Rock collecting is an age-old hobby for children. Part of the fun of rock collecting is that is it something children can learn to do anywhere. Another part of the reason that is has become so popular is that it is something you can do anywhere. Rock collecting, unless you are going for large rock gardens, does not require massive amounts of space to house.
If your child is going to get into rock collecting, you should take part in the fun. Do not be overbearing but use the chance to teach your child along the way. First your child will need to decide whether she wants to collect stones that have been gathered and smoothed by other collectors. You can purchase these stones in gift shops and science stores. They are inexpensive, so your child should be able to support her own hobby, and you can find everything from quartz to limestone pieces.
Children who opt to go the smoothed stone route have an easier time with the research part of rock collecting. The research is where the parents come in. Collecting the rocks is great, but your job is to try to teach something in the process. Get your child a book of gems and rocks or use the library or Internet. Help your child come up with an idea for a display, such as using shelving or shadow boxes. Then your child should identify each stone he purchased and learn a bit about it. Find out where the stone originates, how old it is, and some common uses. Make the information fun and let your child explore on his own.
Another way to collect rocks that is slower and dirtier but a bit more authentic in terms of rock collecting is to go it alone. Allow your child to look for rocks on family vacations. Chances are that you have areas nearby where you can allow your child to search for rocks that are located in these areas. You can look at geologic maps with your child to determine locations in your area that may be good for rock hunting. You also can check with local geologic associations. Allow your child to do as much of the research as possible because it can be a wonderful learning experience to speak to people who study rocks and other formations for a living. It may spark a desire in your child to learn more about geology.
When your child finds rocks outdoors, you can help with the process of identifying those rocks and then use the same research methods for smooth stone collecting to learn more about the rocks. Helping your child to do these projects, and even listening patiently when you are hearing about granite for the fourteenth time, will teach your child about how much fun it can be to learn about parts of our world.
Do not be overbearing in helping your child with her rock collecting. Offer your assistance when needed and provide any help your child may require. There is a line between showing your interest in a subject and taking it too far and pushing your child. If he or she shows any resistance or interest begins to wane, accept that your child may have other things going on or that he or she may want to explore a new topic. Be supportive of that decision as long as your child does not seem to jump from hobby to hobby quickly. Nurturing a love for a hobby and a devotion to a subject is a great way to teach your children valuable lifelong lessons.
Rock collecting is a slow hobby, however, and it may take some coaxing to get your child back into it if you have not collected or researched for a while. You may find that your child seems to have forgotten what made it interesting to begin with, and that is okay. You can work on collecting again together and then easing your child back into the hobby. Be sure that your child understands that others may not appreciate the hobby and that he or she can still enjoy it even if it is something that others may not find as exciting.