Who would have thought you could have so much fun and learn so much from the humble pebble? Read on for amazing pebbles games for kids that you can start to play now:
Where Can I Find Pebbles?
You can buy pebbles from your local garden center, aquarium, or homeware store.
Look out for large, flat smooth pebbles that are as natural as possible, as these are easier to mark than the polished variety.
It is illegal to take pebbles from the beach in the UK as it impacts coastal erosion, so please be mindful that you source them responsibly.
For a relatively small price, there are hundreds of ways you can use and reuse pebbles to play games and learn by having fun. Follow the tips below, and you will have a simple but great resource to play and learn within no time.
Marking Your Pebbles
You can draw and paint on pebbles with acrylic paint, felt pens, or even chalk, but I find that using old nail varnish works well. Nail polish is hard wearing and stays on in the water, so it’s more durable than paint, and it’s also a good way of using up those colors you don’t want.
I’d suggest starting with a set of ten pebbles that you can make marks on and add to the set as you go along. You can also ask the children to decorate the pebbles to create bespoke and beautiful numbers or letters.
Let their imaginations run wild as they color and decorate their pebbles.
Number and Letter Pebbles
Start by painting clear number symbols from one to ten on your pebbles. You may also want to add some number symbols like the plus symbol, the minus symbol, equals, and divide and multiply symbols.
Letters can also be painted onto pebbles to play spelling and word games, but you will obviously need more than ten pebbles. Before you paint the letters, consider using capitals or lowercase letters.
Most phonic programs suggest that you start by learning the lowercase symbols first, so consider the age and stage of your children and which would be most appropriate.
Right then, all set? Let’s start with some number games. Get your number pebbles ready, and let’s play:
1. Treasure hunt
This is an amazing pebbles games for kids. Place your numbered pebbles in a tray of sand and bury them. You are now ready to play a number game. Call out: Can you find the number …..8?
Set a sand timer or a stopwatch and see if you can find number eight before the sand runs out. You can repeat this with all the numbers, remembering to bury them again once you have found them. This is a great game to help with number recognition.
Some children will need to see the numbers to match them, so consider having a number line at the side of the sand tray to place the pebbles onto once they are found.
2. Odd and even pebbles
Bury the set of numbers again, and this time say: It’s time to find all the odd numbers.
Can you find them all before the timer runs out? Scramble and dig until you can put all the odd-numbered pebbles onto the number line.
Once you have found all the odd numbers, bury the numbers again and look for the even numbers. A number line can help children locate the odd numbers, providing a check-up.
Of course, you don’t just have to use sand to do this activity. Fill a tray with dried rice or pasta and use smaller pebbles; you can still play.
3. Pebble problems
This is one of the best pebbles games for kids. You can carry on playing in the sand or put your pebbles into a water tray or a large washing-up bowl.
Use small fishing nets (like those you use for goldfish) and scoop out the numbers. You can adapt this to make it easier or harder, depending on the skills of the children playing.
Write a number problem; for example, If Jenny has 2 cats, 3 dogs, 1 goldfish, and 2 rabbits, how many pets does she have altogether?
If you can race the sand timer to find the right answer, dig and scoop out the right number. Be careful! You may get splashed! To make it more difficult, consider adding food coloring or bubbles to the water tray so that the numbers are harder to find.
4. Pirate treasure
For this game, bury your number of pebbles in the earth. A digging area or a raised bed is great for this game, but if you haven’t got one, no need to worry – you can also bury pebbles in a tray of compost.
On the back of some of the numbered pebbles, mark an X. Set the timer and say: The pirates have put an X on some of the hidden pebbles. Find the ones with an X and see if you can crack the code.
Write a secret combination of the marked numbers and put it in an envelope. See if the children can find the right pebbles and put them in the right order to crack the code. This is a great game for problem-solving and encouraging groups to work together.
5. Pebble crumbs
This is one of the most interesting pebbles games for kids.Tell the children the story of Hansel and Gretel. (On the way through the forest, Hansel leaves a trail of pebbles to remember his way back home in the dark). In an outdoor area, make a trail of pebbles.
White pebbles are best if you can get hold of them, but don’t worry if you can’t. The pebbles can only be used if they are odd-numbered pebbles. If you use an even number by mistake – the witch will catch you! Can you cross the outdoor area without making a mistake?
You can repeat this with even numbers or for younger children. You may just want them to put the numbers in the right order to cross the area.
6. Plip plop
You need a beaker and some water for this game. Tell the story of the fox and the crow. (The fox needs a drink of water, so the crow drops pebbles into a barrel until the water rises enough so that he can reach it to have a drink).
Count how many pebbles it takes to drop into the beaker before the water reaches the top. Don’t forget to predict and estimate first and see how close you were to your guess.
7. Noughts and crosses
Mark a piece of card into equal squares 3 x 3. On 6 flat pebbles, draw Xs, and on another 6 pebbles, draw O’s. Play Naughts and Crosses until the winner makes a line of three or three naughts. You can also play this on the ground by marking a grid with chalk.
Keep playing and keep score by keeping a tally chart of lines.
8. Spelling pebbles
This is an amazing pebbles games for kids. Write each letter of the alphabet on individual pebbles. Ask the children if they can find the right pebbles to spell their first name. This is good practice for recognizing and identifying the letters in your name and putting them in the right order.
Some children will need to see their names, so you may need to write it out for them first to have a model to practice, but as they become more confident, you can gradually take this away.
When you have all the right letters in the right order, why not decorate your letters with felts or paint to make a lovely display of your name?
For this activity, you need a large bucket scale and a selection of pebbles that are similar in size and weight.
When children start to weigh, it’s a good idea to use non-standard measures as they are not ready to use the large numbers associated with standard measures like grams and kilograms.
Place an item in the bucket and count how many pebbles it takes to balance the scale. For example, if you put a tin of beans on one side of the scale, add your pebbles one at a time, counting each until the scale balances.
This is a good way of introducing children to weights and measures in a simple and fun way, and it’s also an opportunity to practice counting. Let the children go and look for other objects to weigh.
10. Compound words
Try to use a wipe-clean writing instrument for this game. I like using chalk as you can wash it after each game.
Compound words are words that are made up of two smaller words. For example,
cup + cake = cupcake
or foot+ball = football.
Write small words on your pebbles and see if the children can join them to make compound words. The great thing about working with pebbles is that it’s not written down if you get something wrong, so there’s less pressure and much more fun.
Ask the children to think of their compound words and make their pebble game. You can always take photographs of their answers if you want to.
11. Pull it out of the bag
This is a fun pebbles games for kids. Place your number of pebbles in a cloth bag and shake them. Ask a player to close their eyes and pull out three random numbers. Explain that they have to make a number with all three numbers. What is the biggest number that they can make?
What is the smallest number they can make? This is great for problem-solving and understanding the place value of hundreds, tens, and units. You can easily increase the difficulty by pulling out four or even five numbers and repeating them.
For more number games similar to this one, try the link to the website below:
12. Guess my number
Using the same bag as in the game above, place all the numbers back and carefully remove one pebble without anyone seeing what it is. Give number clues without revealing the number to see who is first to guess the number. Say things like:
My secret number is an even number.
It is halfway on a clock.
It’s older than you.
It is three less than 9 and one more than five.
After each clue, encourage the children to take a guess.
Can you guess? – It’s 6
When you have modeled this game, and they have a good grasp of it, the children can have a go at giving clues themselves
13. Battle pebbles
If you have ever played the game Battleships, you will know how much fun it can be. This is the pebble version. It’s a game for two players, and you will need to make 2 grids of 6×6 squares for this.
Number your squares 1, 2 ,3, 4, 5, and 6 along the bottom of the grid and write letters a, b, c, d, e, and f up the side.
Ensure there is a barrier between the two players so you can’t see each others’ grid.
Place two pebbles in the grid without your opponent seeing your coordinates. The idea is to guess which square the pebble is on and blow it up.
So, you may guess….a,5. You score a point if there is a pebble on your opponent’s a5 square. Keep playing; the winner is the first to find and blow up all the opposite players’ pebbles.
Still, want more? There are plenty more ideas out there, and the website below will give you some follow on ideas:
14. Pebble Faces
This one is just for fun. Decorate your pebble with your face. Use felt pens to draw your eyes, nose, and mouth, adding eyebrows, ears, and other facial features like freckles. Use a mirror to check if you need to.
Add hair by gluing a ball of similar colored wool around your pebble and then display your pebbles all together in a sand tray.
These pebbles games for kids are all fun, but they have plenty of learning potential. When children are having fun, they often don’t realize they are learning, and their brains are more engaged and relaxed, and they are more likely to remember.
But there is no need to stop there….Adapt your pebbles and make your own games, or ask the children to invent a pebble game. They may just surprise you. Have fun!