Building with LEGO

How we got into LEGO

We introduced the standard LEGO bricks to my son around the age of 5 1/2 to 6, opting for them over LEGO Duplo. Although he occasionally reverted to Duplo due to the familiarity and because it was a bit easier to handle, he quickly realized how many possibilites the small LEGO offered compared to Duplo, so those bricks became his favourites. 

I have to admit that I was never really “good” at building with LEGO because we didn’t have much of it at home when I was younger and, truth be told, I wasn’t particularly interested in it. Fortunately, my boyfriend is quite the opposite, so most of what my son learned so far about building, he either learned on his own or by observing my boyfriend while he built all kinds of different things. That said, by the age of 6 or 7, my son was already building much better models of basically anything, than I will ever be capable of. He simply understands LEGO way better than I do but I still try to experiment and improve my building skills as well.

LEGO, Space Ship, building

In this context I’ve actually realised in the past few years that adults (myself included) way too often think inside the box when it comes to how things are *supposed* to look like. Our perfectionist tendencies often lead to frustration when our creations do not look *exactly* the way we had imagined them, causing us to miss out on all the fun. Moreover, with this mindset we don’t get anything done…

For instance: I occasionally find myself spending half an hour to build even the most simple structures while my son has already assembled three different spaceships with all kinds of different functions and properties.

LEGO, building, creativity

Children simply go about this very differently than we do. While they may have a somewhat specific idea of what they want to build, children maintain a remarkable flexibility, both in reaching their goals and accepting the final outcome. In contrast, adults are often obsessed with building *exactly* what they have envisioned, allowing little room for deviations and sometimes getting stuck in the process.

Children are usually not like that. If something does not work out, they make a new attempt, go about it in a different way. Although there may be some moments of frustration, children show much more flexibility and openness than their grown-up counterparts. They build, take everything apart 10 times and always rebuild it differently. The final result does not necessarily have to be what we would consider realistic. What matters to children is having fun and that, whatever they build, works for them. The rest is imagination and creativity. 

I find this a very admirable and desirable attitude and it always makes me realise how much we can learn from our children.

LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft
LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft

Basic stones offer considerable creative potential, that’s for sure, but the addition of a variety of bricks significantly expands possibilities and stimulates creativity. Having a diverse range of bricks at hand allows for more detailed building and more complex models. In my experience (it might be different for you of course!), once you and your children want to build more elaborate constructs, relying on basic stones alone may become limiting.

LEGO vs. no-name alternatives

While it is true that LEGO can be a bit pricey, investing in the original product is often worth it for several reasons:

  • Durable Material and Colors: LEGO bricks, even those which are over two decades old, maintain their durability and vibrant colors while cheaper alternatives may vary in quality and color
  • Secure Connections: LEGO bricks  connect securely, preventing accidental loosening during play and ensuring stable constructions
  • Safety Standards: LEGO sets adhere to strict safety standards, ensuring that the materials used are safe for users of all ages (e.g. no toxic materials or sharp edges). Cheaper alternatives may not meet the same safety regulations, posing potential risks, especially for younger builders
  • Extensive Range of Sets: LEGO offers an unparalleled array of sets based on popular movies, series, games, etc., appealing to both children and adults.
  • Resale Value: Even if you decide to sell your LEGO bricks eventually, the resale price is much higher for original LEGO because everyone is aware of the quality and durability of this product
  • Global Support and Warranty: LEGO provides excellent customer support globally and offers warranties on their products. Choosing original LEGO bricks ensures that you have access to support services and can easily replace defective pieces. Cheaper alternatives may not offer the same level of customer support or warranty coverage.
LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft, seaplane, water plane
LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft, Creeper Mine

Where to start if you plan to get LEGO for your kids?

Acquiring second-hand LEGO is a fantastic option if you have the opportunity. The durability of these bricks ensures that they typically remain in excellent condition. You just might have to clean them – for instance in the washing machine – if they have spent a lot of time in a box on someones’s attic. In order to clean them, put the LEGO bricks inside a pillowcase and a simple washing machine cycle should do the trick – making second-hand LEGO a cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice.

While it might prove difficult to find sellers, since many people hold onto LEGO for potential future generations, exploring online platforms, flea markets, second-hand stores, or asking friends if they know somebody who knows somebody… can potentially be successful. 

For those considering new LEGO purchases, for whatever reason, here are some recommendations:

  • Start with Sets Featuring Basic Bricks: Beginners often find sets with basic bricks both enjoyable and less expensive.
  • Special Offers, Flash Sales or Promotions: Keep an eye out for flash sales, holiday promotions, and special events where LEGO sets may be offered at reduced prices (Black Friday etc.)
  • Open-Box or Gently Used Sets: Explore the option of purchasing open-box or gently used LEGO sets, which can be significantly cheaper than brand-new ones. Online marketplaces, auction sites, or local LEGO enthusiast groups may offer these options
  • Compare Prices Across Retailers: Before making a purchase, compare prices across different retailers. Some may offer better deals, promotions, or exclusive sets that can help you save money on the LEGO sets you want
  • Set Bundles and Combos: Explore bundled sets or combo deals that offer multiple LEGO sets at a discounted price. Look for phrases like “LEGO set bundles” or “combo discounts” to find cost-effective options for expanding your collection
  • Consider Gift Opportunities: Given the fact that LEGO is rather pricey, consider purchasing new sets as birthday or Christmas presents. You can even pool resources with other family members to share the cost
  • Wait for Clearance Sales: Be patient and wait for clearance sales at the end of a season or promotional period. Retailers often discount older sets to make room for new inventory, providing an opportunity to snag LEGO sets at a lower cost
  • Consider Smaller Sets or Themes: If budget is a concern, consider focusing on smaller sets or exploring themes that are generally more budget-friendly. This allows you to continue building your collection without breaking the bank

Be warned though: LEGO can be very addictive and you might find yourself looking for new sets not only as a present for your offspring but because you yourself want to build more, greater, versatile buildings and sceneries 😉

LEGO Pirate Ship 3-in-1

LEGO, building, creativity, Pirate Ship

On the wishlist of my son for 2021 was – unsurprisingly – more LEGO because honestly you can never have too many bricks. I get that 😂. While not every wish wish could be fulfilled, we were particularly drawn to this new version of a pirate ship because … well it’s simply an amazing ship… pirate or not. What makes this ship really amazing is the fact that it offers three different builds,  including a Pirate’s Inn and a Pirate Island. Granted, it is not exactly a budget-friendly set but with its 1260 pieces and the creative possibilities we found it to be a worthwile investment. Although you cannot assemble all three builds simultaneously with the included bricks, the set provides all the necessary instructions, allowing you to recreate each build at least similar to the original, if you have enough bricks to play around with.

After all, with LEGO, the possibilities are as boundless as your imagination, and that’s what makes it truly special.

By the way: this is what the LEGO 3-in-1 Pirate Ship looked like after 4 hours of focused building, with breaks for dinner and a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve, no help, only a few minutes before midnight – that’s how much he enjoyed building it. 

LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft, Pirate Ship

More ideas

Despite myself not really being a big fan of the Minecraft videogame, LEGO sets such as The Creeper Mine, or The Crafting Box have inspired us to build for hours and hours straight and we always came up with new and entirely different ways in which the bricks could be rearranged and combined, in order to create new stories and adventures.

Later on, we discovered a videogame called Portal Knights (Xbox Version) which has brought an entirely new dimension to our building experience as it offered a unique source of inspiration. Eventually, we started translating in-game elements into tangible LEGO constructions, which allowed us to recreate and expand the stories and experiences from Portal Knights with LEGO.

While this can be applied to various games, movies or any other source of inspiration, currently, Portal Knights (edit: and by now also Minecraft) is our preferred source of inspiration.

LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft

During the homeschooling period prompted by COVID-19, this was actually one of my son’s school assignments, that involved constructing a bridge with various materials. For this version, he primarily used basic LEGO bricks.

While the initial stability of the pillars posed a challenge in the beginning, he made various attempts that were more or less successful but in the end, he did find a way to make it work on his own. Besides LEGO bricks he used two folding rulers, temporarily some cardboard and tape.

Finally, we were able to festively open up the bridge to our matchbox cars. Regrettably, we did have to deny passage to the large amphibious vehicle, as its weight would have crushed the bridge in an instant 😂

LEGO, building, creativity, Minecraft, bridge, stairs