Panning for Gold Activity

Strengthen fine motor skills while practicing number sense with this Panning for Gold Activity. This dramatic play experience is the perfect addition to your list of STEAM activities for your next desert preschool theme. You’re definitely not going to want to miss it!

collage of Panning for Gold Activity images with text: Gold Panning Sensory Activity STEAM for KidsI’m so excited to share this adorable gold panning Activity with you today. My kiddos were all kinds of excited to try out this engaging and hands-on “Make & Play.”

child using pie tin to pretend pan for goldThis post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if an item is purchased through one of these links.  For more information, please see my full disclosures.

A huge thanks to Experience Early Learning (formerly Mother Goose Time) for providing us with their Experience Preschool curriculum for free in exchange for sharing our honest and authentic stories resulting from our personal experiences. It’s been such a huge blessing to us! As always, my opinions on awesome stuff for little kids are 100% my own.

child scooping up sand and gravel while pretending to pan for goldEach week, our Teacher Guide includes lots of wonderful ideas, and today’s Panning for Gold Activity was definitely no exception.

children pretending to pan for gold in gold panning sensory binThe Mojave Desert is located in the southwest United States. Its landscapes include trees, sand dunes, canyons, and streams. 

child scooping sand and gravel from gold panning sensory binBoth the little guy and baby girl had lots of fun helping me prep this activity. Baby girl painted the gravel gold while the little guy got our clear bin and filled it with sand and water.

child holding pie while looking for pretend goldPanning for Gold Activity

What you’ll need

  • Mini Pie Tin
  • Gravel
  • Gold Paint
  • Sand
  • Tub of Water

child looking for pretend gold in aluminum pie tinHere’s how to do it


  • What could you find in water? Explain that people have panned for gold in the Mojave for hundreds of years.


  • Invite each child to paint some of the gravel gold. Allow to dry.

preschooler scooping sand and gravel while pretending to pan for goldPlay

  • Put sand and the painted and unpainted gravel in the tub of water. Invite each child to dip a pan in the water and scoop up gravel.
  • Use a swirling motion to separate the gravel from the sand then pick out and count the gold pieces.


  • Does the child use her fingers to find and pick up the gold? Does she control her wrists and swirl the water in the pan?

preschooler scooping sand and gravel while pretending to pan for goldGetting started the next morning was quick and easy because we already had everything prepared. All we needed to do was add the painted gravel.

preschooler panning for pretend gold in gold panning sensory binOpen-ended sensory activities like this one are perfect for practicing so many important early learning skills.

preschooler using aluminum pie pan to scoop up sand and gravel in gold panning sensory binDon’t forget to check back if you’re interested in seeing what we’re up to next week with our desert preschool theme from Experience Preschool!

collage of Gold Panning Activity images with text: Panning for Gold Sensory Activity for Preschoolers