How to Play Dominoes With Kids

Dominoes can teach toddlers beginning number-sense skills.
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If your kid's favorite TV characters are beginning to feel like family members, wrestle away the remote and give your little one a glimpse into the old-school way of enjoying free time. Dominoes provide fun number-sense activities that help prepare your child for preschool, introducing him to educational play. The continuous domino knockdown might get on your nerves, but that's only one of the ways you can use dominoes together, and anything that keeps your little one engrossed and occupied is worthy of appreciation.

Spread the domino tiles out on a flat surface, face up. Before you play any games or set up any knockdowns, just let your child enjoy looking at those flat pieces, feeling the dots, and noticing that some pieces have lots of dots and some have a few. While your child familiarizes himself with those cool little tiles, reflect back to your own rainy-day domino games.

Show your tot how to line up domino tiles in a row, standing each one up vertically on its edge. Assist him in lining them up just so, with the proper number of space between them for the spectacular knockdown you know is coming. Then introduce your toddler to the "domino effect." Hold his finger and use it to push over the first domino in the lineup. Enjoy the clanking, falling, and instant destruction that follows. Since he'll want to do it again and again and again, take the opportunity to give a little lesson on distances. How far can you put the domino before the knockdown won't work? Does it work if you put them too close? Can you do a corner or a circle without the dominoes being too far apart?

Take advantage of your child's new domino obsession by enticing him into a counting lesson. Place a domino tile with one dot in front of him. Point to the dot and say "one." Ask your child to point to the dot and repeat, "one." Repeat this process for tiles that show two and three dots. Ask your tot, "How many dots on this domino?" to promote independent counting. Allow your domino dominator to line up a tile on its end each time he counts the dots correctly. At the culmination of his counting lesson, he gets his reward as he knocks down the domino lineup with gusto.

Show your child that in addition to placing dominoes on end, he can line them up flat by matching the number of dots on the end of one domino to those on the end of another domino. Show him a domino with one dot and help him find another domino with one dot. Match the ends up together and then celebrate with cheers and claps at his success. Continue matching until either the domino supply or your child's attention span has run out.

Play a good old-fashioned game of dominoes. Place the dominoes dot-side down and shuffle them by moving them around at random. Have your child pick seven dominoes, and you do the same. Take turns connecting matching domino ends or blank ends from your pile to those in play, creating an L-shape on the board when running out of space. A player who doesn't have an appropriate domino to put down has to pick one from the dot-side-down pile. The player to run out of dominoes first is the winner.

Taylor DiVico is a professional songwriter, content writer, fiction novelist and poet with more than 15 years of experience. DiVico holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. from Syracuse University.