If you have ever wondered what skipping rocks means, what it means to skip rocks, what causes a rock to skip, or why rocks skip on water? We’ve got the answers: Skipping or skimming, stones, rocks, and pebbles, is a fun outdoor STEM activity for kids and adults. Learn how to skip a rock and have all your questions answered below!
Skipping stones, stone skipping, skipping rocks, or stone skimming, are phrases that mean the same thing. They each refer to the art of throwing a smooth flat stone at an angle across the water to make it bounce or skip off its 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 physics of stone skipping in the following sections. You might also enjoy stone stacking, and painting rocks.
How to Skip Rocks and Stones
Learn how to skip rocks and skim pebbles with the step-by-step instructions below. These simple stone skimming tips make it easy to teach children, from toddlers to teens, or adults, how to skip a stone across a surface of water.
- Find a large body of calm water with smooth stones or numerous rocks nearby to practice skipping stones.
Look for flat or calm water with a smooth surface to skip stones. Lake and pond water usually has a smooth surface area, while oceans and rivers have waves, currents, and rough moving water, making skipping stones across the surface more challenging.
- Search for smooth flat stones of different shapes and sizes for rock skipping.
The best skipping stones tend to be those that 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 to skip the stones over the water.
There are several ways to grip a stone 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 to skip it
Show children (or adults) how to throw a stone with enough angular velocity to fight gravity and skip it across the water. The picture above shows a young bending his knees to get a good backswing before throwing a rock. Make sure you throw the stone with a low sidearm swing at an optimal angle to get the maximum number of skips (about a 20% angle toward the water’s surface. The idea is to skim the water’s surface with the slightly angled and spinning flat side of the stone at a high velocity or speed to make it bounce or skip across the water like the image below.
What is the Stone Skipping World Record?
The Guinness World Record for the furthest distance skimmed using natural stone is 121.8m for men, established by Dougie Isaacs (Scotland), and 52.5m for women, thrown by Nina Luginbuhl (Switzerland). These records happened on May 28, 2018, at a tournament in Abernant Lake, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales. (source)
The stone skipping world record for the maximum number of skips is held by Kurt Steiner, with a total of 88 skips, at the time of this writing. More specifically, he has the Guinness World Record for “the most consecutive skips across the surface of the water.
He achieved this impressive title at a competition against several tough competitors on September 6, 2013, in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forrest. You can see the throw that made him the winner of the world stone skimming championship and 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 for kids and adults. First, teach everyone how to skip a rock with the above instructions. Next, play a simple stone 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 water’s surface.
There are many ways to make this an easy outdoor homeschool math lesson. For example, invite children to throw ten rocks and ask them to average the number of times they skipped a stone across the water.
As another example, create teams and average each person’s rock skipping record for the day with the other team members. The team with the highest average wins!
Related: Shadow Sidewalk Chalk STEAM
The Science of Skipping Stones
Stone skimming is a STEM activity that kids and adults will 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 physics of stone-throwing and the scientific principles at work.
Related: Sorting and Classifying Rocks
Why Do Rocks Skip on Water, And How does a stone skip across the water?
When you throw a rock with enough velocity and spin at just the right angle (angular momentum), it will make a small wave that will push away from the stone as it hits the surface of the water. When the velocity of the stone exceeds the lift force of the wave it creates, the rock will continue to rise and skip or bounce off the surface of the water again and again.
The spin, or gyroscopic stabilization, is essential 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 Rocks are best For skipping or Skimming stones?
The best skipping stones have a uniform thickness and are smooth or flat on both sides. Some people enjoy a smaller rock to skip, while others prefer big flat disks about the size of the palm of your hand.
The stone skipping world record holder for the most skips across the surface of the water, Kurt Steiner, shares what he thinks are the best-skipping stones and why–along with several more 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. We hope that you enjoyed learning 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–wow! Please share your best personal stone skipping record in the comments below.
We hope you have enjoyed learning how to skip a rock and the scientific principles behind skipping stones. You might also enjoy the rock activities for kids (and adults) on the list below. Learn more about us HERE–> About Rhythms of Play.
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