Tic-Tac-Toe is one of those games that’s easy enough for preschoolers, yet is still competitive enough to entertain older kids and adults. Tic-tac-toe is one of my 4 year-old’s favorite games to play – mainly because it’s fast and quick, so it holds his short attention span and you can play many times in a row before he’s ready to move on to something else. I love tic-tac-toe because I believe it teaches kids a lot of valuable skills, like logic, reasoning, creativity, strategy, coordination, visual skills, motor skills, concentration and how to be a good loser.
Another great thing about tic-tac-toe is that you can play anywhere, with anything! There’s no required game board or small pieces, no batteries to charge or dice to lose. You can write with a pen/paper, a dry erase board or just by using your finger in the sand. Our favorite new twist to the game is to paint river rocks to serve as the X’s and O’s so we can play outside. We painted a grid onto a wood slice so we could take our board anywhere we wanted, but if you don’t have a board to use for the grid, there are tons of ways to make your own – use four long sticks for the outline, draw a grid on the sidewalk with chalk or use 9 large leaves to designate the spots.
Make rock collecting fun
If you want to make your own DIY painted rock tic-tac-toe board, start by collecting the rocks for your game pieces. If possible, take your kids to a creek (or even just a dry creek bed) and let them explore the area and collect the rocks they want to use. Explain to your kids that round flat rocks work best and show them a few good examples and let them choose their own. Give each kid a small bag and tell them they can bring home as many rocks as they can carry! Once home, pick the best ones, clean them with dish soap and let them dry outside.
Let them pick the colors
When painting the rocks, you can use regular craft paints in a any number of bright fun colors. We debated between using just 2 colors (all X one color and all O another color), but decided it would be more fun to mix them up. We chose 9 different colors and then painted two rocks (one X and one O) each color. Once my kids are a bit older, this might add an additional element to the game, by making them use rocks in colors that haven’t been used yet, so that each of the 9 spaces contains a different color rock. But for now, we don’t worry about that.
Put the rocks on paper plates or newspaper and let the kids paint them by themselves. If your kids are little (not the best painters) or if you’re a bit Type A (like me), just know that the rocks will need multiple coats of paint to fully cover and you can correct all the splotchiness later. After you get the rocks fully coated (top and bottom), let them dry overnight and then you can paint X’s and O’s on them with black paint. In order to keep the paint from chipping/scratching off, lightly spray them with a coat of enamel. You could also use Mod-Podge or any other type of clear coat you feel comfortable with (or skip this step).
Once your rocks are painted and dry, you’re ready to play! The rocks make it easy to play over and over again and the board’s portable – we love playing it outside in the back yard or on the front porch on our swing in the rain. These tic-tac-toe painted rocks are a fun craft, easy for kids to make and doesn’t require a lot of prep work from parents. And at the end of the day, you’ve got a great game that they can play for years! Good luck!