How to Create a Pan for Gold Game

gold coins image by OMKAR A.V from

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Small pebbles or rocks
  • Gold spray paint
  • 20 pounds of sand
  • Wading pool or large plastic bin
  • Water to fill pool or bin
  • Scissors
  • Aluminum pie plates

Panning for gold is a fun game to correspond with a pirate or treasure hunt--themed party. It’s also a fun activity for teachers to use to go with a lesson on the California Gold Rush. Whether you’re throwing a party or enhancing your lesson plan, panning for gold is bound to be something your kids will remember for years to come.

Make your gold "nuggets." Lay your newspaper out on the ground or a table. Spray the pebbles and rocks with the gold spray paint to create your gold nuggets. Let the nuggets air dry.

Create your river. Fill the pool or bin with a large amount of sand. Dump your gold nuggets into the sand, and bury them in various places. You can just toss the sand around with your hands, sort of like stirring chocolate chips into cookie dough. You’ll want to be sure the nuggets are spread out to make them more difficult to find.

Add the water. If young children will be looking for nuggets in the wading pool or bin, fill it with enough water to cover the sand plus about 3 or 4 inches. If your children are older, you can use a little more water for more of a challenge.

Punch holes in your pie plates. Your students will use the pie plates to pan for gold. The holes will allow sand and water to sift through as the children are panning for their gold. Use the scissors to create holes that are big enough for sand and water to pass through but smaller than the size of your gold nuggets.

Demonstrate the game for the kids. Show the kids how to pan for gold. Using the pie plate, dig into the sand and water. Then lift the plate out of the water and shake it a bit so that the water and sand can pass through the holes. Next, observe the pie plate to see what you have remaining. You may need to move the sand around with your hands a little, especially if your gold nuggets are small.


  • Color the water with food coloring for some extra fun.

    Have a prize for the person who finds the most gold.

    As an alternative to a pie plate, you can use sand sifters or anything else that will serve the same purpose.


  • Don’t overfill the pool. This can be very dangerous, especially for younger kids who may be top-heavy and may fall in the pool.

    Don’t let younger children play unsupervised. The pebbles might be tempting to eat. If you’re having a party, make sure you have plenty of adult supervision and that the kids are not left unattended for this activity.