Play Idea: Pretend to Pan for Gold

Aug 15, 2017

Discovery Claim National Historic Site, one of the Klondike National Historic Sites, is a mining claim located on Bonanza Creek, near Dawson City, Yukon. Since the discovery of gold at the end of the 19th century, this area has been actively mined. Prospectors continue to look for gold here today.

A child taking part in a gold-panning activity at Klondike National Historic Sites.

At the time of discovery, several techniques were used to search for and find gold. One of the techniques consists of collecting sediments from the bottom of a river with a pan and moving it in a small circular motion. Because gold is heavier than sediment, it remains at the bottom of the pan. Are your kids prospectors at heart? Give it a shot with this easy activity.  

You'll Need

  • A shallow bowl
  • Water
  • Sand, rocks of various sizes and other sediments (like dirt)
  • Gold paint
  • A small paintbrush
  • A plastic tablecloth and a large plastic container

Supplies needed to set up a gold-panning activity.

How to Play

1. With the help of an adult, take some of the small rocks you found, and paint them gold with a small paintbrush. Let them dry.

Painting small rocks gold.

2. While your "gold" dries, place a plastic tablecloth and large plastic container on the table and place your shallow bowl inside it.

3. Place all the rocks (including the gold ones), the sand, and the other sediments at the bottom of the shallow bowl. Add water.

Pouring water into the bowl of gold and sediments.

4. With a stick, mix the bottom so that the water becomes cloudy or dirty and you cannot see the placement of the gold rocks.

5. Now start “panning” with your shallow bowl. Make small circular movements to stir the mixture you have picked up. The rocks should settle to the bottom, and the sand and lighter sediments should mix with the water, so you can carefully pour out small amounts of the water into the large container, until you're left with only rocks. 

Swirling the mixture.

6. Try to find all of the gold rocks just like they did when they were panning for gold at that time! How many gold rocks did you find?

A boy showing off the

Article Author Club Parka, Parks Canada
Club Parka, Parks Canada

Club Parka is a Parks Canada program for preschoolers at national parks and historic sites across the country. Kids can take part in the program online, too!

Visit to download activity pages and get to know Parka, the busy little beaver who helps kids explore the world around them.

You can watch Parka weekday mornings on CBC TV following each episode of Chirp.

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