. . . I say de-evolution because our play dates went from the new Lego kits of today, to a simpler version resembling something closer to what I would have built as a kid. Lego is cool like that.
I had already designed several Barbie outfits and patterns for my grand daughter Evie, but was still looking for a way to express myself creatively in a way that could benefit my grandson Keenan. That's why I was so delighted when he started loving Lego. I immediately purchased a kit for us to build and soon realized that Lego kits have come a long way from the kits I had when I was a kid. The way the parts lock, and the sizes are the same, in fact, they are every bit as enjoyable as I remember. The kits are so much more elaborate now, with a much more vast selection, there really is something for everyone, at any age.
We built our first kit, it took us a week of after-school play dates that incorporated hot chocolate, tea, and snacks. We'd talk about his day at kindergarten, he'd build the "guys" while I'd build the structures, then he'd play with the pieces while I cooked supper, after which, his mom and sister would come get him and stay for supper. It was as awesome as it sounds, and our play dates would probably still be like that if I had an unlimited budget. I bought four kits in the first month and Christmas was just around the corner.
Kits are good, but some of the pieces are really specific to each kit. I wanted to nudge our dates in the direction where we'd have a tub of pieces, that we could construct, then deconstruct several different ways. Actually Lego's Creator series has a line of kits with exactly that in mind, one kit with instructions to build two or three different projects with the same pieces. It's a great solution, but I also wanted to encourage his attention span to grow, to coax him into figuring out the instructions himself, and help him develop self-learning strategies that would give him confidence and nurture his creativity. He was just a bit too young for the Lego Junior kits and too old for the bigger blocks.
I bought one more kit, the Big Box of Lego Classic bricks, which comes with a variety of bricks with different colours and functions. Each Classic box comes with instructions for a few projects, but then, you can go to Lego's website and download free instructions for several other projects. It was the perfect solution because I could choose the project based on his skill level that week, with regular updates and additions, as well as a gallery for other builders to post their projects, all for free, and all in picture format so no reading is required. I'd download a project to my Ipad mini, pick the Lego parts from my stash (organized by colour in ziploc bags so I could find them easily), and put the parts for each kit in a smaller ziploc.
This is where the turning point occurred, the projects I chose for him were just small (or big) enough for his attention span, which meant that he could start and finish a project all by himself, every step! His confidence soared, the more he did, the more he wanted to do. He was a Lego building machine, drinking his hot chocolate, following the instructions I downloaded for him right off my Ipad screen. I would stay within conversation distance and tend to chores in the kitchen, while he built at the kitchen table. We could still enjoy each other's fine conversation skills. It was a perfect set-up.
The next de-evolutionary step came when his build speed increased. I found myself coming up with custom builds for him, photographing the steps, picking the parts, and packing them in a ziploc. My daughter (his mom) had made several comments that he was a different kid, calmer, and more confident, so I started dropping off simple kits at his house and emailing the steps to his Ipad mini. His mom would leave them at his spot at the breakfast table with his Ipad so he would find them both. Sometimes she would use the kits as a reward system for doing his real homework or good behaviour. I'd pick up the built pieces after a week or so, dismantle and resort them back into my stash at my place. He didn't like having to give up the built projects but soon came to the understanding that in order to keep the projects coming, we needed to manage the bricks responsibly. We had stumbled onto a wonderful system.
Our Lego play dates started out really fun but too complex and de-evolved to simple, fluid projects that kept us both on our toes, he with his challenges, and me with the challenges of staying a few "steps" ahead of him. It's with this spirit in mind that I gratefully share my projects for free with anyone who is interested. Click on any of the photos below to download the photo tutorial for each project free! I've Included a few different skill levels, and the pdf's are hi res so you can print them out in colour if you like. In the sidebars at the right, I'll put some links to the Lego Classic boxes and kits that we purchased for those who want to invest in some basic pieces.
I'll also put a few of the complete kits in my etsy shop for anyone interested in gifting kits without having to invest in a big stash of bricks. The kits will have a colour printout of the photo instructions as well as the parts needed for the build. I think they'd make perfect stocking stuffers, student gifts, little boy valentine's day presents, or party favours for a boys birthday party.
Don't forget to checkout my Free Lego steps while you're here!
I hope you enjoy building these kits as much as we do!
Kelly and Keenan