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Get the kids! Here are the benefits of playing Mexican Train Dominoes with all ages

Kids and teens who participate in a robust family game night enjoy a lot of benefits beyond the fun of the game. Mexican Train Dominoes is a classic domino game that promotes math and numeracy skills, probability and critical thinking, social skills, motor skills, and emotional and social intelligence. That's a lot for one game to do, but it's one that benefits older adults, younger kids, and teens and adults.

Not familiar with Mexican Train Dominoes? Get caught up on the basics

If you've never played Mexican Train Dominoes before, it's a classic domino game designed for up to six players, but traditionally played with four. You'll need:

Each player starts with a random selection of twelve dominoes and each player draws from the "boneyard", or the public pile of leftover domino tiles. How many dominoes you have may vary depending on the size of your set and number of players.

Your goal is to match up dominoes by pip count. Play moves in a clockwise direction where each player gets a turn and takes an extra turn if they match up a domino of the same number pip count on each end.

The game ends when a player has played all their available dominoes. All other players then count up the pips of their remaining dominoes. This is their "score," and like golf, the lowest score wins after some predetermined number of rounds. Twelve rounds are traditional (one for each double in a typical double twelve set).

There are a bunch of house rules for Mexican Train, as well as variations and ways to play multiple dominoes, using regular dominoes depending on your player count, and variations on the "public train," typically just called the "Mexican Train" (don't worry; it's not a racist or derogatory term).

Mexican Train Dominoes promotes educational, physical, and social skills

Numeracy and math skills

Domino games involve a lot of math, but Mexican Train literally doubles this with larger numbers. For young kids learning to count, the colorful dots and matching can help them practice number recognition, develop a sense of quantity, and can aid in addition, subtraction, and multiplication skills.

Adults can help kids learn these many benefits by asking kids to help keep track of scores.

Probability and chance skills

Mexican Train Dominoes is mostly chance coupled with a little bit of skill. Part of what makes it fun is no one person can have a strategy that works 100% of the time. So kids can learn how to combine probability and chance as they take turns placing tiles, drawing new tiles from the boneyard, and what happens when several doubles get strung together by competing players.

Pattern recognition

Kids analyzing domino tiles are intuitively practicing pattern recognition. Since the colors form patterns as well as the dot layouts on every single tile, all the dominoes become a big pile of patterns that need "unscrambling".

Subitizing dominoes

Subitizing is the skill of recognizing quantities without counting them. It's just like guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar: you have to recognize how many tiles you likely started with, how many the next person has, how many you have, and visualizing the remaining tiles in the boneyard.

Mexican Train Dominoes enhances the ability of kids to subitize based on patterns, tile sizes, and estimating many tiles based on one tile.

Strategy and planning

While Mexican Train Dominoes is a game designed mostly around chance, there is some skill. When you play double dominoes, opting to unload your highest-pip dominoes early, and even strategies around the first domino you play all abound. Playing doubles, when to play on another player's train, when to play on public trains, and the Mexican Train all add up to quite a bit of strategy in gameplay.

Other players can assist young children with their strategy by questioning moves and prompting hints their move might not be ideal. Which also improves their social skills.

Social skills in domino games

Domino games played with multiple players enhance children's ability to take turns, share, negotiate game rules, ask clarifying questions, and think deeply about their next turn. Plus, like all games, it helps them engage in friendly competition, work as a team if they're playing with another adult or friends, and improve social bonding.

Fine motor skills improve playing dominoes

Mexican Train has multiple lines of trains, often radiating in numerous angles. As play passes children may have to reach for a far-away domino train, their own train, and keep all those tiles neatly organized for everyone's enjoyment. Grasping, manipulating, arranging, table tapping, and moving dominoes to a particular train improves their fine motor skills. This is also useful for older adults, too.

Mexican Train improves focus and attention

As anyone with teenagers can attest, any ability to get kids to children to put down a screen, engage in analog games, or even go outside for outdoor play can be challenging.

When kids play dominoes, they will have to pay attention to "the whole table.” They'll need to keep track of who played what double or what the previous tile someone laid on the Mexican Train. They'll need to know when someone chose to simply pass instead of play, indicating they may be in need of a specific tile or become exposed to opening that player's train.

The more people play analog games together, the more experienced kids and teens get not staring at a screen. We promote playing our online Mexican Train Dominoes game, but everything in moderation. Plus, our game is popular among adults, and it serves the purpose of providing entertainment when you can't get around other people.

Playing Mexican Train helps kids and teens focus, learn a sense of empathy toward other players, understand the importance of attention and fair play, feel the resounding sense of success and failure, and develop the mental muscles to avoid distractions.

Let the kids play Mexican Train Dominoes online for free

When you're ready to learn more about Mexican Train Dominoes, practice for free in your browser — no downloads required. You can learn the ropes and even help other players learn how to play in real tabletop games with family and friends.