The Domino Cascade

Knock Them Down!

A Rube Goldberg machine, at its essence, is a chain reaction. One of the simplest physical chain reactions to create is the domino cascade, also known as domino toppling. 

The easy peasy challenge for June is to set up a domino cascade, and/or get out of the way while your kids set them up and make them fall.

How to Topple Dominoes 

Here are basic instructions for domino toppling.

Here is a video tutorial with basic domino tricks.

The dominoes:

  • Game dominoes (also called playing dominoes) work fine for short lines; there are 28 in a set.
  • Dominoes are available at thrift stores, yard sales, or in new sets.
  • Building dominoes are specially designed for toppling.
  • Bulk Dominoes is the granddaddy of domino supplies and accessories for building. 

 Some domino cascade tips:

  • Build small lines (or tracks) on tables. Longer lines are less frustrating on a floor, so bumps don't start an unintended cascade. 
  • For more complex lines, remove some dominoes to create gaps while you work. If a cascade starts early, you only have to re-create part of the project.


If you don't have dominoes, or your kids want to extend the toppling, use other objects. The kids can topple:

  • books
  • Jenga pieces
  • blocks
  • CD or DVD cases

Dominoes in Science and Math

The study of toppling dominoes is applied mechanics. 

Here's a page to help explain some of the science of dominoes to younger kids

Here's a university-level academic paper that examines the principles that affect falling dominoes. (Click on the pdf to read the whole thing).

This explanation of domino dynamics from MIT's Technology Review covers the same material in simpler terms. 

Watch this cool video about the energy amplification of dominoes

Remember, even if the explanations are too advanced or not of interest to your children, they learn just by setting the dominoes up and toppling them.

Keep it fun! 

Dominoes in Art

Some artists use dominoes and domino toppling as their medium. They are called kinetic artists, and young Lily Hevesh is one of the best known.

Posted June 1st, 2018
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