Skipping, or skimming, stones, and rocks is a fun outdoor STEM activity for kids and adults.
Skipping stones, stone skipping, skipping rocks, or stone skimming, is the art of throwing a smooth flat stone across the water in order to make it bounce or skip off the surface as many times as possible before sinking.
Learn everything you need to know about how to skip rocks, a few stone skipping math games, and the scientific principles involved in skipping stones across the water, in the sections that follow.
Related: Painted Rocks
How to Skip Rocks and Stones
Learn how to skip rocks with the step by step instructions below. These simple stone skimming tips make it easy to teach children, from toddlers to teens, or an adult, how to skip a stone.
- Find a large body of water with smooth stones or rocks nearby to practice skipping stones.
Look for water with a smooth surface to skip stones. Lake and pond water usually has a smooth surface, while oceans and rivers have waves, currents, and rough moving water that makes it more challenging to skip stones.
- Search for smooth flat stones that are perfect for rock skipping.
The best skipping stones are flat, smooth, and fit in the palm of your hand. Some people prefer a large flat rock, while others prefer a smaller smooth stone for skimming.
- Demonstrate how to grip the rock or stone properly in order to skip the stones over the water.
There are few different ways to grip a stone in order to make it skip. The most common way is to hook the pointer finger around the stone while using the middle finger to balance the rock between the thumb and index finger. Hold the smooth flat, or slightly concave side, of the stone downward with the more convex or jagged edge turned upward.
- Teach participants how to throw a rock or stone in order to skip it
The idea is to throw the stone with a low sidearm swing at about a 20% angle toward the surface of the body of water. The idea is to skim the surface of the water with the slightly angled and spinning flat side of the stone at a high velocity, or speed, in order to make it bounce or skip across the water.
What is the Stone Skipping World Record?
The stone skipping record is held by Kurt Steiner with a grand total of 88 skips, at the time of this writing. More specifically, he holds the world record for the most consecutive skips across the surface of the water. You can see the throw that won him the world record stone skipping title in the video below!
Related: Rock Balancing Stone Stacking Art
Turn the Art of Stone Skipping into a Math Game for Kids
Have a stone skipping competition with any of these fun rock-throwing game ideas.
After teaching everyone how to skip a rock on the water with the instructions listed above, play a simple rock skipping game.
Invite players to count how many times they can skip the stone or rock across the water before it sinks. Or, invite players to do a little more math, other than counting, while they skip stones across the surface of the water.
There are one hundred and one ways that this can be done as an easy outdoor homeschool math lesson. For example, invite children to throw 10 rocks and they ask them to average out the number of times that they skipped a rock across the water.
As another example, create teams and average out each person’s rock skipping record for the day with the other members of their team. The team with the highest average wins!
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The Science of Skipping Stones
Stone skimming is a STEM activity that kids and adults of all ages enjoy! Toddlers, preschoolers, and kids of all ages can learn how to skip a rock or a stone with the tips listed above, and a little knowledge of the scientific principles at work.
Related: Sorting and Classifying Rocks
How does a stone skip across the water?
When a rock is thrown with enough velocity and spin at just the right angle, a small wave is created that will push away from the stone as it hits the surface of the water. When the velocity of the stone is greater than the lift force of the wave it creates, the rock will continue to rise up and skip or bounce off the surface of the water again and again.
The spin, or gyroscopic stabilization, is important to stone skipping because it helps to hold the 20-degree angle of attack with respect to the surface of the water so that the lift force can remain strong enough to cause the rock to bounce on the water multiple times.
When a cannonball, stone, or water-skipping toy with sufficient speed U hits a water surface at an angle, it forms a cavity that fills with ambient air… In a successful skip, the object planes along the front of the cavity and is ultimately propelled off the surface by a pressure-driven hydrodynamic force.Physics Today
What are the best skipping stones?
The best skipping stones are smooth or flat on both sides. Some people enjoy a smaller stone to skip, while others prefer big flat disks, about the size of the palm of your hand.
The stone skipping world record holder, Kurt Steiner, shares what he thinks are the best-skipping stones, and why, along with more of his best stone skimming tips in the video below.
Rock Skipping: An Outdoor Activity for All Ages
Skipping, or skimming, stones, and rocks is a classic outdoor activity for children and adults of all ages.
We hope that you enjoyed learning all about the art and science of rock skipping, and the world record score to beat!
I don’t think I will ever be able to skip a rock 88 times across the water, but it’s fun to know that much more than that is possible!
We hope that you have enjoyed learning how to skip a rock, and, the scientific principles behind skipping stones.
Share your best personal stone skipping record in the comments below!
More Rock Activities for Kids
- Rock Painting Ideas
- Sorting and Classifying Rocks
- Rock Balancing Stone Stacking ART
- Stone and Shell Owl Craft
- Fairy House Painted Rocks
More Outdoor Activities for Kids
- Human Sundial Science Experiment
- Fairy Garden Ideas
- Outdoor Nature Activities and Learning Ideas
- Growing Sunflowers with Kids
- Berry Picking and Foraging for Kids
- Sidewalk Chalk Art
- Shadow Activities and Experiments
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