Domino Blocks were first made for use in our family child care program for kids to stand up and tumble like this:
The kids in our program loved them–they became one of those played-with-every-day items–so we included instructions for making them in our book, Do It Yourself Early Learning. Eventually, we started selling them because some people wanted the blocks, but did not want to make them themselves. (I plan to do a blog post with DIY instructions, but it has to wait until I cut a new batch so I can get fresh photos. In the meantime, you can contact me for instructions if you want to make them but don’t want the book.)
Now that we’ve made it through that bit of back story, here are some of the wonderful ways we’ve seen kids use these simple blocks over the years.
Building tall towers was one of the first things kids started doing after we plopped a tote of Domino Blocks into our play space. They built all kinds of towers. Some were made just using domino blocks, and some incorporated other blocks. Towers made by combining Domino Blocks and our Hardboard Blocks 1 were one of the most popular ways to build.
Kids built up, but the also built out. Domino blocks also became roads for toy cars. Kids would spend long hunks of time creating their block roadways and then even more time navigating the roads with cars and trucks.
Domino Blocks also became the go-to item for making signs for the block play area. It started when a couple kids wanted to add signage to their roads so cars would know when to stop, were to park, and which way to turn. Since we usually had 300-400 of these blocks in our playroom at any time, we all agreed to use some of them to make signs. Over the years we had Stop signs, Go signs, Grocery Store signs, Hospital signs, and more.
Domino Blocks also become block play people. We’d tape photos of people onto blocks or let kids draw their own figures.
Domino Blocks were popular beyond the block area too. Like empty cardboard boxes, these blocks are blank slates for symbolic play. Over the years, kids used them to play out all kinds of narratives. They were used as mobile phones, bread, cereal, remote controls, pirate treasure, ninja throwing stars, and more. I remember seeing a 3 year old create two stacks of domino blocks about 4 blocks tall, stand on his toes in front of the stacks, lowered his heels onto them, and slide across the floor to the party in his ‘high heels’. I certainly didn’t imagine that when I cut the first batch of these blocks with tumbling in mind.
Toddlers and young preschoolers tended to loved loading Domino Blocks into bags, backpacks, boxes, and pockets and hauling them around. Sometimes they hauled with purpose–the blocks were groceries, gold coins, horse feed, or bricks. Other times, they just hauled for the sake of hauling.
With hauling comes dumping. It’s the way of the world. Many of those bags, backpacks, boxes, and pockets were randomly dumped–usually as far from where they were stored as the child could get. And with glee–the dumping was always a very happy and exciting activity. FYI: Dumped Domino Blocks are much less annoying to pick up than dumped LEGO.
Then they would go back for another load.
All the dumping was a bit annoying at clean up time. It was also 100% developmentally appropriate for the kids who were doing it, so we learned to live with it.
Kids used the Domino Blocks to create their own Candyland-ish games. They’d build their game boards with blocks, negotiate the rules, and play.
We also made our own memory games by applying stickers to the blocks. These DIY games were a lot more durable than store-bought cardboard ones. We found it was possible to cheat with our DIY version when one kid memorized the wood grain on each block AND remembered which sticker was on the flip side.
With a bit of hot glue, you can use Domino Blocks to make play dough stamps.
Because we had so many of them, we let Domino Blocks become part of process-based craft projects. They were painted, glued, taped, markered, glittered, and more. Sometime decorated blocks made it back to the block area, sometimes they went home with the decorator.
If you line up some Domino Blocks and draw a picture on them you can make a puzzle.
Kids that just Haul and Dump tend to grow up and get interested in other things. Sometimes they start paying attention to letters and words. As that happened, we added letters and words–most often names, because that’s what the kids requested–to Domino Blocks. With those blocks in hand, the interested-in-letters-and-words kids could play with letters and words.
From time to time, we even let Domino Blocks join in water and other sensory play. We just made sure they were not submerged for days at a time and allowed to fully dry after the play.
Don’t Forget The Tumbling
As you can see, Domino Blocks are a very flexible and fun toy that kids love to engage with, but with all the ways to use them, we can’t help be wrap up with a reminder that they were first made for tumbling:
As always, we’d love to read your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments.