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.
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.
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:
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 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.)
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).