Dominoes are a fun learning tool for your kids. Here are eight different ways to use a set.

8 Ways Your Child Can Learn with Dominoes

My kids love playing with dominoes! We bought a Mexican Train/Chicken Foot game a while back, and enjoy playing those. But, the younger kids have the most fun when I let them play with the dominoes during quiet time.

Here are eight different ways I’ve encouraged learning through play with dominoes.

Make Repeating Patterns

Dominoes are tiles. You can build all sorts of repeating patterns with them. Encourage your child to create a repeating pattern using all the tiles in your set.

Here's a repeating pattern your child can make with dominoes.

They can even make patterns that they’d put in a bathroom or in the kitchen. Some of my kids love playing “interior designer” and this is a fun addition!

Build a “Train”

When we’re playing 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.

During solo play, my kids love trying to build a train out of all the dominoes. They set them out on the floor, connecting by matching numbers.

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.

Make Houses

Dominoes are fun to build with, but you have to be careful to not knock them all down. 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. After they’re done, they’ll give me the grand tour.

I like to challenge them to try different building tasks:

  • A “double-decker” (two-story)
  • One big enough for all the animals
  • A barn with a fence around it
  • Putting stalls inside a building

Set Them Up & 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.

Sort

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:

  • Color
  • Number

By taking both sides into account your child can sort by:

  • Sums
  • Differences
  • Products
  • 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.

Practice Multiplication

My eight-year old is gearing up to memorize the multiplication tables when we start school again. I’ll be having him practice with dominoes.

First, they get 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, they turn those all over, dot side down.

Now it’s time for practice. They flip a tile over, and decide what numbers are being multiplied (2 times however many dots are on the other side.) Then, they say the product.

Keep practicing until they can multiply without counting or stopping to think for too long. Then try a different number.

After a while, mix a couple of numbers together (so all the twos and all the threes for instance.)

Build Numbers

My kindergartener is practicing letter identification. I like to set her up with the dominoes, and have her build each number. She 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.

Letter skills with dominoes is fun!

Do You Have Dominoes?

Have you ever used dominoes as a learning tool? 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).

 

Media gets a bad rap, but it doesn't have to be bad. Here are some tips for using media to supplment education

How to Use Media to Supplement Education

Media gets a bad rap.

I don’t think it is all bad. But, I do think that too much of anything is never good. So when you’re thinking about your children’s relationship with media, do make sure it’s not the only activity they’re participating in.

So head outside, read some books, do a puzzle.

And as long as you’re doing all those real-world things, a little media can be a great supplement to your child’s education. And you don’t even have to feel guilty about it!

Here are some tips for using media.

Make It Active

Passively sitting in front of the television won’t offer many educational benefits. To use movies or episodes as a learning tool, you must engage the brain with some activity.

Here are some ideas for making that happen:

  • Encourage your child to draw while watching–they can draw:
    • The setting of the movie
    • A main character
    • Their favorite part
    • What they think will happen at the end
  • Talk about what you’re watching. Don’t be afraid to hit pause.
  • Work on a hobby while watching; crocheting, knitting, drawing
  • Do jumping jacks during one commercial break and sit ups on another

Tie it Into Your Schooling

Is your child studying pioneer life? Are they learning about ocean life?

No matter what your child is studying, there’s probably some form of entertainment you can use. Look for documentaries, child friendly films, or apps that reinforce the concepts.

Have your child read the words on the video games, look for patterns in the levels they play, and describe the characters with adjectives.

There are so many ways to tie media into learning!

Extend the Learning

Don’t just shut the television or tablet off and walk away. Spend a few minutes extending the learning, to help your child make connections. Try to find activities that activate different parts of the brain, and rely on your child’s learning strengths. You could:

  • Act out a favorite scene
  • Write a review
  • Do a craft project inspired by the media
  • Create a matching game with index cards inspired by the media
  • Share three facts you learned while watching
  • Draw a movie poster

How Do You Use Media to Enhance Learning?

I’d love to hear your best tips for enhancing learning with media. Do your kids have a favorite series, app, or game that reinforces what they’re learning about? Please share in the comments!

Looking for more ways to integrate media?”Check out this graphic from the Christian movie streaming service Pure Flix.

 

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How to Practice the Alphabet with a Computer Keyboard

We have a USB keyboard that we occasionally use. When it’s not hooked up to the computer, my kids love playing with it! I’ve learned it’s a fabulous way for them to practice the alphabet.

Here are a few activities we use it for:

Type the ABCs in Order

I ask my kids to hunt and peck the alphabet, in order. This forces them to look at all the letters, and use their ability to recognize a letter by shape.

As they search for each letter, I ask them to sing the ABC song, slowly. So they sing “A” as they hit the A key, and “B” as they hit the B key, and so on.

Once they hit Z, I ask them to do it again, a bit faster.

They keep practicing the alphabet until they can find each letter in the amount of time it takes to sing the ABC song normally.

Name the Letters in QWERTY Order

Using the non-alphabetical order on the keyboard is a great activity for ensuring your child knows each letter. I just have my child start at Q, and name all the letters in the top row.

Then we move to the A and do all those letters.

We finish with the last row, starting with Z.

Letter Sounds

When we work on letter sounds, I can point to a letter and ask my child to say the sound. She’ll say the sound, and then type the letter.

We’ll typically do 10-15 letter in a single setting.

Any that my child can’t automatically name, I know I need to continue working on that letter with her. It’s an easy way for me to assess progress in a way my child thinks is a game! 😀

Spell Your Name

My kids love trying to spell their name on the keyboard. So, I’ll ask them to find all the letters in their name. And in my name. And spell Dad. With 10 people in our family, there’s always a name to practice!

Play Store

We love to bring the keyboard out when we’re playing store. The cashier sits and pretends to type out several things:

  • The names of customers
  • Items in the store for sale
  • The name of the store
  • Prices on items

Even if they’re using invented spelling, it’s a fun way to practice the alphabet and letter sounds.

Do Your Kids Enjoy Using a Keyboard?

If you have an extra (or broken) keyboard lying around, try letting your kids practice the alphabet with it. It’s a favorite activity here (along with the old-fashioned typewriter!)

Of course you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any keys popping off, as that could be a choking hazard.

If you give it a try, come back and let me know what your kids thought!

 

Help your little learners practice the alphabet with a computer keyboard.

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Flying a kite isn't only fun, it's very beneficial!

5 Interesting Ways Your Child Benefits from Flying a Kite

Have you flown a kite with your child yet this spring? My kids got kites for Easter from my mom, and we’ve spent a couple of lazy afternoons trying to keep them in the air.

Flying a kite isn’t only fun, it’s also beneficial. In addition to the obvious gross motor skills, your child is working on several key areas. But before we dive into those benefits, let’s talk about what you’ll need for a successful kite flying adventure.

Before Setting Out to Fly a Kite

Of course you’ll need a kite! The cheap ones from Walmart work just fine. But, if you have younger kids, be sure to get the diamond shaped kites.

Those are way more aerodynamic than the round ones, so your child will have an easier time flying.

You’ll also need a safe place. We head up to our upper field, because there aren’t any power lines or kite eating trees :D.

Make sure it’s a windy day. We wait until our flag is flying fairly horizontally before heading out.

Water is also essential, especially if it’s a warm day. Bring a couple of bottles along so you all stay hydrated.

Once you’re at your ideal location, help your kids get their kites up. My littles enjoy just running while holding onto the string, while my middles and big actually do quite well at getting the kites in the air. While they’re flying, your kids will be learning the following skills:

1. Understanding of Aerodynamics

Different shaped kites react differently to the wind. If you have a couple of different shapes, let your kids experiment with them and describe the experience with each.

Regardless of kite shape, your child will be feeling the wind interact with the kite and the string. As they move, the kite moves. The more they fly, the better handle they’ll get on how to play the kite in the wind to keep it up.

If your child likes to run to launch the kite, she’ll also be learning about wind direction and speed–both important to aerodynamics.

2. Problem Solving

Kite flying doesn’t always go as planned! Sometimes the kites take a nosedive, the string tangles, or a little sibling comes over and pulls on the string.

When these problems occur, children must stop and assess the situation. Sometimes they need to ask for help. Other times, they can solve the problem themselves.

Problem solving is one of those soft skills that’s so important in life!

3. Concentration

With all the digital stimuli in the world today, kite flying offers a chance for children to concentrate on something real. There are no screens. Its just you, the kites, and the big blue sky.

Concentrating on keeping it flying will help your child extend his attention span. You can slowly increase the amount of time you’re out.

4. Self-Confidence

When my three-year-old got his in the air for the first time, he was thrilled! He quickly learned that he could do it, and didn’t want any help after that.

As your children fly a kite, they’re gaining confidence in their own abilities. It’s an amazing feeling to be in control of something way up in the air. And you feel like soaring right along with it!

5. Attention to Detail

When the kites get high in the air, tracking them takes more attention. As the wind switches direction, your child will have to make adjustments to keep it up.

While winding in the string, your child will have to watch to make sure no weeds snag the kite and make a hole in it.

All of these tasks require attention to detail and observation skills.

Let’s Go Fly Some Kites

Pick a day this spring, and go fly kites with your kids. You’ll all benefit from the exercise and fresh air, and you’ll also benefit in the five ways described above.

Next on our to-do list?

Making our own kites. I’m looking forward to it!

Do you and your family enjoy flying kites? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

Communication skills are essential! Here are five unusual car games that focus on communication.

4 Unusual and Easy Car Games that Focus on Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential in life. You’ve got to be able to talk clearly, confidently, and concisely. While teaching these skills to your kids might seem boring, it doesn’t have to be. Here are five car games that’ll help.

They’re a bit unusual, but definitely fun!

1. Asking & Answering Questions

This game is super simple, but it focuses on an important communication skill: being able to ask and answer questions. Feel free to change up the questions based on your children’s age and ability.

How to Play:

First, one person asks a question. It can be about anything. Then, everyone else takes a turn answering.

Another player poses a question, starting the next round of the game.

Some of the Questions We’ve Used:

  1. Who is your favorite character in (name a TV show)?
  2. If you could be an animal, what kind would you be?
  3. What time do you think we’ll arrive at Grandma’s house?
  4. Did you see that cow? What would be a good name for it?
  5. If you could have a super power, which one would you pick?
  6. What’s your favorite book?
  7. If you could go into a TV show for one day, which show would you go into?
  8. Why do you think giraffes have long necks?
  9. What would you do if it started raining gumdrops?
  10. What supplies do you think you’ll need for school next year?

2. Radio Ads

This game is a creativity building, confidence boosting activity. It works best for upper elementary aged and older kids.

Radio ads are all based on auditory components. They don’t have the benefit of special visual effects to get someone to buy a product. All players will be creating a radio ad for a product they invent.

How to Play:

Give everyone 5-10 minutes to think of an invention they think the world needs.

When the think time is up, each person takes a turn offering an oral presentation about their invention. You’ll want to share:

  • What you’d call your invention
  • What your invention does
  • Why someone would want your invention

The goal is to make other people want your invention. Speak with confidence! Think of it like an elevator pitch for your invention.

3. What Movie Has …?

Being able to think quickly plays a huge role in communication skills. This game practices that skill in a kid friendly way. My kids and I enjoyed it for almost an hour on our last road trip!

How to Play:

One person is the host first. This person’s job is to ask the questions. Everyone else answers.

The host thinks of an object, and then asks, “What movie has a ____” filling in the blank with the name of the object.

Everyone else thinks quickly, and sees who can provide the name of a movie first.

Here’s some examples:

What movie has a spaceship? (Possible response: Star Trek)

What movie has a dog? (Possible response: Space Buddies)

As you can see, the answers can vary widely. Players might even come up with two or more movies for the same object.

If any player questions the answer, the person who gave the answer must describe the scene that had the object. This helps players practice defending their answer with factual information.

Keep going until you run out of ideas, or players lose interest.

4. The Tone Game

This is a fun car game for younger kids. The goal is to think about how your tone of voice impacts your message.

How to Play:

As the host, you’ll be in charge of giving directions. Ask your kids to say things in a certain way to share a message. It sounds complicated, but it’s not.

Here’s a look at a couple of directions you could give:

  • Pretend that you’re mad. Now say, “I don’t want to go.”
  • If you were scared, how would you sound if you said, “What was that?”
  • In a surprised voice, ask “When did you get here?”

After each response you can talk about the emotions displayed in the voice.

Then, you can switch it up a bit. This time, you’ll do the talking and it’s the kids’ turn to decide what emotion you’re feeling. So say something in a happy voice, and then ask the kids how they think you are feeling.

Next, use your serious voice and say something else. Continue the conversation about how your tone can show what you’re feeling.

Can you think of other car games that practice communication skills?

I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Want other fun car games to try?

ELA Car Games

Observation Building Car Games

Musical Car Games

Social Studies Car Games

Science Car Games