Lego Club–if you don’t have one, start one now. Having a Lego Club is such an amazing way to get kids into the library again and again. And after the initial investment, it’s basically a no cost program that’s more or less guaranteed to bring in kids every time. I initially modeled my Lego Club mostly after The Show Me Librarian, but I’ve definitely perfected the program over the years.
First off, you need to buy Legos. I’ve be told that there are some libraries that make kids bring their own Legos. Um…what?? First off, that’s a huge barrier to access; families that can’t afford Legos obviously can’t attend, and that’s really unfair since they can get expensive. On top of that, it’s a huge headache to deal with all the borrowing and trading that’s bound to happen. So getting your own is expensive but necessary.
Anyway, I usually set up six round tables and put one medium sized tub down on each table. Each tub works for about 4-5 kids. I started out by buying three of them, just to test the waters. I now have six, with a donated seventh tub as a backup, and that seems to work out just fine.
Next you need to buy the plates. You’ll never have enough of the big plates so I’ve found success in buying a bunch of the small 5×5 plates. They’re cheaper, easier to buy and store, and they can be transformed into a normal 10×10 plate if need be. I’ve gone with the imitation plates and they’ve worked out fine in the past; it’s probably a good idea to check out reviews before purchasing though.
Lastly, you need minifigures. Those somehow are always the most expensive part. But buying them separately is necessary, since none of the tubs ever have guys in them. This is probably the best way to get started. It’s expensive, but you get a lot of minifigures out of it.
If that’s out of your price range right now, you can try something like the Lego Advent Calendar; it has six figures in it, plus a bunch of extra weird pieces that are hard to find.
Also buy at least one set of the Wheel and Axle kit. Minifigures go fast, but wheels go even faster. It’s hard to drive a car you made without someone at the wheel, but it’s even harder when there’s no wheels on it at all.
First thing I do is come up with a theme or challenge. Why do you need a theme?? It helps keep the kids focused, and it keeps the club different every single time. Remember most kids will have Legos at home, so to get them in the library you have to offer something they can’t get playing by themselves. Don’t worry–I have a BUNCH of themes to pick from. I always explain that they DON’T HAVE to do the theme, and can always build whatever they want–but nearly all kids like the theme provided.
I welcome everybody in and talk really quick about what we do here at Lego Club. Before we talk about the theme, we always go over the rules of Lego Club, which I stole from Christie Gibrich from a PUBYAC post when I started the club.
The four rules of Lego Club are:
- Respect the space.–No running around, just sit and work on your piece.
- Respect others.–That means everyone has to share and help each other out. Teamwork makes the dream work.
- Respect yourself.–Stay positive. We don’t compete with or put down other club members; we build just for fun.
- Respect the Legos.–We don’t throw the Legos. We don’t eat the Legos. We don’t shove the Legos up our nose. We don’t shove the Legos up our friend’s nose. And the Legos have to stay in the library at the end of the day.
To help kids out with this last rule, I offer to take pictures of them with their creations. I then print them out and give them their pictures next time they’re there. That takes some time, but it’s another reason to come to the next meeting. I’ve had parents come in, just to pick up their pictures, so it’s a popular feature.
After we discuss rules, anyone that’s new to the club then gets to come up and sign the rules.
I think after three years, I need a new sign.
After that, we discuss the theme. Sometimes we brainstorm together if I think the challenge might be too hard, but most of the time I just leave them to it. I can always help out kids that are struggling later.
Here I just go around to the different tables and hang out with the kids and parents. I ask them what they’re building and help them if they need anything. If they’re looking for a particular piece I try to find it or give them an alternative piece. I also might build my own piece as well. What I build is usually REALLY bad, and it’s kind of a joke when we get to sharing at the end of the hour.
I get everyone’s attention and tell them we’re at the halfway point, so it’s time to start wrapping up their piece. I remind them what the theme is one more time and send them back at it.
This is usually when I try to start taking pictures for my kids. I always ask them if they want a picture of themselves holding their creation and then I take it really quick, and then explain to the parents where they can pick it up next time they are at Lego Club. This hopefully makes kids want to come back.
Clean up. Everyone has to stop what they are doing and starting cleaning up the extra pieces. I explain that kids SHOULD NOT break apart what they built, but everything else needs to go back into the buckets. Then I run around and help out, check the floor for extra Legos, and finish taking pictures.
I quickly go over any announcements like programs coming up, then I remind people about the next Lego Club. After that it’s time to share, race the cars we made, or any other crazy thing I came up with to make it more interesting. During share time, we walk around to all the tables and the creators talk about their project. Some kids will talk FOREVER about their creations, so I try to hurry them along as best as I can. If we skip share time, it’s usually because we have something else planned like a race or a scavenger hunt.
We line up and put everything in our display case. GET A DISPLAY CASE if you can to show off your Legos. First off, it’s FREE advertising–kids visiting the library are instantly drawn to it. And second it prevents Legos from sneaking off–you can’t steal your Legos if they’re locked up behind glass. Plus kids love knowing that other kids will be looking at their creations for the next few weeks.
You can always display on top of a bookcase, but what most likely will happen is you’ll slowly lose your Legos So this is probably the best way to do it. I also have a sign in there that shows all the club dates for the entire year; I’ve gotten a lot of people to stop by using this method.
So that’s it! If you’re just starting out, expect a small crowd but it will grow pretty fast. Take photos of the best creations and put them on your library’s Facebook page. It’s guaranteed to get likes, and it’s a great way to promote the program.