Friday, August 12, 2011
Lego Club: A How-To Guide
I've been asked how I run Lego Club at my library, and while I don't think I do anything radically different from other libraries, I thought I'd share what I do and what I've sort of adapted over the course of this fun program.
Getting a Lego Club Started
The very first step in getting a Lego Club started is...getting Legos. Anyone who has ever purchased Legos knows they are not inexpensive. I was lucky because in my storage closet at work, I found a small starter box of Legos. But I knew that small box would in no way cut it.
I didn't want to spend too much building the collection, so I turned to the community. Through our monthly newsletter and in in-library advertising, I asked for donations. I got a couple enthusiastic responses from the start, and I collected another small lot of Legos. Again, it wasn't quite enough for the club I envisioned. I turned, too, to my friend Brian, who is a huge Lego enthusiast, and he hooked me up with another donation. But still, I knew I didn't have enough, so I had to figure out where to buy some Legos with a tight budget.
MegaBlox are sold in 1,000 piece kits and they work with regular Legos. They happened to be on sale at my local box store, and I picked up 2 kits for $40. I also bought a couple packs of mini-figurines and with what I'd collected, I just hoped for the best.
Lucky for me, after the club met a couple times, we began ROLLING in donations. I mean it when I say I have 3 huge Rubbermaid tubs full of Legos. I have tons of cool pieces, and I have tons of the bases and figures. When word got out about the club and the kids started showing off their works, people began bringing us so many Legos, I almost had to start turning them away. It was fantastic.
The Club Set up
I run my club twice a month after school at 4 pm for one hour (I made adjustments in the summer). I began the club thinking each week I'd come up with a theme for the kids to build on, but in the end, I scrapped it. My kids were interested in building whatever they wanted, and who was I to stop that creativity?
In setting up the room, I put out 3 or 4 tables to build on, but I put them on the sides of the room and leave the center of the room completely open. I lay down two large table cloths (the heavy duty kind) and dump the Legos onto the table cloths. This lets the kids dig and explore all they want to -- which for some kids, is the entire point of Legos -- and then at the end, clean up is as easy as getting the pieces onto the table cloths, folding them up, and dumping the Legos into the container. Painless.
As the kids finish their creations, they come up to me and tell me what they made and what they're calling it. My first couple of meetings, I had the kids share with everyone what they made, but I found out they hated this, and some didn't want to talk in front of the group at all. So, I decided they could come talk to me and just me. When they tell me their creation's name, I write it down on a small piece of card stock, along with their first name, and then they are free to put the creation anywhere on top of the shelves in the children's area they wish.
When all of the kids have their creations up, they can wander and see what the other kids made.
After Lego Club
I leave the kids' Lego creations up until the next Lego Club. The day of the next club meeting, I take them apart and they get to start all over again.
Honestly, this is an easy to run program and one that, despite some initial costs, is cheap. Anyone can supervise it, and I've toyed with the idea of having it become a volunteer-run program.
I began the program by limiting it to those in 2nd grade and older, but I kept getting younger kids who wanted to participate. And you know, I let them. Whenever parents bring their kids, I say that the only age requirement is that the kids are able to play with regular Legos themselves. Most of the time, the littler kids come with parents who stay and play with them. I love this -- I believe Lego Club is one that is really a great family program, as so often, the parents come and play with the kids. Seeing dads with their sons is wonderful.
Which brings me to this: it's a big boys program, but not all boy. If you can, get ahold of brightly colored, pink, purple, and neon colored Legos, too. We have a pink kit, and in it were flowers, birds, and other little things that both the girls and boys have loved using. I would say bulk up, if you can, on mini figures for your Lego collection, since those are the most popular things in my sets.
When I began, I thought that having a lot of bases to building would be important. It's not. If you don't have many, you will be just fine. The kids are so imaginative and creative that they will make something from nothing. And the stories they will tell you about what they make are fascinating.
In room set up, I discovered some kids are going to gravitate to using tables and chairs, but most of mine prefer to lie on the floor in front of the Lego platter. They help one another find pieces they need, and they're cooperative in sharing. The social skills they learn here are important, and the bonding they have over the activity is one that's not easy to replicate in many other youth programs. One thing I do is provide buckets -- I have some from the Legos themselves -- and the kids who want to collect Legos to build on a table can use one of those to scour the pile then build elsewhere.
I average between 18 and 30 kids each time I run the program, which for a twice a month program that requires nothing of me other than setting out Legos and taking them down, is a great turn out.
You can make this program as challenging or not challenging as you wish, but I prefer to keep it really laid back. My kids have enjoyed it greatly, and everyone loves to look at the Lego creations the kids make. I think putting the things on display is key to a successful Lego Club: it gives the kids a sense of accomplishment AND it's perfect advertising for the next club. I do think I am going to invest in a bag of Duplos though to have out in our children's area for anytime use because the kids who look at the display have a tendency to want to play with the items. Alas. I don't yell at them about it. It's natural curiosity.
I did have one tricky incident in Lego Club that's worth noting. I mentioned that I got a lot of really good mini figs through donation; apparently, they were SO good, that one of my kids pocketed a handful during Lego Club and took them home. Fortunately for me, his mom brought it to my attention and made him bring them to me and apologize the next week. It was a hard lesson for him, and I think it's one to just be aware could happen. I don't operate with that on my mind, but it is a slight possibility. Speaking of the mini figs, I had a mom and her kids want to buy a few pieces off me, too, since they loved what I had received so much. I didn't sell them, but instead, I directed her to a couple websites that might be able to help her. In short: be familiar with where you can acquire Star Wars and other popular figures.
Bonus: this program works for teens, too! My teens are rabid about Legos. So there you go!