Panning for Gold

So technically, this isn’t a *science* experiment/activity but it was part of my activities for St. Patrick’s Day where we went hunting for gold to put in our gold pots.  But it was so much fun for the tiny tots and for my superheroes that I had to share it:)  Super easy to do!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin or Sandbox (I use the shoebox size bins from the dollar store)
  • Sand (I used the play sand from Home Depot)
  • Gold (we painted rocks in our yard with metallic gold acrylic paint)
  • Plastic gold coins or pennies, plastic gems or shiny glass stones
  • “Tools”: sand toys such as sifters, shovels, rakes, magnifying glasses, etc…


To prepare the rocks:

We first collected big and small rocks to make large gold pieces and small gold nuggets.  Then we painted them with gold acrylic paint.

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We let them dry and they looked AWESOME!


To prepare the box:

Fill the bin about halfway with sand.  Bury the gold rocks and gold coins into the sand.   Make sure all the treasures are covered up by the sand.


Give your superheroes some “Tools” and let them dig and discover!  That’s it!  Easy!

IMG_5485The little ones enjoyed digging in their boxes for gold and treasures!


This was definitely a favorite for my superheroes and the Tiny Tots in my science class.  I’ve also varied this with dinosaur eggs and skeletons in my Dinosaur Dig activity

 The Science behind the Activity:

Here is another science activity that invites young children to explore, investigate and be curious, just like real scientists.  They choose which tools to use and how to use them and what methods are best for locating the hidden items, and cleaning off their finds.  Lots of problem-solving and the kids think that they are just playing in the sand!


This activity can be modified for any hidden items.  You could also throw in some gems, large beads,  Great for a pirate party or to link to a history unit.  You can also add magnetic items and non magnetic items and have them use a magnetic wand to find and test the items!  So many options!

Sink the Pots of Gold!

I set this experiment up in about 3 minutes for my 3 superheroes and they are STILL laughing and playing as I write this blog post!  So easy, so fun and perfect for the warm late winter’s afternoon we have right now in Mid-March.  I’m using Pots of Gold since St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, but this can be done with any plastic cup or small container and rocks or pennies.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin for the water (I use plastic shoebox bins from the Dollar Store)
  • Food coloring (optional – I used green for this activity)
  • Candy Kettles (any party store has them seasonally) or any small plastic cup
  • Rocks (I painted mine gold for St. Patrick’s Day)
  • Pennies (we needed almost 100!)


I set up the tray for them


I had the boys place one gold nugget in the water and watch it sink.  Then they placed the kettle in the water and it floated.


Next, I asked them to add the gold to the pot until it sank.


My littlest one loved this.  He also practiced his counting!  (He can only go up to 5 so I used BIG rocks for him) Looks like the pot is almost about to sink!


Oh no!  Too much gold!  The pot sank!


The boys had so much fun playing with this!  My eldest son used pennies in his pot.  It took him over 50 pennies!


I had a BIG mess on the floor.  So, I recommend doing this outside 🙂

This activity is a St. Patrick’s version of my original floating activity: What Floats Your Boat?

The Science behind the Activity:

When doing this experiment with older kids, I discuss the concept of buoyancy, which is the ability of an object to float when placed in a fluid.  Surface area greatly affects the buoyancy of an object.  The larger surface area allows the force (weight of the gold/pennies) to be spread out over a larger area, thus allowing the pot to float even with the “treasures”. The larger surface area displaces more water.  This is why a large hull in a ship is able to float on water.  And if the ship is floating on salt water (like the ocean) it can carry even more cargo since salt water is denser than pure water.  It’s a bit more complicated than my simplified explanation, but hopefully you get the point.  And for the little ones, it’s just fun to sink the pots and get wet:)

For more details and to see where I got my idea from, please visit:

For more St. Patrick’s Day Science, check out the following activities:


Fizzing Leprechaun Pots

Baking soda and Vinegar are my two most favorite science experiment ingredients! They are inexpensive, always in the pantry and there are just SO many fizzy, colorful things to do with them.  Here’s my latest version, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day but would also be so much fun as a witches’ brew at Halloween

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring (I love my liquid watercolors)
  • Candy Kettles (any party store has them seasonally)
  • Bin/tray for the mess
  • Glitter (I used gold and green for St. Patty’s Day)
  • Teats, gold coins, etc… to hide in the pots (not necessary)
  • Droppers
  • Cups for the vinegar

To set up:

I placed a few pots in the bin.  I placed one treasure (plastic gold coins) at the bottom and added 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda on top. I sprinkled a little glitter on top of baking soda because glitter is sparkly and so much fun!IMG_1148

Pour vinegar (Leprechaun Potion or Witch’s Potion) into small cups.  I used 6 different colors to create a rainbow.

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To play: 

I gave a small bin with a few pots inside to each of the tiny tots in my class.  I supplied them with a large dropper (more like a turkey baster-perfect for toddlers!)  And then the magic began!

IMG_1150They added their favorite colors to the pots and watched them bubble and fizz!  So easy!  So fun!  So colorful!


That’s IT!  See, you can do this at home too!  And the little ones love it!  Adapt it for Halloween by placing plastic eyeballs, spooky fingers, creepy spiders, etc… for a spooky witches’ brew!  Or use plastic easter egg halves like I did with my Fizzing Easter Eggs experiment.  Or place some baking soda in a hollowed out mini pumpkin and make Pumpkin Volcanoes or into apples for Apple Volcanoes!  So many options!


For more St. Patrick’s Day and Leprechaun Science, please visit:

Science Behind the Activity:

This is a twist on the classic baking soda and vinegar experiment.  Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid.  When combined, they release carbon dioxide gas (the bubbles).  The fizzing and bubbles are just way too much fun for the kiddos!

Here’s where I got my fizzy idea from:



Magic Leprechaun Rocks

Lucky the Leprechaun is always up to some sort of mischief and this year he left some magical rocks!  Part of the fun was looking for the rocks and part of the fun was trying to break open the rocks with the “Magical Leprechaun Potion”!  Just 2 simple kitchen ingredients and some gold coins/rocks are all you need!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Tray for drying the rocks
  • Gold coins (I got mine from the dollar store)
  • Vinegar
  • Green food coloring (optional – but colors make everything more fun!!)


To make the magic rocks:

Combine 2 cups of baking soda and 1/2 cup of water (add some color to the water if you want colored rocks) in a large bowl.  Mix together well with your hands.  It will be crumbly.


Using your hands, make a rock shape with the mixture.  If it’s too dry, it won’t stay together, if it’s too watery, it will melt into a sloppy puddle.  Hide your coin inside the rock.IMG_1109

Let them dry overnight.  I placed mine on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  They will be delicate when wet.IMG_1111 The next morning, the rocks were hard.  Be careful, they break easily (You can also freeze them overnight to keep them from breaking as easily).  Note: this recipe will yield about 10 rocks.

To play: 

That naughty Leprechaun left the rocks in our backyard for the boys to find.


The boys were excited to hunt for the Leprechaun rocks! The boys grabbed one rock each and were very eager to break them open.

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This was the first casualty.



The next rock was placed in a plastic bin.  I gave them both some droppers and some green Leprechaun Potion (Vinegar with some green food coloring) to pour over the rocks.

Bubbles and fizzing!!!  They LOVED it!!

Aha!  I see something shiny inside!


Such an easy and simple little experiment to set up with a St. Patrick’s Day twist.  The variations on this are endless: dinosaur eggs with dinosaurs hidden inside, Easter eggs with a little prize inside, etc…

For more Leprechaun Science Fun, try the following:

Science Behind the Activity:

This is a twist on the classic baking soda and vinegar experiment.  Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid.  When combined, they release carbon dioxide gas (the bubbles).  The fizzing and bubbles are just way too much fun for the kiddos!

Here’s where I got my fizzy idea from:


With the broken rock, we added the crumbly powder to a small “pot of gold” that I had out for my Fizzing Leprechaun Pots activity.


The boys used the leftover magic potion to create a bubbly green potion in the pot.

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How did your Magic rocks turn out?  Any tricks to make them more durable?  Let me know in the comments!