Activities · Kid Lit

Gem Dig + Children’s Books About Rocks

My children received a Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig kit for Christmas. We go hiking and camping frequently and they love looking for rocks during our outdoor family adventures. I knew this gift was going to be a hit with Mason and Sophie.


The kit includes:

  • 1 block containing 11 real gemstones, minerals, or rocks
  • 1 dowel
  • 1 mallet
  • 1 pair of goggles
  • 1 streak plate
  • 1 magnifying glass
  • 1 brush
  • Color poster
  • Instructions

They could hardly contain their excitement to discover the hidden gems. I was excited they took turns using the mallet and dowel to chisel the block.

Mason chips away.
Sophie gets help from Dad.
Mason uses the magnifying glass.

My husband, Ian, and I helped break away a few chunks of the block because the kids were starting to wonder if they’d ever dig deep enough to find a rock. Mason and Sophie wanted to work together once the gems became visible. The kit only includes one mallet and one dowel, so we got creative and used a chopstick for a dowel, an ice cream scooper for a mallet, and Ian’s brewery goggles for eye protection. It worked great!

The discovery!

This kit received poor reviews because of the misleading packaging. The gems in the picture on the box look much larger than they really are. They are pretty small, but my kids were not disappointed. I do wish the kit came with a special container for the rocks. Mason and Sophie wanted a safe place to keep their new gems.

The poster


This fun family activity is a great way to introduce children to gems, rocks, and minerals. The poster includes a section on ROCKS: DIFFERENT TYPES AND HOW THEY FORM and HOW TO IDENTIFY MINERALS, but the text is super tiny and does not include many photos. My kids were not interested in reading/listening to these sections on the poster, so we decided to check out some children’s books.

Keep their excitement going by pairing this activity with children’s books so they can learn more about rocks, gems, and minerals!

Children’s books about rocks, gems, and minerals:

Gems, Crystals and Precious Rocks by Steven Hoffman


Jump into Science: Rocks and Minerals by Steve Tomecek


National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals by Steve Tomecek


National Geographic Readers: Rocks and Minerals by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld


Rocks & Minerals: A Gem of a Book by Simon Basher


Rocks and Soil: Gems, Metals, and Minerals by Sally Hewitt