painted rocks. rock painting
Rochel Burstyn Contributing Writer

Rock painting and hiding are a fun family pastime.

If you’re out and about this summer and spy a flash of color, check it out. It could be a hidden painted rock. Its sole purpose: to bring you a smile.

The rock painting craze is simple: People paint rocks and hide them. Rocks usually include a label that says, “Find us on Facebook. Post a photo and rehide.” If the finder posts a picture of the discovered rock, the painter can theoretically follow its journey as her rock is rehidden and rediscovered.

Because not everyone in the world is on Facebook, it doesn’t always work, but thousands of people worldwide are enjoying painting, hiding, discovering and rehiding rocks these days.

Who came up with such a rockin’ idea anyhow? Credit goes to Megan Murphy of Cape Cod, Mass. Murphy lost both her parents in her 20s and found comfort in walking along the beach, collecting heart-shaped rocks and pieces of sea glass. On a whim, one day she wrote motivational messages on some rocks with a Sharpie and left them on the sand. A friend later sent her a text, with a picture of one of those rocks and said, “If you dropped this rock, it made my day.” That’s when she started her Kindness Rocks Project.

Beth Baldwin
Beth Baldwin

Beth Baldwin, 49, a Berkley mom, read about Murphy’s Kindness Rocks Project and started the Berkley Rocks page in May 2017. Most local Rocks pages have a few hundred members, but Berkley Rocks grew at an amazing rate and currently has a following of 2,290 members!

One active participant in Berkley Rocks and Huntington Woods Rocks is Lesley Zwick, 41, a health coach from Huntington Woods who is affiliated with Young Israel of Oak Park. Ever since last summer, she has been painting and hiding rocks together with her children, Emma, 11, Madelyn, 9, and Elliot, 7.

“It’s so much fun painting rocks, even though I’m not really a great artist so its nothing extravagant. It’s usually just happy messages, positive words, smiley faces, whatever floats my boat,” Zwick said.

Hiding and discovering rocks is also a huge part of their fun. Last year, the Zwicks traveled to Memphis, hid their rocks there and brought back painted Memphis rocks they’d found to rehide locally.

They’re always looking for creative hiding spots. “My kids have left rocks on shelves in grocery stores, in parks, all over,” Zwick said. Almost any place is fair game, except Disney World which doesn’t allow it, and national parks whose “leave it as you found it” policy is not consistent with painted rocks.

“It’s always fun to see on Facebook if someone discovered our rock, but the most important thing is that our rock made someone smile, whether we found out about it or not.”
— Andrea Gorevitz Stierna

Most meaningful was when Zwick and Emma rehid a rock with a reassuring message near a hospital; they later saw that the finder had posted a picture of that rock, sharing that her grandmother had found it on the way to a cancer treatment and it had made her day.

Andrea Gorevitz Stierna, 45, of Madison Heights, is an active member of Berkley Rocks and Southeast Michigan Rocks. She paints with her son, Ethan, 10, and the kids she takes care of through her nanny position. Last year, she took rocks and paint supplies to Ethan’s third-grade class at Norup School in Berkley and got his whole class involved.

“It’s a wonderful, fun thing to do with kids,” she said.

Madelyn Zwick
Madelyn Zwick

Andrea usually paints motivational words and phrases and Ethan’s rocks often includes his favorite Minecraft characters.

Not all their rocks are part of the game; they often visit the cemetery with their hand-painted rocks which, in keeping with Jewish tradition, they place on family members’ graves.

Like the Zwicks, their painted rocks also joined the Stiernas on their summer vacation. They drove from Michigan to Florida, hiding rocks at each stop. “It’s always fun to see on Facebook if someone discovered our rock, but the most important thing is that our rock made someone smile, whether we found out about it or not,” she said.

Ethan Stierna.
Ethan Stierna.

Stierna said the smiles are contagious, the painting is hugely relaxing and that the entire rock painting, hiding and finding endeavor bought them closer together as a family. She is looking forward to doing it again this summer.

Baldwin pointed out that there are many wonderful “side effects” of the rock painting trend, such as the family walks to find rocks, which means not only more exercise and family time, but also more foot traffic to local businesses where rocks are often hidden. Most of all, Baldwin said, kids learn tremendous lessons.

“They’re creating and putting rocks out there, knowing they have made someone smile, learning to share, learning that the rocks aren’t meant to be collected, but rather re-hidden to spread more joy to others.”

With such a win-win-win like that, there’s only one thing to say: Rock on!