My kids love to play with dominoes! Mexican Train was one of our games of the week earlier this year, and while we enjoy playing it the “real way,” the kids LOVE playing with just the dominoes.
It’s always a favorite activity for quiet time!
So what do they do with the dominoes? Lots of things! Here are eight of their favorite ways to play.
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Make Repeating Patterns
Like tile on the floor or walls, dominoes can be used to create repeating patterns. My kids enjoy trying to build a pattern using all of the dominoes in the set.
One of my daughters, who really enjoys watching HGTV with me, likes making patterns that’d look good in the kitchen or bathroom. She likes to play interior designer, and this is a fun way to make her designs come to life.
Build a “Train”
When we play with dominoes following the rules for Mexican Train, we always try to build our own trains before we start each round. That way we have the dominoes set up like we want them and can see which ones will be harder to get rid of.
My kids took this concept and tried it on their own. They see if they can make a train connecting all of the dominoes.
To start, they pick a double. Then they put a tile that matches on one side. The next tile matches the other side of the second tile. They keep going, trying to use all of them.
Dominoes are great building tiles, except they fall down easily. You have to be really careful not to bump your build. This is great for fine motor skill practice!
My kids enjoy getting out a collection of small toy animals, and building homes for all of them. When quiet time is over, they give me the grand tour of their accomplishments.
Here are some things I’ve challenged them to build in the past:
- A “double-decker” (two-story)
- One big enough for all the animals
- A barn with a fence around it
- A house or barn with walls inside
Knock ‘Em Down
This classic dominoes activity is harder than it first appears! You have to carefully set up the tiles so they’re close enough to knock each other down as they fall, but not so close that they’re touching and you knock them down first.
It’s a challenge that takes patience, planning, persistence, and fine motor skills. Once my child is ready for the knockdown part, I like to whip out my cell phone and record a quick video. They enjoy watching their efforts again and again without having to rebuild.
And they always get ideas based on what their siblings have done.
Dominoes are perfect for sorting! Your child can sort them several different ways. By looking at just one side of the tile, they can be sorted by:
By taking both sides into account your child can sort by:
- Which side is biggest
- Color combination
If you have multiple domino sets that look different from each other, you can also bring them both out and then sort by set.
Practice Addition and Subtraction
Dominoes are more fun than flashcards! Just have your child select a tile and quickly add or subtract the dots. Then they can say the sum or difference.
They could find all the tiles that add up to a sum of ten. Or the ones that subtract for a difference of two.
They’ll be practicing their math, but it won’t feel like as much work since it’s fun.
My nine-year old is busy memorizing multiplication facts. Dominoes are a fun way to practice.
First, he gets out all the dominoes with a particular number. Let’s say two for this example. So any domino that has a two on one side gets put in one pile.
Then, he turns those all over, dot side down.
Now it’s time for practice. He flips a tile over, and sees what numbers are being multiplied (2 times however many dots are on the other side.) Then, he says the product.
The goal is to do all of the dominoes in a minute. That’ll mean there is a solid understanding. Then we switch to another base number.
After a single number is easy, try mixing a couple of numbers together (so all the twos and all the threes for instance.)
Build Letters and Words
My preschooler is practicing letter identification. I like to set him up with the dominoes, and have him build each letter. He places each domino flat on the table, and puts some together to make each shape.
The letters with curves take a little bit of work, but they eventually look close enough.
Have your child build A-Z and then try again with lower case letters.
Older children can build words. Their name is a fun one to start with!
Do Your Kids Play with Dominoes Too?
Do your kids use dominoes to play or supplement their learning? If you have any other ideas, I’d love for you to share in the comments below.
If you need some dominoes, I recommend this set because it’s colorful! It’s the one we use for playing Mexican Train and for all the activities above (aff. link).