If you have been following Lightly Frayed, you know I encourage our kids to spend their money wisely and live frugally.
So if our children want something, they will likely hear:
Can you repurpose something we already own?
Is there a way to buy the item second hand?
What can you do to save up for it?
Our youngest was recently eyeing a particular Lego set, which is a good way to bankrupt the chubbiest of piggie banks.
I explained, “Oh buddy. That set costs a LOT of money.”
Ever the optimist, he replied, “That’s okay Mom. Just save up for a long time and THEN buy it for me.”
Lego is hands-down my favourite toy for children. Without a doubt. It lasts forever. It stimulates creativity. The possibilities for open-ended play are endless.
Except when they aren’t.
While I am a sucker for adorable Lego sets (I mean, who wouldn’t want to build a 3-storey beach home with skylights), sets can limit our children’s creativity.
They can seek out the sets for EVERY THING THEY WANT TO BUILD (sorry for yelling).
Mom. I want to build a boat. Can we go buy a Lego set?
I need a truck for my Lego city. Can we go buy set #4499?
And on it goes.
If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of purchasing more Lego sets instead of using the Lego we already have.
When our son was determined to purchase a Lego Minecraft set so he could have an Enderman, I intervened. I pulled out a roll of purple shiny tape, grabbed black Lego bricks and within minutes, we had a homemade version.
And when his brothers started to laugh at Enderman’s awkward arms, this Mama’s stinkeye whipped them back into shape. They admired our improvising instead. Good choice, boys.
Encourage kids to play with Lego you already own
If your child needs to look at their Lego with fresh eyes, try some of these ideas.
change the scenery
My friend Tracy taught me this trick. By simply moving toys to a different part of the house, they get played with differently.
- Place Lego in the kitchen sink to inspire boat building with sailors.
- Put Lego in the backyard to inspire bug creations or soldiers fighting in tall grass.
- Make a blanket fort complete with a flashlight and Lego minifigures
- Take pictures of Superman in an eggshell (see above)
Sometimes kids need a nudge to think outside-the-box. Especially when they begin to sing the, “I’m Bored” medley.
Having too many choices often limits the imagination. Josh Becker at Becoming Minimalist lists 12 benefits of kids having fewer toys in Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids.
Even if you’re not quite ready for a giant toy purge, you can pull out fewer toys at a time. The same applies for Lego. Bring a small bucket of bricks and interesting pieces and watch new inspiration unfold.
Fill your child’s love tank by building alongside them. Don’t be surprised when their creations far surpass your own. Or when they have built seven things while you are still trying to find a single idea. #Mombrain
visit this expert
Check out Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls. Seriously – I’ll wait. This Mom has the most comprehensive ideas for Lego creations. She meticulously takes pictures and outlines every step. I’m partial to thes Lego Monsters – how adorable are they?
Bonus tip: You can find Lego eyes for a few dollars here. We bought a lot at the pick-a-brick section at the Lego store. Suddenly our Lego builders had fresh inspiration to make creatures in every colour.
*image posted with permission – thank you Sarah
Check out these amazing ideas also from her site.
- a Lego gnome garden Bonus points if you watch Gnomeo and Juliet while you build.
- Lego Ewoks
- a Lego shark complete with boaters to attack.
create a challenge
When our oldest was a toddler, he needed open-ended challenges while I nursed the baby. I created activity cards using Duplo, which is Lego’s baby cousin.
Here are a few I can remember.
- Our Duplo giraffe has a sore throat. Build a way for the doctor to climb up and look into her throat.
- Bunny rabbits have been eating the carrots out of the garden. Build a Duplo garden, then protect it with a fence.
make a marble maze
Such a simple task that is fun to build and even more fun to play with. No instructions required – just a large baseplate, a collection of bricks and a marble or two. Check out idea from Little Bins for Little Hands.
pictionary with a twist
Lego Creationary is similar to Pictionary, but instead of drawing, you create images out of Lego. It can be very expensive, but look at the box here and try to find it second hand. Or use Lego you already have and take turns building things for your partner to try to identify. Any guess as to what this is? It was a while ago….
totally made up dice game
Put a pile of Lego in the middle of the table. Roll the dice (or die, if you prefer a faster challenge). Build any creation using only the number of pieces that the dice shows. For example, if you roll an 8, make an 8-piece creation. Guess what the other person has built when you are finished.
sign up for a challenge
I searched high and low for the best free Lego challenge for your kids. Love this one with 52 challenges so kids can do a different one every week. It was created a few years ago and includes pictures of finished products from kids all over the world. Sample tasks are Build Something Monochromatic or Make a Lego Birdhouse.
grab a baseplate
Baseplates open up new possibilities for builders to play with Lego you already own. If you don’t have one, they are pretty reasonable here. (usually between $6-$15, depending on the size) With a baseplate, kids can create figures that will stand up. They encourage scene building and are generally AWESOME.
Bonus tip: If your builder uses a Lego baseplate to create, tidying up is a snap! Creations can be carefully lifted to a safe place for the next day’s adventure.
Hope you have found some inspiration to play with Lego you already own. I’d love to hear your ideas for this universal struggle. Bonus points if you send a picture of your child’s creations.
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Karen, I love getting your emails.
You are SO funny!!!
Thank you 😀
Hey Petra – most importantly – are you off to play with Lego in new and inspired ways? Miss you! 😉
Jennie A. says
I have lost count how many Lego sets my boys have. I too, got sick and tired of the lack of creativity with Lego, so a few years back, I built a “Lego table” for my boys on top of their existing train table (see the link below). I’m not going to lie, buying all of the base plates you’ll need to make it isn’t cheap (I searched like crazy for deals) but this is definitely a way to keep their creative Lego minds going – easy storage as well by turning the train table drawers into Lego holders. I even used “road base plates” which are available on the market for a twist on regular base plates (my boys are Lego car fanatics). I also used a combination of green and blue for land and water. The project is fairly easy (the Lego base plates cut with a sturdy pair of household scissors), but you’ll need an extra pair of hands along the way.
Love that idea, Jennie! Leave it to you to come up with a practical solution to get your boys to stay creative! Sometimes it’s nice to step back and think about a new way to play. PS Don’t you love the Superman in an eggshell image? It made me giggle. If I wasn’t concerned about Salmonella, I’d totally do that. Maybe we’ll try Superman in a lemon rind instead 🙂 Have a great day!
This is such a fantastic post! I love Legos for my son and really believe in keeping as small of a stash as possible. I’m all about using what you already have instead of buying more toys and bringing more clutter into your life! I love your approach on this topic.
Thanks Heather! With 4 boys, and endless birthday and Christmas gifts, it’s easy for Lego to take over. Plus, I’m convinced they multiply in the night, so there’s that! Glad you enjoyed the repurposing ideas.