Author Archives: Lisa Tanner

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.


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).


Who says you have to play board games by the rules? Try these seven different ways to play Battleship.

7 Ways to Play the Game Battleship

My eight year old son has fallen in love with the game Battleship. We played it for math the other day, and have played it several times since. He’s been experimenting with strategy, and it’s so fun to watch!

A couple of the other kids want to play too, but they aren’t quite ready to understand the coordinate plane system. They struggled with getting the pegs in the right spot and figuring out where to put the red and white pegs.

So we started playing different ways. I’m discovering there’s way more to Battleship than first meets the eye.

You can use this game to work on fine motor skills, creativity, math, and more. Here’s eight different ways to play Battleship.

1. Making Letters

The pegs and grid in Battleship are awesome for practicing making letters. You can have your child:

  • Write his name
  • Make each letter individually, A-Z
  • Practice spelling words (if they’re short…)

Just hand your child one of the Battleship grids with several pegs. Then let them get busy making letters.

Here’s a name that one of my kids wrote–they decided to alternate red and white pegs to make each letter more distinct.

You can have your child make letters out of the Battleship pegs.

2. Pattern Play

There’s plenty of space on the Battleship grid to build a pattern. You can have young kids practice making a basic AB pattern (red, white, red, white) in rows. Older kids can create more complex patterns. Here are some ideas:

  • Alternate rows of red and white
  • Red, red, red, white, red, red, red, white
  • Diagonal patterns
  • Vertical patterns
  • White, white, red, red, white, white, red, red
  • Small letters repeating (hi hi hi hi hi)

You can have one child start a pattern and another continue it. Playing with patterns is great math practice!

3. Fine Motor Practice

For kids who need a little more practice with fine motor skills (but are old enough to not eat the pegs!), Battleship is the perfect peg board. You can either let your child put in pegs, or put them in and have your child take them out.

Since the pegs are small, it’ll really work those muscles!

Perhaps let your child try to beat the clock–put on a favorite song and see if she can pull all the pegs out before the end.

4. Ship Stories

My kids love playing with the ships and moving them around in the “water” of the board. Two of them will get together and sit for a long time arranging and telling stories about what each ship is doing.

They’ll use the pegs as people, and let them “steer” the ships around.

This is a great way to build creative writing skills!

5. Learning About the Different Ships

Perhaps it’s because my husband was in the Navy, but the kids are really interested in learning more about each ship. My husband explains what each ship is used for in the United States Navy, and then shares his own stories about his days on an aircraft carrier.

Even if you don’t have a sailor in your life, you can use the internet to discover more about each ships purpose. Let your child look up images of real life battleships, submarines, carriers, and all the other boats.

Talk about what’s on top of each ship. For instance, you can see the tower on the aircraft carrier, and the hatch on the submarine. You can discover what these are used for.

6. Coordinate Plane Practice

You can use Battleship to practice using the coordinate plane without actually playing a game. I’m doing this with my six-year-old to try and get her ready to play.

You’ll just need one board for this version. One person calls out a coordinate, and the other places a peg there.

Then switch.

You can add more directions as understanding increases:

“Place a red peg at B2, and a white one at J8.”

It’s a fun way to practice saying the letter first and then the number, and finding where the two intersect.

7. Counting Practice

Have your child put a peg in each hole on the bottom of the board. Then have them count how many pegs there are.

For beginning counters, they’ll just count each peg individually. Older ones can start to see strategies like:

  • Counting by tens
  • Multiplying

Do you have Battleship?

If you do, I encourage you to drag out your game and play one of these variations soon. They’re a lot of fun.

After all, getting more out of board games is a great way to ensure your collection doesn’t just sit and gather dust!

Do you play any other variations of this game? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Looking for hide and seek variations to try? Here are ten of our favorites!

10 Exciting Hide and Seek Variations to Enjoy

My kids love playing hide and seek! It’s especially popular when we take the game outside.

But the regular version gets pretty boring at times. That why we’re always trying out new hide and seek variations.

I wanted to share 10 of our favorites with you. Try one of these out the next time you’re looking for an active activity for your family.

1. Hide and Goal Seek

When you combine traditional hide and seek with tag you get this game! The seeker closes his eyes and counts like normal while everyone hides. Then, he goes to find them.

The hiders have one goal–to get back to the home base without being tagged. We always use our flagpole as base. You’ll want to pick a spot that’s easily accessible in several directions.

If the seeker tags the hider before they make it back to base, that hider is out. If they make it to the base, they’re safe.

2. Sardines

I was first introduced to this book in elementary school when I was reading one of the Babysitter’s Club Little Sisters books. Karen played it with some friends.I’ve enjoyed it ever since!

Sardines are packed tightly in a little tin can. That’s the point of this game–to cram everyone into one hiding spot.

One person runs off to hide while everyone else counts. Then the seekers split up, and try to find the hider. When they do, they silently join in hiding. The game continues until only one person is left looking. It’s a ton of fun!

3. Wave

The newest version in our arsenal!  One person counts while everyone else hides.

As the seeker finds someone, that person has to tag along with the seeker. Except, if the extra person spots another person hiding, that person can wave at them.

That wave frees the extra person to run away from the seeker and go hide again. When everyone has been found and is still tagging along, the round is over.

It helps to have eyes in the back of your head for this one!

4. Themed Hide and Seek

This one is a little different. One person picks a theme, and then everyone who’s hiding has to follow that theme. It sounds confusing, but it’s not once you give it a try. Here are some of the ones we’ve used, hide:

  • By something green
  • Inside of something
  • With another person
  • Under something
  • In a bedroom
  • In the barn

It shortens the game play a little bit by really narrowing the hiding spaces available. Sometimes a short game of hide and seek is nice!

5. Hide the Button

I remember my Nanny playing this with my sisters and I way back when. So many memories!

It’s a different variation because nobody actually hides. Instead, an inanimate object (like a button) is hid.

Everyone else tries to find the button. It’s best to limit this one to a single room, making it perfect for a rainy day.

6. Blindfolded Seeker

The game Luigi’s Ghost Mansion (part of a game on the Wii U) inspired this version of Hide and Seek. Since you need a blindfold, it’s best played indoors.

It gets blindfolded . Everyone else hides around the room.

The seeker has to use the senses of listening and touch to track down where everyone is hiding. It’s a fun way to spend some time!

7. Walkie-Talkie Hide and Seek

A field trip in middle school was my first introduction to this variation of the game. We took a trip over to the Washington Coast, and were spending the weekend by Fort Casey in Western Washington.

The chaperones and the kids enjoyed a great round of walkie-talkie tag. We broke into two groups, and were each equipped with a walkie-talkie.

One group ran to hide and the other group had to find us. We could use the walkie-talkies to give clues, or send the other team on a wild-goose chase. It was loads of fun!

Now that we have a set of walkie-talkies, the kids and I have played a couple of times. The seekers favorite question is, “Let me hear what you hear right now.” The hiders hold the button on their walkie-talkie and broadcast the background noise for a few seconds. There are often clues in those noises that help everyone to be found!

8. Flashlight Hide and Seek

What do you do when you have a power outage on Christmas Eve? You play flashlight hide and seek of course!

We waited until it was dark (which didn’t take long in December!) and then gave the seeker a flashlight. Everyone else ran off to hide.

The seeker used the flashlight to find us. Sort of spooky hiding in the dark, but really fun! You could hide in really obvious places and as long as the flashlight beam didn’t hit you the seeker would never know you were there.

9. Water Balloon Hide and Seek

A fun summer twist, the seeker has a bag of water balloons. His job is to hit you with one when he finds you. If he misses, you get to run to base.

If you make it back to base, you get to throw a water balloon at the seeker! The kids love it!

10. Link Up Hide and Seek

For link up hide and seek, the seeker links arms with the first person she finds. Then the two stick together while finding someone else.

Player three also joins in the link-up. Continue until everyone is linked up by the arms. It’s pretty hard to move easily with so many people attached!

What Hide and Seek Variations Do You Enjoy?

I’d love to hear your favorite version of this classic game in the comments section below. We’re always game for trying a new one!

Interested in playing more active games? Here are some:

Indoor Bowling

Active Indoor Games for Families

Outdoor Fun for Families

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.



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.