Go on a Painted Rock Hunt

Have you heard about the painted rock craze yet? It’s a nationwide scavenger hunt meant to promote kindness and encourage art, creativity, and community spirit. From western Washington to the Florida panhandle, rock painting groups are brightening the days of strangers, one colorful rock at a time.

I was first introduced to hiding and seeking painted rocks through a Collinsville PTA member who was looking for a simple art project she could do at home with her two daughters. That’s how she discovered The Painted Rocks Project: Glen Carbon, a Facebook group that’s gaining local followers in the Glen Carbon/Edwardsville/Maryville area. With the mission of spreading “love and light,” the group of nearly 1,000 members hides painted rocks all around the area.

The idea is a simple one: Gather a few supplies (flat, paintable rocks, acrylic paint, sealer, paint brushes) and then decorate your rock, getting as creative as you like. Some folks include instructions on the bottom of their rock that let the finder know which Facebook group to post a photo to once it’s been found. Popular hiding spots include city sidewalks, park benches, playgrounds, ATMs, grocery stores and gas pumps.

What’s the appeal? Group members cite the joy of spending creative time with family and friends, giving back to the community, and spending time in nature. There’s also the appeal of a good, old-fashion treasure hunt. Families are walking streets, scouring local parks, and searching trails and playgrounds.

Intrigued with the idea, I did a quick internet search and found a rock painting group right in our own community. So the kids and I set out last Saturday afternoon in search of our first hidden treasure. I had no idea that the vibrantly painted rock we found would have such a joyful effect on us. Truth be told, I was disappointed that I wasn’t the one to find it. After all, I was the one looking high and low—scanning the sidewalk, the park benches, and the playground. Just when we were about to give up the hunt, my daughter shouted out a loud, “YES!!!” followed by a massive fist pump as she laid eyes on our first prize.

Sometimes the world gives us a small sign of encouragement, right when we need it the most. That’s the idea behind the rock painting movement. It’s about sparking joy and happiness in people’s everyday lives. It certainly felt that way when my daughter found our first treasure. The excitement and look of joy on her face meant as much to me as it did to her.

How to Paint Your Own Rocks

There are lots of “How-To” tutorials on YouTube, but the basic process is:

  1. Clean: Paint won’t stick to dirty rocks, so wash your rocks in warm water and soap. You might want to scrub it with an old toothbrush to make sure all debris is removed.
  2. Sand: If there are any light bumps or grit on your rock, you can smooth it using sandpaper.
  3. Paint: Use acrylic paint for best results. Adding a white base layer before painting the color you want makes it pop. Let each layer of paint dry before applying the next layer.
  4. Detail: Adding text with markers is easier than painting words. Through trial and error, I have found that Posca Markers work best for rock painting.
  5. Seal: This is one of the most important steps to rock painting. All that creative work that you put into your stone would be wasted with any type of moisture. You want a seal that won’t curdle if the stones are subject to weather, such as Krylon Clear Coat Spray. Two thin coats works best.
  6. Dry

Ideas on Where to Leave Rocks

  • Playgrounds
  • Nook of a tree
  • Farmer’s market
  • Veteran hospital
  • Nursing home
  • On top of a neighbor’s mailbox
  • Motivation rocks would complement any fitness center parking lot, YMCA or locker room
  • One person left a hot dog rock painting on a grill at a sports store
  • A corn cob rock was found in the frozen section of the grocery store

Where NOT to Leave Rocks

  • Lawns or anywhere that a mower can run over it
  • Leaving rocks in state or national parks is not allowed
  • Anywhere that a person has to climb to get the rock
  • In the middle of pathways where people can trip on them
  • Businesses that don’t give you permission before “hiding” them there
  • Anyone’s private property

Find Where Community Rocks

Many who hide rocks like to post clues on Facebook, some in hopes that finders will share their joy of their successful hunt. To find clues and share success, look up these rock groups or search for groups in your area, as new ones are popping up every week.

Chicago area:





Southern Illinois area:

Don’t be surprised if you become a little addicted to finding and painting rocks.

Have you joined a rock group? We’d love to hear about your adventures!

College-Bound Student? Fill Out FAFSA Now

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application period began October 1, and families in Illinois with a college-bound student should fill out the form as quickly as possible. The reason for that is that Illinois’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants are provided on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted, and the state usually provides no more than a 24-hour warning for when those funds are gone.

When filling out the FAFSA, be sure to avoid these 12 common mistakes:

  1. Not completing the FAFSA form.
  2. Not using the correct website.
  3. Not filling out the FAFSA form as soon as it’s available.
  4. Not filing the FAFSA form by the deadline.
  5. Not getting an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form.
  6. Not suing your FSA ID to start the FAFSA form.
  7. Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT).
  8. Not reading definitions carefully.
  9. Inputting incorrect information.
  10. Not reporting required information.
  11. Listing only one college.
  12. Not signing the FAFSA form.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website for additional information and help in filling out the FAFSA.

Help Your Child Develop Financial Literacy

As part of Illinois PTA’s continuing effort to implement the Resolution on Financial Literacy passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we have been providing local units and councils with information to share with their families on the topic. A new financial literacy resource, Better Money Habits, has been created through a partnership of Bank of America and Khan Academy.

The Better Money Habits website offers families a variety of topics specifically concerning children and money. Among the topics are:

  • Top questions kids ask about money (and how to answer)
  • How teens manage their money: What parents need to know
  • How to establish money rules for your child at any age
  • Teachable money moments for your child

The partnership with Khan Academy includes a collection of videos focused on careers that ask young adults in those jobs how they are handling their personal and professional financial responsibilities. The videos provide insight into what their job duties are and what their typical day is like. Careers highlighted in the videos include:

  • Salon Owner
  • Firefighter
  • Architectural Designer
  • Commercial Pilot
  • Education Resource Specialist
  • Senior Product Manager

Check out the Better Money Habits section on children and money, the Khan Academy videos, and the Better Money Habits website as a whole to help your child improve their financial literacy and prepare for a life after high school graduation.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

September 20 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints which can lead to more severe back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems. However, when used correctly they are a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

When selecting a backpack, a few items to look for:

  • The correct size for your child. It shouldn’t be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Wide padded shoulder straps to prevent from digging into shoulders.
  • Two shoulder straps and multiple compartments help distribute the weight equivalently.
  • A lightweight backpack is best so there isn’t additional weight from the backpack itself. Recommended guideline is the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

To help prevent injury encourage your child to use both straps, tighten the straps so it is close to their body, use both knees when bending, and only carry necessary items at one time. Remember, the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it.