Why are your kids obsessed with dominoes and other store collections?


As the Woolworths Domino Stars craze comes to an end, NSM Justine Atherton explores our drive to collect and why we can’t possibly do without numbers 23 and 44.

There’s a little craze that has been going round town at the moment. You may have heard of it, Woolworths Domino Stars. Sound familiar? Here’s the lowdown in case you’ve missed it. Woolworths gives you a free domino with every $20 spent. Each domino features a character from a Pixar film. The goal is to collect the set of 44 dominoes.

If you’re lucky, the person at the check-out might understand that two kids, plus one domino equals disaster, and slip you a few extra. If not, you can always stock up on laundry detergent.

If you log on to social media, you’re sure to see the posts of desperate parents. “I just need to find Nemo. Does anyone have number 10? Please!!!”

Enterprising individuals are even selling the dominoes on eBay (where a full set sells for about $100), Woolworths supermarkets are holding swap meets, and kids are trading in the schoolyard.

So what is it about collecting dominoes (and other items such as the previous Jamie Oliver garden produce stickers and the recent Super Animals cards) that’s sending us into a spin?

Consultant child and educational psychologist Andrew Greenfield thinks it’s simply a matter of advertising and parental involvement. ‘Kids like the idea of collecting a set of something; it just gives a sense of satisfaction,’ he says.

It also taps into a competitive streak, as kids compare their collection with those of their friends. What do you have? What am I missing? Can we swap?

Then there’s the need to keep up in the schoolyard. “People want to be able to fit in to some degree,’ says Dr Greenfield. ‘And if everyone’s talking about it they feel they have to keep up, just like when watching the latest TV programs.’

Helping to drive this, many parents are as keen as their offspring to collect the full set. As Dr Greenfield points out, it keeps the kids busy, off the iPad and away from the television, which can only be a good thing. It’s also a long-term task.

‘It encourages kids to be able to see things through. They can eventually get to the idea of having a full set, and there’s a certain logic to working out which ones you need and where they go,’ he adds.

No matter what the reason, kids have been driving their parents crazy with their collections for quite some time, and I’m not just talking in the past couple of years. Do you remember NRL cards? They came with a stick of chewing gum. What about Pokemon toys? Nokia phone charms? Or did you collect the perennial favourite, Matchbox cars? Most people collected something when they were growing up.

Woolworths launched its first Collectible range, the Aussie Animal cards, in September 2013. Since then we’ve had Baby Wildlife cards, Jamie’s Garden stickers, Super Animal cards and now the Pixar dominoes.

Mount Colah mum Jenny Pepper says: ‘We love the dominoes. It’s fun for the kids to collect them and they’re practising their counting, so it’s actually helping with their math.’

For my own two cents, I spent last weekend looking for Nemo because I knew it would complete my niece’s set and make her day. My only regret is that I haven’t collected them myself. I’d love to line them up, and watch as one by one they all fall down.

If you’re collecting the dominoes, for whatever reason, many stores have already run out of them and they officially came off the shelves today (14 April). Is that a sigh of relief, or are you still missing number 23?

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Have you been helping your kids to collect dominoes or become addicted to any of the other store collections? Why? Do you think it benefits your kids, or is it just a bit of fun? Let us know in the comments section below.


Justine Atherton is mum to two cheeky girls (3 and 18 months). She lives in Hornsby and is passionate about words and story-telling.