Domino Maps were born out of necessity, by accident. Like all parents during the pandemic, we tried to find screen-free activities for our kids. We wanted to save screen time for when it was a must. We have enough plastic toys to be played with only a handful of times. We needed something different.
So, we bought dominos. Yes, those dominos. The kind you line up to knock down. We had no idea that there was a ‘technical’ name for playing with dominos. It’s called ‘domino toppling.’ Typically, our kids would line up 30 or 40 dominos, knock them over, high-five, then do the same line over again. That lasted about 15 minutes before they were onto the next thing. Hoping to spark their creativity, we showed them videos of massive domino toppling layouts. The videos had the opposite effect as the patterns were simply too complex and out of reach for them to replicate. Our kids enjoyed the dominos but needed something to spur their engagement.
One night, our seven-year old lined up dominos on our kitchen table. As usual, the dominos were in a straight line. With intensity and focus, he toppled them three times. Seeing his concentration and enjoyment, we wanted to keep him building. We found a piece of string to lay on the table in a wave pattern for him to follow. The light bulb went on in his head. He got it. He wanted more.
On our home printer, we designed basic domino skills to master like turns and loops. That evolved into designing patterns taking up 18 pages of printer paper taped together MacGyver-style. We called them ‘Domino Maps.’ Each Domino Map would take him about 45 minutes to complete on the first try. Next, he would challenge himself to see how quickly he could complete each Domino Map. Not wanting to be left out, our four-year old got in on the action. It was an ideal activity to build fine motor skills while teaching him concentration and patience. Exactly what the doctor ordered for a preschooler! That’s when we realized we may have stumbled into creating something that could be of value to other parents.
Domino Maps are a great rainy-day activity. Kids can play independently or with others, with little direct supervision.
It builds fine motor skills. It teaches persistence and patience. Domino Maps take a reasonable amount of time to complete. It gives kids a sense of accomplishment, which is hard to find with many activities. Most importantly for us: there’s no screen involved. With the pandemic putting kids in front of screens indefinitely, anything we could do to get our kids away from screens is a win.