UPDATED: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 1:41pm
Pea gravel, landscaping pebbles, decorative rock, and shell gravel – these all refer to various forms of very small stones used to spruce up outdoor spaces. You’ll find them in public parks and around commercial structures, and most commonly of all, in your residential yard or garden.
So that’s not what this article is about. I won’t be suggesting that you use them in your driveway or that you set up a winding path across your lawn. Because, you now, obviously you can do that!
No, these are the alterative applications for those pretty little pebbles. These are ideas for what to do with the leftovers, once the driveway has been dealt with and the lawn is fully landscaped. And you’re staring at a little stack of stones with nowhere to call home . . .
1. Homemade home improvement.
Pretty pebbles in a variety of earth tones can create a lovely backsplash in a kitchen, bathroom or mud room. Depending on how many you have, you can do an entire area or just an accent.
2. Make mosaic.
Mosaic is as easy as tiling a backsplash, and even a novice can produce something beautiful. Try covering a ceramic square to create a coaster for your tea kettle (or hot pots and pans). Or, mosaic a small picture frame, large mirror frame, lamp, etc. Stone mosaic is a lovely way to bring some natural texture into a room.
3. Zen garden.
Most miniature Zen gardens – also called Japanese rock gardens – are made on a bed of sand, but you can just as easily use pebbles instead. Fill a small tray with a layer of fine pebbles, and then add a few objects like larger rocks, small statues, or glass orbs. Make sure to include a mini rake (a fork will work if you’re really desperate). Zen gardens make a great desktop or coffee table topper. Rake, arrange, and relax.
4. Potted plants.
Use pea gravel to top off your potted indoor plants. Instead of seeing the dirt, you’ll see a nice light stone – a much cleaner look.
5. Displayed as a collection.
Sort the stones by color and shade, and then stack them in a glass vase. You can create a pretty pattern of contrasting colors, or a simple elegant ombre gradient.
6. Heating pad.
One of the oldest DIY projects is to fill a sock with rice, which you can then microwave to create an easy heating pad. It works with pebbles, too.
7. Toothbrush holder.
If you have something really pretty like river rock, you can use it to fill a wide mouth, small glass vase (or mason jar) about half way up. Now, just plunge your toothbrush into the pebbles and it will stand upright – a no-fuss, nature-inspired toothbrush holder! This would also work well for makeup brushes.
8. DIY Stone Hot Pad
Hometalk member and DIY blogger Cheri  from It's So Very Cheri made a gorgeous stone hot pad/floor mat for a whopping $3. Learn how to make your own DIY stone hot pad on It's So Very Cheri .
9. Sensory table.
A sensory table is a great tool for children to explore their world. Fill the bottom of a large bin with a layer of gravel, and then add some small toys. They can dig with their hands, bury and find the toys, make hills and valleys, etc. My son would just love it if I set up a mock construction site with his little diggers and dozers!
10. Make a Mancala set.
Mancala is an African game that’s easy to set up and so fun to play. I grew up on this game, and it’s great for children and grown-ups alike. You can fashion your own board out of wood (you’ll need some special tools to create the troughs), or simulate the structure using a series of small bowls.