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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).

 

Sibling love is a beautiful thing! If you need tips on how to encourage love between your kids, read this post!

Help Build Sibling Love with These 7 Strategies

Many people are surprised by how well my kids get along. My oldest enjoys playing with her younger siblings, despite the age difference. The younger kids play together for hours every day. They aren’t perfect, but there’s definitely sibling love in this house.

Sibling love doesn’t just happen automatically. I’ve learned over the years that there are definite strategies to encourage this. Here are seven of my favorites.

1. Sibling Play Time

Our daily quiet time is an hour and a half. After that, we enjoy a quick snack and then it’s time for sibling play time.

Each day, the kids pair off and go play together for half an hour. I spend this time with the child whose day it is.

We rotate who everyone plays with, to keep variety in this time. My goal is for each set of siblings to play together once during the week.

Some of their favorite activities are:

  • Going on a walk
  • Turning a box into something
  • Watching a TV show
  • Playing a 2-person game
  • Using the car rug and cars

This time is dedicated to spending quality time with each other. The siblings take turns picking the activity, which helps squash any squabbles.

2. Spend Time at Home

One benefit of living in the middle of nowhere is that there aren’t many playmates around. My kids play together or they play alone. Those are pretty much the only options.

We stay home most days, giving them plenty of time to play. If we’re out and about constantly, the bickering starts.

3. Invest in Multi-Age Toys

If there’s a gap in age between your kids, be mindful when you buy toys. Look for ones that are safe and fun for a variety of ages.

Here are some ideas:

  • Dress up clothes
  • Fort building kits
  • Puzzles
  • Car rug & cars
  • Train tracks
  • Board Games
  • Construction toys
    • LEGOs
    • Lincoln Logs
    • Mega Bloks
    • K’Nex

The kids can all play together with these. They can create fun scenarios like Andy in Toy Story, and play for hours.

4. Encourage Independent Activities Too

Spending too much time together can have the opposite effective when it comes to sibling love. Since we are home all day most days, that’s a lot of togetherness.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so we have our daily quiet time. This is the time for independent play. The kids stay in their own areas with their own activities for ninety minutes.

By the time the timer beeps, everyone is definitely ready to play with each other once again.

5. Don’t Make Them Share Everything

Most of our toys are family toys. They are meant for everyone.

But, some toys are special. The kids don’t have to share those with their siblings. Everyone has their favorite stuffed animal. The older kids have some special LEGO sets or Pokemon cards that are their personal possessions.

Special toys don’t need shared.

Letting your kids have some things that are just theirs allow them to be more accepting of sharing other toys. It also helps keep the fighting over those special things to a minimum.

Less fighting = more loving.

6. Don’t Compare Your Kids

Everyone is unique and has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your kids.

Doing so is a good way to build discontentment. That’s not what you’re going for.

So focus on the positives of each child. Don’t use words like, “Why don’t you do x,y, or z like your sister?” Let them be unique. Encourage them to be themselves instead of trying to imitate someone else.

7. Speak Kind Words

We’ll often spend a few minutes to share kind words about members of our family. I’ll ask everyone to think of something they love about one family member.

Then we all share.

Next, I name another member of the family. We keep going until we’ve covered everyone.

It only takes a few minutes, but it really teaches the kids to focus on the positive traits. It’s also a special feeling to hear everyone say kind things about you.

So urge your kids to use their words carefully, and speak kindness.

How do you encourage sibling love?

I’d love to hear your best tips! Please share in the comments.

Photo credit: Jenn Richardson via Unsplash

Foster creativity in your child with these simple tips.

10 Simple Ways to Unleash Creativity in Your Child

Creativity drives innovation. It’s an essential life skill, and sadly, one that’s being looked over time and time again.

It’s time to fight back against the over-scheduled calendar, and invite creativity into your family’s life. Your child’s future bosses will thank you!

Creativity doesn’t take much planning. It actually doesn’t require you to do anything. You get to sit back and watch your child unleash the amazing power of imagination that’s already inside. Here are ten simple ways to make it happen.

1. Bring Out the Art Supplies & No Pinterest Inspiration

Set out some basic art supplies, and let your child create. Don’t have an end result in mind that you found on Pinterest. Let your child think about what to do, and then figure out how to do it.

It doesn’t take much. My kids love it when I set out:

  • Crayons
  • Paper (printer & construction)
  • Scissors
  • Glue Sticks

That’s everything they need to create some pretty amazing things. Then everyone helps clean up and we all share what we’ve made. Here’s a post with more tips on simplifying art with multiple ages.

2. Let Your Child Make Up a Game

Ask your child to invent a game, and then play it. If your child is stuck, break it into simple steps:

  1. Go find three items that you want to use in the game
  2. Think about the end of the game–will you all work together for a goal, or will there be a winner? What does winning look like?
  3. Are there any rules we need to know about?

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a fly swatter to slap the tops of tin cans around the house, or if you’re laying on your bellies trying to slide plastic dishes into a masking tape circle. What matters is that you’re allowing your child to think the game through, and be in charge of making it happen. So empowering for a child!

3. Go Outside without a Purpose

Head outside and sit and read or something while your kids play. Let them figure out what to do and how to do it. Of course you’ll be keeping an eye on them to make sure they’re not throwing apples into the road or tying the toddler up to the tree, but unless there’s a huge issue, try to let them be.

4. Turn on Music and Dance

There’s something about music that encourages kids to get up and move freely. Turn on some music and let everyone dance to their heart’s content. There’s no special moves to learn, no steps they have to copy. Just let them be free!

5. Stop Solving All the Problems

If you’re hovering over your child just waiting for minor problems to arise so you can swoop in and save the day, I have a news flash for you. You are not doing your child any favors.

Critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills are learned through experience, not observation. So sit down and let your child figure out how to get their toy tractor out of the hole it’s stuck in. Let them figure out how to climb to the top of the playground equipment by themselves.

As they learn and experience, they’ll be gaining vital skills. And you’ll actually get a chance to sit down for a minute as you watch your child grow right before your eyes.

6. Allow Unstructured Time Daily

Boredom is not a problem that you need to solve. It’s a problem your kids can solve. But, if they’re structured from the time they get up to the time they crawl wearily into bed at night, they never have to decide what to do.

They’ll never learn how to manage their own time, how to pursue their interests on their own time, or anything except how to follow a schedule that someone else made.

Give your child a chance to be a kid. Put a quiet play time into your day. Let them play on their own, without anyone telling them what they have to do.

It’s during this time that kids can stop and reflect about the day. When they can do something they want to do, try new things, and just play.

7. Build a Simple Fort

An inside fort encourages creative play. Here’s how I make a simple one for my kids:

I turn the couch around so the back of it is facing into the living room.

Then I drag two chairs from the dining room table over and set them out a ways away from the couch.

Next I have the kids find big blankets and rubber bands. We stretch the blanket over the back of the couch and onto the chairs. Then we secure the corners of the blanket onto the chairs with rubber bands.

You can also just drape a large sheet over your dining room table and make a cave style fort. That’s even simpler!

Then, give your kids time to play inside the fort. Let them make a reading corner and sit and read if they want. Let them gather up toy balls as their “food” and create a little society of their own inside.

Just let them play, inside of the fort.

8. Make House Rules for Games

Does your family love board games as much as mine does? If you do, you might already have your house rules for your favorites.

House rules are exceptions or changes to the rules that you create. They make the game better suited for your individual family.

They’re also a great way to foster creativity. They show your child that you can think outside the box and don’t always have to do everything the directions say you should.

To unleash even more creativity, let your child come up with a rule change to try. It’ll make them think about the game, and how they think they can make it better. That requires some pretty high levels of thinking skills, but is also fun!

9. Buy Open Ended Toys

If every toy in your house has a distinct purpose, you’re really limiting the amount of creativity that can occur.

Kids for years thrived with simple toys. Those simple things, combined with some imagination, led to hours of open-ended play.

So ditch the battery operated toys, and opt for:

  • Blocks
  • Construction sets
  • Train tracks that can have multiple configurations, not glued down
  • Baby dolls
  • A car rug and several cars

And any other toys that foster creative play.

10. Celebrate Creative Thinking

When your child suggests something, don’t be so quick to blow them off. Let them try putting ketchup on their ice cream even though you think it’s disgusting.

You don’t want your child to be you. You want to encourage them to be the best self they can be. They have to be allowed, and encouraged, to stretch their wings, and fly a bit. So don’t squash them every time they try to be different.

Let them be creative in the kitchen, in play, and in talking about the future. Just listen, and celebrate their creativity.

Instead of saying, “That sounds gross!” say, “I never thought of doing that!”

Instead of saying, “You can’t do that!” say, “I’m not sure how it’ll work, but I’d love to see you try!”

Use positive words that encourage creative thinking.

Help your child build creativity with these simple ideas.

How do you unleash creativity in your child?

Please share your best tips in the comments so we can all benefit from your experience!

Do your kids love bubbles? Here are 10 different learning activites to try with your kids.

10 Learning Activities with Bubbles

My kids love bubbles! I think most kids do–they’re beautiful, floating balls that you can reach out and pop.

If you’re looking for different ways to incorporate learning into your summer days, I encourage you to bring out the bubbles. To inspire you to get started, here are 10 different learning activities with bubbles.

The bubbles are so much fun the kids don’t even realize they’re learning!

Some of these activities need a bubble machine. Others just use a good old-fashioned bubble wand. Use what you have!

Here are 10 different ways to learn with bubble play:

1. ABC Bubble Run

Put just a bit of bubble solution in your bubble machine and turn it on. The kids are set for their have to run through the bubbles, singing the ABC song.

Once they reach the end of the song, they start over again at A. They get a point each time they complete the song.

Since no one knows exactly when the bubbles will stop, they have to sing as fast as they can to get points. It’s a great way to practice the ABCs at a different speed!

2. Count & Pop

While the bubbles are coming out full blast,challenge your kids to pop as many as they can. As they poke each one, they have to keep track of how many they pop.

Counting practice anyone?

3. Bubble Rhyme

As your kids run around the yard, run after them as you blow bubbles. When one of your bubbles hits someone, give them a word.

They have to come up with a rhyming word. If desired, you can also pass off the bubble wand.

4. Sight Word Bubbles

A little bit of prep work is required for this one, but it’s great practice for early readers. Use a sharpie to write sight words on a bunch of index cards. Now, lay them out on the grass.

Let the kids take turns blowing bubbles with a bubble wand. They have to read the word that one of their bubbles lands on first.

You can keep adding new cards to keep this game fresh all summer long.

5. Addition Practice

One person blows as many bubbles as possible while everyone else counts how many there were.

Then another person blows more bubbles. Count those ones as well, but start over from 1.

Now, add the two numbers and see how many bubbles there were in all. A fun way to practice addition!

6. Watch the Wind

To aid in a weather study, you can use bubbles to help you “see” the wind. Just set up your bubble machine on a windy day.

Then, talk about which way the wind is blowing. See how hard it’s blowing. After a while, start looking for other signs that it’s windy. Perhaps you’ll notice the trees moving, or the grass rustling.

7. Adjective Practice

Once the bubble machine starts putting out a ton of bubbles, ask your kids to think of as many words as possible to describe what they see.

This activity expands vocabulary, and helps your kids learn more about adjectives. Here are some of the words my crew thought of:

  • sparkly
  • round
  • wet
  • glistening
  • gliding
  • floating
  • clear
  • big
  • tiny

There’s many ways to describe a bubble!

8. Bubble Art

Mix up some of your own bubble solution using dish soap, water, and food coloring. You’ll actually be mixing three different batches–one for each of the primary colors. You can use plastic cups or pie pans to make your solution in.

Now let your kids blow bubbles onto white art paper. Let them experiment with different colors. As the bubbles pop, they leave behind a neat, colorful effect.

You can talk about secondary colors if you have any of the primary colors touch.

9. Bubble Experiment

The kids have exactly 5 minutes to round-up as many things around the house and yard that they think will make bubbles.

Once they bring back their collection, pour your solution into a large pie pan. Then let the kids take turns dipping in what they found and trying to make a bubble.

Here are some we’ve tried:

  • An old-fashioned metal potato masher
  • A slotted spoon
  • A lid for a bucket that had a hole
  • A wire coat hanger bent
  • A plastic bracelet
  • Their finger and thumb bent into a circular shape

For the scientific piece, have your kids each make a prediction about each item. Then test their theories and talk about what you need to actually make a bubble.

10. Frozen Bubbles

Carefully blow some bubbles onto a plate covered in plastic wrap. Then, working as quickly as you can, stick the plate in the freezer.

You have to walk carefully, as you don’t want them to pop.

Close the freezer door, and ask your kids to draw a picture of what they’ll find in 1 hour. You’ll get their brains going!

In one hour, go pull the plate out. Was what you found close to what the kids thought they’d see?

How Do You Bubble?

Please share your favorite bubble activities in the comment section below–I can’t wait to try out more of them with my kids!

Photo Credit: Sebastian Pichler via Unsplash