MUCH is made of children spending too much time in front of television screens and not enough out in the fresh air.

With iPads, PlayStations and mobile phones now owned by increasingly younger children, parents regularly express concerns that their children are living a more solitary and less adventurous childhood than their own.

Six months ago, in an attempt to encourage their children to become more active and creative, two Ramsbottom parents, Sigrid Van Den Brand and Helen Idle, decided to try to introduce their children to a healthy new hobby.

The idea was to get them to paint and varnish stones then hide them for others to discover.

It was inspired by Helen’s sister who had set up a similar group called ‘Reservoir Rocks’ in Leeds.

The pair subsequently decided to start a Facebook page, called Rammy Rocks, so they could share the activity with others.

Its popularity has rocketed from there and the success of the hobby has surprised even them. In less than half a year, the group has amassed more than 7,000 likes and spread to other areas of Greater Manchester.

Ms Van Den Brand said: “It’s something to do with the kids and as adults we enjoy it so we started doing it as well. I enjoy painting them because it’s almost therapeutic.

“We just made our own page and were quite excited when we got to 300 members but it’s gone mad. There are so many people doing it now.”

The group’s Facebook page says the purpose of the group is ‘following on from other groups - encouraging children to do craft and go out walking to find rocks’.

It is hoped that after finding the stones, people will hide them again so the game can continue and be shared by many.

Participants are then encouraged to share their rocks on the page to challenge others to find them.

There are no rules to the designs, which vary from children’s TV characters to more intricate and artistic designs involving an array of colours, or the ages of those who take part.

“Everyone is loving it,” said Ms Van Den Brand.

“It’s great for the kids because it gets them outside, away from behind whatever screen they are on to get them out in the fresh air. It also brings the family together and makes people smile because children love finding them.”

Last week, Marshalls, who operate Shuttleworth-based Scout Moor Quarry, offered to provide ‘authentic Rammy Rock’ to members of the group.

Word of the phenomenon has also spread to the extent that people are not only joining in from across Bury, but also Bolton and Manchester, while others have been inspired to start up their own groups

Ms Van Den Brand said: “We copied the idea from elsewhere so we have no problems with others doing the same. It’s about bringing communities together.

“I have three boys aged four, five and seven, and they like doing it so we sit down and do it together. Then we go out and hide them and walk around trying to find others. It’s a great family thing to do.

“We have had grandparents painting and schools getting involved too. Some people haven’t picked up a paintbrush for years and they’re joining in with it.”

The pursuit’s popularity has grown so much that the group have decided to hold their first get-together, called RammyRocks Fest, at Nuttall Park on March 31.

More information on Rammyrocks and the event can be found on the group’s Facebook page.