This LEGO domino chain reaction STEM challenge is a simple and fun activity that will teach your kids how energy is stored, released, and transferred.
A domino effect, or chain reaction, is when one event sets off a chain of similar events.
A domino activity is a great way to introduce the concepts of cause and effect and kinetic energy. But if you don’t have the traditional dominoes at home, no worries! You can use our beloved LEGO bricks as dominoes!
How to Set Up LEGO Dominoes
There really is no rule to set up your own LEGO dominoes chain. All you need are LEGO bricks! We used 2×4 LEGO bricks for our dominoes, but you can certainly experiment with other sizes.
You can definitely do this with preschoolers and kindergarteners, but it does take some patience. This activity is a great way for your younger kids to practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they try and place the LEGO bricks correctly.
I was originally guiding my kids to set up easy patterns and showed them how to build a straight-line domino topple. But of course simple is boring, so they took it upon themselves to use the LEGO dominoes to build different letters of the alphabet. Who am I to stop them from an alphabet learning opportunity?
They ended up building the letters “s,” “e,” and “o.” It’s like they know what mommy’s passion lies at work – SEO (search engine optimization)!
Tips to Successfully Topple Your LEGO Dominoes
If you are new to domino toppling, here are some helpful tips that will save you and your kid a lot of frustration.
You need a very flat and hard surface to set up your LEGO dominoes. It would be extremely difficult to topple your LEGO bricks properly on rugs or carpets. You can set up the dominoes on a table, but if the table is wobbly or moves easily, you may end up destroying your domino chain by accident.
Make a Number of Safety-Breaks
It’s a good idea to make a number of safety-breaks in the sequence, especially if you are working with an active kid who can’t sit still.
Make your dominoes in sections, and leave a few tiles in between the sections so that if there is a piece gets accidentally knocked over, it will only topple the LEGO bricks in that section and not set off the entire pattern.
Setting up a straight-line domino chain isn’t too difficult. However, when you want to make more complex patterns, you inevitably need to turn your LEGO dominoes.
When designing turns, make sure that the distance between dominoes is closer on the inside of the turn. Also, make sure the angle between each tile making up the turn isn’t too great. Otherwise, your LEGO piece would hit the next one and just push it instead of toppling it over. We learned this through many trials and errors.
The Science Behind LEGO Dominoes
Playing LEGO dominoes is a great way to teach your kids about kinetic energy.
When a LEGO piece is standing upright, it is full of potential energy. However, when the brick falls, the force of gravity turns that potential energy into kinetic energy. In simple words, kinetic energy is the energy that the LEGO piece has because it’s in motion.
As a LEGO piece falls, energy is converted from potential to kinetic. And this change creates a chain reaction, causing one LEGO after another to topple.
Even though this is not science, you can use playing LEGO dominoes as a parenting opportunity. You can explain to your kid how he can trigger an event by a simple act that will cause a series of other events and have a huge impact.
For example, you can explain to your kid how working hard right now can impact the rest of his life. He can get good grades at school and get into a good college. From there, he can get a great job. Then, because he makes good money, he can provide for his family.
Final Thoughts on LEGO Dominoes
Designing domino chains certainly takes a lot of trial and errors. For example, we tried toppling the LEGO bricks one way and realized that the bricks get stuck on the studs. Therefore, you have to topple the bricks so that the side with the studs hit the non-stud side of the next LEGO piece.
And due to the turns in “e,” it took us about 5 tries before we figured out the best angle to turn the LEGO pieces.
My 6-year-old did surprisingly well with the dominoes. He did get frustrated when his little sister kicked his LEGO domino chain by accident and knocked over all the LEGO. Otherwise, he was very patient in creating and building his pattern.
I hope your kids liked building the LEGO dominoes as much as mine did!
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