Both my charges love to dig; if they could they would spend the whole day outside digging up the flowerbeds looking for bugs and treasures. To take full advantage of their love of dirt and searching for hidden gems, I set up a digging for gold game. I based it on the gold rush that happened in California during the mid 19th Century. We even had a tent to camp out in! Well, actually we had the tent there because Leo suggested that because the weather was so bad we could do it in the tent (I would like to point out it was the hardest tent I have ever had to put up). Of course by the time the tent had been assembled it had finished raining and was gloriously sunny out again. Well, it would have been such a shame to not use it, so we incorporated it into our play and discussion of the gold rush and how people would have camped out.

Make sure you follow my outside activity board on Pinterest for more ideas.  Don’t forget to save the pin for later. 

You will need:

  • Gold paint
  • Stones
  • Paintbrush
  • Container
  • Soil
  • Paper plate or tin baking tray

Paint half your stones gold and then leave to dry.


Then mix the painted stones together with the rest of the unpainted ones and soil in a big container.  Depending on how many children you are doing this for you may want to decant some out into smaller containers, so that they have one each.

In the paper plate or one of those disposable-baking tins make some holes for sieving.

Get them to sift through a bit of dirt at a time to find their gold nuggets; you could also give them a paintbrush to dust of any dirt.

Digging for gold

Digging for gold

Even the 2 year olds got in on the action

When we did this activity we had some of my charge’s cousins staying, aged 2 and 6, who also joined in on the action.  They played at their game (my charges and the 6 year old) for around an hour, basically, until they had found all the gold.  They pretended that at night time they had to lock their money in the bank (I was the banker), then they would pretend to go to sleep in the tent, before coming back out to collect their money and carry on their digging.  It was such a joy to watch them all get stuck into this activity, it really seemed to stir their imagination.  I hope that one day I can take them to a real gold mine where they can pan for some actual gold.

This activity may help develop

  • World knowledge and history
  • Imagination
Digging for gold

Digging for gold

Taking a break in their camp, while their gold was safely in the bank

Taking a break in their camp, while their gold was safely in the bank

Pin for later:

Digging for Gold - recreating the Gold rush for children.