Lego Challenge–Lego Mini Golf

Whenever possible, I try to make whatever we build in Lego Club interactive and social, since that’s what’s going keep kids coming back.  We’ve made slides we could all race cars down, we’ve done scavenger hunts, and we’ve done obstacle courses.  So this was a great idea I got from Destination Storytime that’s really interactive too.  (Destination Storytime appears to no longer exist.  If anyone knows where to find the original creators, let me know so I can link to them and give them credit.)

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After we went over rules, I explained that our theme was going to be mini golf!!  Each kiddo would design one mini golf challenge, and then at the end of the hour, we would go around and test everyone’s courses.  There were only two requirements:

  1. You had to have a hole or an end point.
  2. You could make it as easy or as hard as you wanted, but it had to be fair. (No impassible obstacles like walls blocking the hole.)

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Kids got into it right away, so we didn’t have to brainstorm at all.  Halfway through the hour I gave every kid a possible stick for a putter and a marble for a golf ball.  You don’t want 25 marbles rolling around!!  What we found out right away is that my marbles were a little bit bigger than a 2×2 Lego block, so everyone’s golf course alleys had to be at least 3 brick lengths wide to make them passable.  I went around to all my tables and made sure everyone understood, and kindly instructed the kids who didn’t really get it.

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I also went around and gave every kid a small flag, made out of a toothpick and painters tape.  I told my kids to tape their flag to the end of their course so that everyone knew where the hole was suppose to be, since some of them weren’t obvious where to start or where to finish.

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So we built for about 40 minutes, cleaned up for 5, and then instead of sharing we did tested everyone’s courses.  Before we did that, I explained that the “Godzilla Rule” was in effect.  We couldn’t purposely smash something that someone made and we had to be careful.  But I did make sure to point out that accidents may happen and that’s okay.  Everyone had a great time and was really careful with each other’s pieces.  Highly recommend this one for any Lego Club!!

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Lego Club Challenge–Rebuild Your Town

This one would be really easy to replicate if you’re looking for ideas!!  After sitting everyone down and talking about our rules, I told everyone that our theme was “Rebuilding our Town.”  I asked the kids for some of the buildings they recognized around town.  After that, I told that each out of our 6 tables would be assigned one of the buildings around town to rebuild and/or improve on.

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I picked the fire station, police station, city hall, the library (easily the best building), the mall, and the high school.  So they could work solo or work in groups to rebuild what they were assigned.  Or they could just build something completely different if they weren’t feeling it.

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I also explained that it was okay if you didn’t get something cool like the police station.  So if you got stuck with the library, you didn’t have to complain about it because:

1.) Ouch!
2.) You could rebuild it however you wanted.  So if you wanted the library to have a moat or a guard tower, that was okay!!

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To prep for this, I made up a sheet of about four or five pictures of each building or something cool inside of it.  There weren’t a lot of great pictures online of all the buildings I wanted, so I was able to go off-site and take some of my own pictures both inside and out each building.  If you ask nicely enough, most people will be surprisingly okay with this.

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One of the best things about this project, is the posting it on social media.  Like I posted a picture of our police station and linked it to our police department’s Facebook page, so that they (and ALL of their followers) could see the awesome building that we made and all the improvements they designed, like the mayor getting to ride a race car to work.  It’s just an amazing way to cross promote and try to expand your audience.

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That’s it!  Kids seemed to like this one and pretty easy to prep.

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Lego Club Challenge–Lego Tape

This is one challenge I’ve been wanting to do for awhile!!  Lego tape is such a cool invention, and I wanted to incorporate it into Lego Club and see how it went.  So after we talked about the rules of the club, I told kids that they can build anything that they want.  But they somehow have to use a piece of tape in their piece.  I brought out regular tape and asked them if they thought this would work?  They said no so I brought out Lego Tape for the win!!

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I was able to find this set of Lego tape at Wal Mart on their “As Seen on TV” shelf.  You get four rolls, each containing three feet of tape.  It was around $12, so a buck a foot is a pretty good deal I think.  I was able to cut it into 6″ strips for my kids; it was a smaller group this time around so I actually had enough and didn’t need to open the second container.

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The tape overall is of good quality and it does stick to mostly everything, and works great with Legos.  I just found that you have to be careful unpeeling the back, because the sticky part isn’t always attached to the actual tape the best, so it’s possible to rip that part off completely when you remove the plastic backing.  That happened to me (and only happened to me somehow) so I just stuck some double stick tape to it and it was fine.  It’s also reusable, so I had my kids save their plastic backing so I could reuse their tape once I broke everything down.  Their pieces have been in the display case for about three days now and the tape is still sticking!!  I only had to adjust one or two pieces, so I think it’s pretty quality stuff.

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The kids loved the idea of the tape, but really had no idea how to use it or incorporate it into their piece.  A few kids actually gave their piece back at the end of the hour!!  It was a younger group than usual, so that might have been part of the problem.   Maybe I should have brainstormed with them a bit more than I usually do.  I don’t like to brainstorm with them too much since I don’t want to influence what they’re going to build.  I also might have walked around with my example a bit too late for kids to really get inspired.  So I think it was a good idea and worth repeating, but something was off this time around.  THAT’S OKAY!!  I’m learning along side the kids that way.

Here’s some of the pieces that turned out the best:

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Tree Climbing

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Lego Club Challenge–Ramps and Slides

This was a big hit at Lego Club!  After quickly going over rules, I told my kids about the Global Cardboard Challenge, where kids are encouraged to make anything they want out of cardboard.  My fiancee is doing the challenge at her library, so I thought I would try to incorporate into Lego Club.  So we would be partaking in the challenge in a way by adding cardboard ramps and slides to our creations today.  And at the end of the hour, we would test everyone’s ramps!!

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What my kiddos needed to do is they needed to make at least one car and one structure that a piece of cardboard could fit on.  This one definitely took some prep, since I had to pre-cut a bunch of different shapes and sizes.  I made a few really long ones if kids wanted to work as a team, and some really small ones for the kids that needed something easy.

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Once we started, I went around to each table and showed them the easy example I made, and they quickly got it after that.  Once kids got started, I walked around and offered to tape their slides to their creation to make them a bit more sturdy.

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Everyone seemed to finish in time, though parental help was needed for some kiddos.  After we cleaned up I told everyone that we would begin testing our slides.  BUT I made sure everyone knew not to be rough with everyone’s creations.  Accidents would happen, but someone worked really hard on this ramp and we weren’t going to go full Godzilla on them.

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They understood and we spent the next 10 minutes testing everyone’s ramps.  Only a few broke, but it wasn’t a big deal.  Taping things down definitely helped avoid catastrophes.

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I set up my example towards the end of the hour.  The top of my ramp was taped to a table and my structure was somewhere at the bottom to make a super ramp.  I purposely did it at the end, so that kids would use their imagination a bit more and not just copy what I did.

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Lego Club Challenge–Secret Zoo

This one turned out pretty interesting.  After setup and rules, I introduced our theme as “Secret Zoo.”  It’s kind of a twist on a Lego Challenge I did a few months ago called “Scavenger Hunt.”  So the idea here was that kids were going to build a zoo exhibit.  They needed to have an animal (real or pretend), some sort of cage for them, and food for your animal to eat.

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BUT the twist is that they don’t tell anyone what animal you’re making.  So at the end of the hour, each exhibit would get a pencil and a piece of paper.  Then during our sharing time, we would go around the room and GUESS what the animal is, based on what you built!

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Kids did pretty good with this one, although some definitely needed parental help.  The biggest problem is that some kids used the animals that were already in the Lego buckets, like the horse.  That was okay for my group (my group was 35 kids this time!) but if you’re expecting a small group, you might want to remove these ahead of time.  Just so that kids use their imagination a bit more.

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Kids that didn’t follow the theme still got to participate, and we still had fun guessing what their piece was suppose to be.

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So here’s some of my favorite ones.

This one stumped a few people.  It looks like an owl, but it’s actually a monkey.  You can tell by the bananas on the tree.

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A parent made this AWESOME flamingo!

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This one stumped me but it’s obvious now.  Nice tiger!

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And a very creative elephant.

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But this one stumped everyone.  People guessed whale, turtle, walrus, and Loch Ness monster.  It was actually a mudfish.

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Overall it went pretty well. It’s a nice twist on a standard Lego challenge you might have done already.

 

We Be Clubbin–How to Start and Manage a Lego Club

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.

Materials

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Procedure

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.

Time–(0:00-0:05)

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.

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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.

Time (0:05-0:25)

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.

Time (0:25-0:30)

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.

Time (0:30-0:45)

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.

Time (0:45-0:50)

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.

Time (0:50-1:00) 

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.

Time (1:00+)

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.

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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.

 

Lego Club Challenge–Zip Line Racing

Go Lego Go!!  This one is a favorite for my kiddos because it’s definitely not something you do everyday.  After I explained the rules of Lego Club, I told them the day’s challenge.  They first had to build a car, plane, boat, carplane, boatcar, or any other combination.  But they had to work into their design some sort of loop to attach a paper clip too.

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There are lots of Legos that could work so kids didn’t really have problems figuring it out.  I went around to each table and explained it again just in case anyone was stuck.

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Setting up the track in my room is actually pretty easy.  I have a large coat rack at the back of the room that’s attached to the wall.  So all I have to do is tie some string to the coat rack, measure out the string for my tracks to make it kinda even, add some pulleys, and then tie all the strings to the leg of some tables.  You might have to get creative if you don’t have a similar setup like my coat rack, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of distance or height to make it work.

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This time around I did four tracks (MORE is BETTER) but that turned out to be harder to manage.  People were able to race faster, but getting kids to hook up their vehicles, then getting the parent volunteers to drop at the same time was a bit of a hot mess.  So I would recommend only doing two lanes.

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So anyway, once kids were done building, they could practice on the track, but only one at a time.  Otherwise they start racing each other and it’s too distracting for everyone then.  Once they were ready, I would attach their paper clip to a pulley; from there I would try to bend the paper clip to make their vehicle face forward so that it actually looks like it’s flying.  It doesn’t really have the same effect if it’s flying sideways.

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I would tell them to wait to the bottom of the track to catch their piece.  Most of them made it down the track just fine, I told them to add weight if it didn’t make it all the way down.  And if it exploded when it hit the table leg from going to fast, I would tell them to make it a bit sturdier.  Kids LOVE it when their cars explode though, so no one ever follows that advice.  Although I did have a few kids try to make bumpers for when their car hit the leg of the table.

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If there test drive was successful, I told them they could either try to add more weight to make it go faster or they could build a garage for their piece.  We built and tested for about 40 minutes, cleaned up for 5 minutes, and then spent the rest of the time racing.  Great fun!!  Thanks to Little Bins for Little Hands for inspiring the idea.

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