No-prep game for kids: Dots and Lines

No-prep game for kids: Dots and Lines

Inside: Help kids learn about polygons and quadrilaterals with this no-prep game. You will be connecting, laughing, bonding, and learning all at the same time. Dots & Lines can also be played solo.

Do you need a no-prep game for kids that you can play anywhere? Our Dots & Lines game is great for the kitchen table, any waiting room, an airplane, or any time kids crave a connection. 


This game evolved from a classical dots and boxes game that my kids and I found too boring. Our variation offers endless possibilities and unexpected solutions. We never know what shapes we are going to end up with.

I like to use this game as a pick-me-up for a child who is having a bad day by allowing him/her to win without appearing to do so (and it always translates into a better day for me, a score for mommy after all). And, finally, this game is entertaining for parents (I am all for playing with my kids, but I don’t want to be bored to tears in the process). 


All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.


Dots & Lines 


What you need


A pen, pencil, or marker


What to do

Fill the page with a dozen or so dots. You can play with as many or as few dots as you like. The more dots, the longer the game. 

Take turns drawing a line between two dots.

The player who adds the fourth line to close a shape writes his initial inside the shape.


Note: your line can go through completed (closed) shapes, and you can add lines to the inside of shapes. As long as your line connects two dots it can go anywhere on your piece of paper.

The game ends when no more lines can be added.


Basically, every dot will be connected to all other dots on the page. The trick is to spot and claim as many four-sided polygons (closed figures with four straight sides) as you can. And remember the bodies (or the interiors) of the shapes can interlace, criss-cross and mingle. It might help to use different color pencils to mark the border of each win. 


Count the initials to determine who got the most shapes.


What’s in the game?

This game is a great way to learn about polygons and quadrilaterals. Polygon is a closed figure with three or more straight sides. Each line intersects exactly at the endpoints called vertices (or corners). The interior of the polygon is called its body. There are simple polygons—they do not intersect themselves  (i.e., concave polygon) and crossed polygons, or self-intersecting polygons (i.e., pentagram). There are regular polygons—all sides of equal length + all its interior angles are of equal size—and irregular polygons—can have sides of any length and angles of any size.


A quadrilateral is a polygon with four sides (“quad” means four; “lateral” means sides). All quadrilaterals are polygons. But not all polygons are quadrilaterals. Confused yet? The polygon with three sides is a triangle. The polygon with five sides is a pentagon.


The corners of the first quadrilateral (or four-sided polygon) are marked with stars. The corners of the second shape are marked with daisies. You probably noticed that it’s the same playing field. 

In this game, we are concentrating on simple, four-sided, irregular polygons. But feel free to try it with crossed or self-intersecting polygons. We try this from time to time. Be prepared for a very long game and lots of debating!


What’s your favorite no-prep game to play with kids?



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