the group or may leave the group altogether. Some stay in the group but stop using the phrase.
Other people never join a group and instead just do their own thing. They may tag their business or personal name on the back. Others don’t write anything at all to reference and prefer that it be a mystery to whomever finds it!
Ultimately, it’s completely up to you. You can participate in this phenomenon in whichever way you choose. The point is, do it in the way that creates the most joy for you and others.
Groups may also register on the Kindness Rocks Project website. This allows them to be searched by others interested in finding local groups. In that case, they request that the hashtag #kindnessrocks be on the backs.
Finding Supplies and Obeying Laws/Requests from Officials
Finding supplies is really easy. It can also be pretty cheap!
To get started, all you really need are rocks, some kind of paint, and some kind of sealant.
River rocks (the best kind for painting due to their smooth, even appearance) can be found in nature near waterways or at local landscaping companies. Be aware that in some places in the US, it is illegal to take rocks from natural public landscape. In other areas, it is allowed up to a certain daily amount. Check with your local DNR or city/state codes to determine what is legal in your area.
Additionally, it is not allowed to take anything out of any Federal National Parks, including in states that do allow rocks to be taken from nature. This goes against the parks’ Leave No Trace policies.
If you cannot or choose not to obtain natural rock for whatever reason, local landscaping companies are a great second option. In my town, we have two landscaping companies that have received a lot of business from those painting Kindness Rocks as it is illegal in the state of Wisconsin to take rocks from nature.
These landscaping companies offer a great bargain. A 5 gallon bucket can be filled for approximately $5. This is enough rocks to last a family that is painting casually as a hobby for a while!
A third option is to check out your local home improvement store. Generally these stores, especially chain stores, will have a landscaping area and sell loose or bagged stones.
River rock bags of 1/2 cubic foot usually sell for $3-5 around here, which isn’t as good of a deal as landscaping companies, but still isn’t too bad! The advantage to a landscaping company is that you can put money into a local business and you get to choose exactly the rocks you want.
Paints such as Apple Barrel are great for base coats and painting with brushes.
Paint pens are great for detail. I have this paint pen set and love it.
Many in our local group use this paint pen set and rave about it. It will be the next set I purchase!
In addition to paints, you’ll want some basic paint brushes. These brushes are cheap and do the trick. You could always opt for nicer ones, but cheaper ones work fine.
Finally, you’ll want a non-toxic sealant. The sealant protects your designs in the rain and inclement weather. It also helps with keeping paint from leaking off of the rocks into our natural environment and harming plants and wildlife. Spray sealant works best but is not non-toxic. If you are using spray, the aerosol is not great for the environment, but additionally, be sure to hide the rocks in places where they will be found, and not deep in nature! Here is an option for each.
Painting and best practices
There are several methods for painting on the rocks, and some depend on what you’re painting with. In general though, there are some basic best practices to getting the best results.
First, wash and dry your rocks. You’ll want to get all of the grit and dirt off before you start painting so that it doesn’t get smudged into your artwork.
Next, you’ll want to apply a base coat if you don’t want to just doodle or write directly on the rock. There can be some benefit to this as using paint pens on a base coat can prolong the life of the pens. Just grab a brush and whatever paint color you want and apply one or two base coats on the side you want to decorate, or the whole thing if you want.
Then, I like to use paint pens for lettering or small details. Some people like to use fine tipped brushes for all of their drawing. Use what you’re most comfortable with.
You can also use stampers to apply paint or apply temporary tatoos directly to the rock or over a base coat.
If you want to find and try some really cool ideas, seach Pinterest or Google for “rock painting tutorials” and you’ll find tons of youtube videos and beautiful demonstrations of ideas by fabulous painters!
There is a request circulating on Facebook, however, to please not use any sequins, gemstones, buttons or any other small embellishments that an animal might try to chew off. Apparently, there have been several instances of animals being brought in to have these items removed from their throats. So it’s best to stick to flat decorations to be safe!
If you want to add a note to keep or rehide put that on the back. This is also where you would write a hashtag to enter when found if you decide to do that.
Once your painting and decorating is all done, apply a coat or two of sealant and you’re ready to go hide your rocks!
Where to hide Kindness Rocks
When it comes to hiding your rocks, there are an infinite number of places. Pretty much anywhere you can think of has the potential to be a hiding spot.
In our town, there are certain beaches, playgrounds, parks, and business that are “rocked” frequently. Additionally, we have several Little Free Libraries (click that link if you have no idea what that is…it’s also pretty amazing) that many people like to leave rocks in.
Other good places are anywhere that receives frequent foot traffic. You can also consider specialty places where people may be more likely to need a kind word.
- Gas Stations
- Grocery Stores
- Downtown areas
- Walking/bike Trails
- Hospitals and Rehabilitation Centers
- Cancer Treatment Centers
- Pediatric Offices
- Vetrinary Clinics
One thing to keep in mind when hiding is that everything should be hidden outdoors. Some businesses do not mind hiding in their entryways, but be sure to ask first. And avoid hiding inside businesses, especially retail stores. Employees may mistake someone picking up a rock for stealing!
Make sure that wherever you choose to hide is safe, especially for kids. Do not hide on difficult to reach ledges where people could fall. Keep them away from street medians where children may try to run across traffic. Just be sure to consider the safety factor before hiding.
Safety aside, don’t make them too easy to find! Sometimes it’s nice to have some that are easy for little ones to spot, but other times it’s best to have them a little hidden. Think about spots like in crooks of tree branches, on top of gas pumps, or on the back sides of sign posts on nature trails
And just to reiterate, you do not want to hide rocks in Federal National Parks, either. As with taking rocks, it goes against their Leave No Trace policies.
Painting Kindness Rocks is such a great activity!
I’ve gotten so much out of this activity that painting kindness rocks is now a weekly activity. Both my family and I enjoy the painting and the hunting!
If you’re looking for a way to increase your own happiness while also spreading happiness to others, this is a great activity. And looking for these rocks everywhere you go is just as much fun as the painting. Once you get painting, you start noticing them everywhere.
Painting kindness rocks is also a great way to be creative and flex those artistic muscles. We often don’t make time for those activities on their own, but because this has a greater purpose, it feels like it’s it’s easier to make time for.
This multi-purpose activity works for all ages. So whether you have young children, teenagers or both, it can be a great family time activity.
So get some supplies, get creative, and spread joy while reaping rewards for yourself too!