Sunday, July 28, 2019

Building Lego Architecture Sets with Your Kids

Raise your hand if you loved Legos growing up...

Yeah, both of my hands are up.

Legos have changed quite a bit since I was a kid. The sets are much more detailed and intricate, and the variety of sets available is amazing.

One of my favorite collections as an adult is the Lego Architecture collection. I have been purchasing these sets for years and am amazed at the artistic details in each set. Some of my favorite sets are The Lincoln Memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, and the skyline series (Chicago and Paris are two favorites). When I was in high school I thought about being an architect, reading about architecture whenever I could. Maybe these sets are a way for me to somewhat live that life.

So when my son asked several months back, "Daddy, can we build together one of the building sets that you have in your closet?", I felt like Lord Business from The Lego Movie. My knee-jerk reaction was to respond, "Buddy, those are daddy's sets. Let's play with some of your Legos." And then Will Ferrell's misguided dad persona flashed before my mind, and I didn't want to be that guy.

So we started to build a set together. We started with Chicago's Sears Tower (reality check: it's now called the Willis Tower, since Sears sold the building in 2009. However, having grown up in Chicago, I cannot bring myself to change its name in my conversations).

The Architecture series is really cool because the instruction booklets include a lot of pictures about the building, and a lot of facts, which is excellent for nerds like me. And apparently it's excellent for nerds like my son. And my daughters. And my wife (who doesn't necessarily build Lego sets with us- that would be epic - but rather listens to the facts that we learn about each of the buildings.

We've gone on to build many of the sets together, briefly enjoying them before they go back in their box and back on my shelf. Inevitably a few days after the set is put away my son will ask if we can put together another set.

Here are some things that I struggled with and learned as I have built Lego sets with my kids.

1. Let them do it. I SOOOOO want to jump in and correct them when they put a piece in the wrong place or pointing the wrong direction. But my correcting them every time does not help them learn. Instead, I ask, "Does that look the same as the picture?", or some other question like that. But I have found that their engineering minds will figure it out if I will give them some space to learn.

2. Plan on taking a lot of time. Having my kids put Lego sets together means that they're learning, and learning always takes a long time. Bring patience and enjoy the time that you get to spend with them.

3. Be the piece finder.  This was one of the hardest things for me to accept. The best thing to do to help my kids with Lego sets is to be their copilot. I'm the guy who looks for the pieces and gets them ready for the next step. Not very glamorous, but it makes it more enjoyable for the kids and definitely speeds things up.

4. Let them do it.  Yep, I need the reminder, so I'm writing this one again. That time I jumped in and tried to show them that they put the piece in the wrong place... Let them figure it out. That time they grabbed a two-dot instead of a three-dot... Let them figure it out. Ask questions like, "Are you sure that's the right one?", "Did you double check the picture?", and "Can you get me another bottle of daddy's special juice?" But let them do it.

5. Turn it into an educational experience. One of the things I love about Lego Architecture sets is that they have so much historical data. Read the information together before moving on to the next page. Use the Legos as math instruments ("If you put the sixy and the eightsy together, how long is it?" "How long would it be if you had five foursies?")

Enjoy the time that you have to build Legos with your kids!

Here are some of our favorite sets:

Paris Skyline - my daughter, who is obsessed with all things Paris, loved learning about each of the buildings. The Eiffel Tower was a highlight of this set, and everybody in the family was shocked at how ugly and out of place the Tour Montparnasse seemed.

Chicago Skyline - we got this set right after going to Chicago, so my kids recognized almost all of the buildings. Their favorite? The Bean. That's right. With all of the detail in the set that makes all of the buildings recognizable, my kids like the single, spherical, silver representation of The Bean. But they also liked the drawbridge that goes up and down, so there's that...

The White House - this set is out of production, but if you can find somebody off-loading a Lego collection it is a fun set. This was one of our favorite sets to read about the history of The White House, and my kids' focus on this one was the light on the porch.

Big Ben - also a discontinued set, but my son really loved both the history and the repetitive layers of this set. It is a pain to dismantle, since there are so many of the same pieces, but we didn't have to worry about it since we are holding it in place with The Kragle.

United States Capitol Building - There are a lot of pieces in this set, and my son and I built it over the course of several days. And I learned that George Washington laid the cornerstone of the building, so even grownups can learn something while playing with Legos!

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