Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Toy Tips: MORE LEGOs for LESS!

I bought this for $15 and it was a steal just because I stacked the bricks first.  Look below to see what I mean.

No kidding. This is for real.  The contents of both containers were all in the container above.

WHAT: Pick A Brick at your Local LEGO Store
DOES: if you use good spatial reasoning, you can save BIG!!!
INVEST:  $ your time but use this as a life and math lesson for the kids. It's a win-win.
TOOLS: Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Family Fix-its
EXPERT OPINION: In this case, that would be me!!!!!!!!!  Because I am super cheap!!!!

I have been trying to campaign for a different style of LEGO building with my children - one that is kit free.  It all boiled down to how to taking inventory of our plain bricks.  To my surprise, I found out that we had so few plain bricks.  This is because so many of our LEGO are comprised of these kits.  I think it was about 90% of our LEGO pieces were from kits. 

What does that mean for us?  It means that things are going to be kinda ugly.  Imagine you had to build a brick house and all the bricks were different colors. That may be cool for the little ones but for kids 8+?  It's hard to satisfy my oldest with such a color scheme.  I now think I know why he builds so many little planes.  They were small and never needed tons of similar color bricks.  But planes can get tiring and with sexy pieces from Ninjago or Star Wars... well, all I can say is that a house with different color bricks will not satisfy him and so holiday lists get written, "Dear Santa, Can you please please please buy me the Ninjago Temple of Light? Please?"

Flowers-no longer a luxury. You basically have all this "free space"  It's a waste not to use it.  Pretend you live in a cramped NYC apartment and then you'll do just fine.

Don't get me wrong, I love the look of these kits.  That little Ewok from the new Ewok village is the cutest!  But still, if we are to believe that toys are tools then we must take the learning part seriously as it prevents us from feeling needlessly guilty.

So I started to look for same colored bricks everywhere.  It was not easy.  I did find some on Amazon and while the prices didn't look horrible, I wondered if there was a better way.  And there was!

Organizing via stacking brings more efficient building.  Learned that in Evil Mad Scientist.

Connect/Stack and Save

There is a section called Pick A Brick (I think that is what it's called).  You can shove as many LEGOs as you want in the bigger container for $14.99 (price in one LEGO store in NYC).  I remember watching my son shove handsfuls of 1x4 brown bricks (he wanted to make Great Wolf Lodge) into the container and then I saw an opportunity.

Why not stack and then put into the container?  After briefly showing my son how it could be better to be stacked, he started stacking them right away.  And then he raced to the cash register.
Wait, now, hold on," I said. "You have a lot of empty space in between those stacks of bricks!"  So after some fuss and muss, my son and I started shoving smaller pieces into the container.  Amazingly, we were able to fit in sooooo much!  


Approximately 210 new brown 1x4 bricks PLUS a WHOLE bunch of other pieces are in this container = $14.99  Love those yellow square tiles.  They make a great floor.  (update: 1/14- We can now do 270 bricks!)
This is a basic math lesson using familiar manipulatives to teach kids- cool!  Each Brown 1x4 brick is $0.20.  And what is $0.20 x 200?  ANSWER= $40.00  and no other pieces included and you must pay shipping if you're not spending $75! That's messed up for folks who don't have a LEGO store nearby but I'm not complaining.  Pick A Brick on has so many bricks to choose from!  You are limited as to what you can get at the LEGO store (brick and mortar). 
At the time of publication, there were no brown bricks of this size but I paid $34.87 for 200 of these.   $34.87 divided by 200? Answer= $0.17 per brick and free shipping.  This is more expensive than my retail store "stack and save" option but this Amazon option may not have what you need.  You might be able to find it on eBay and Bricklink though.  You gotta look around and so if you don't have time and this Amazon option has what you need..... it's up to you.

On the same day, I remembered that I had just bought 200 of the same size and same color bricks for OVER TWICE THE PRICE on Amazon.  There aren't too many sellers of same color-same size bricks on Amazon- new or used!  Ugh!  In my son's container, he literally packed in over 200 1X4 bricks and a whole bunch of other pieces for less than HALF of what I paid on Amazon!

Well, of course, I am returning them but given the reaction of the sales associate at the LEGO store, it doesn't seem like a lot of kids are doing this when they gather bricks into those containers.  If that is the case, then I strongly urge you to try this out!  My son loves loves loves having same color bricks- bricks... real bricks and not a curvy piece of something that can only be used as part of a plane or something like that.  (update: I never returned them.. we kept them.  No LEGOs ever leave our home.  We even have two sets of the Seaside House)

Seriously still can't believe this.  I can't wait to go to the LEGO store in a different neighborhood and see if they have different bricks that I can shove and save and then feel like a million bucks!

I realize that one may be apt to get a less optimal deal if he were to choose larger bricks.  This is true but I think the lesson is to get kids thinking.  You can have them test it out on the spot as there are lots of containers to try out.  Hopefully, the selection of bricks will be different at each LEGO store and thus we can go out and buy even more bricks that are same size and same color.  Your child is bound to be smitten with his project.  I know mine was.

One More Tip: Our next purchase at the LEGO store using this container will be $0.50 for (reusing container) off PLUS $5.00 off because we are part of the VIP program (free to join rewards program)

Idea for the future: I wonder what kind of a deal you can make with a store manager at a LEGO retail store.  If anyone has an experience to share, I'd love to hear it!

Next tip to be shared on another day: How to get a lot out of Brink Link.

Next tip:  How we organized our LEGO to make it easy for kids to sort and search efficiently.

Happy Shopping!!!

If you are shopping on Amazon, go through my link to support thoughtful toy reviews this upcoming holiday season.

My link to same-color-same-size bricks on Amazon.

If you are interested in Ewok Village, use my LEGO link- click the photo below

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Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 



  1. Great idea. I went for the shove method....

  2. We did that last year too. Go to the evil mad scientist link to see how he stacks. Very smart.

  3. Love love love love LOVE! Now, if only we were in NYC! I looked online and the closest ones are in Houston or Birmingham. I doubt they are a franchise, or else I'd consider putting one here! I'd actually love to open a Bricks for Kids franchise, but haven't quite figured out the up front costs!

    I can highly recommend the LEGO Idea Book for idea-building for kids' own structures. It's Dylan's go to book and he's built a lot of stuff in there - some that require odd pieces from sets. But it's true. He doesn't have enough of a single color much of the time. He wanted to build me a jewelry box but didn't have everything he needed.

    Jenn, I think our boys would have a blast together.

  4. Sweet! I'll keep that in mind the stacking when I find a store that does the same in my area.

    Bricklink is a .com not .net I believe - your link above by the white 1x4 doesn't go to the correct location

    Thanks for the post!Leave a message...

  5. I would bet money that our two guys would hit it off. (Although mine can't yo-yo for his life). I am going to have to get the LEGO Idea book. I never had a copy. I am dying for the new Megan Rothrock book to come out.

    No LEGO in your state? I don't see why you shouldn't open a bricks for kids franchise. I think the biggest challenge would be a fun one- how to make a win-win situation for both retailer and buyer. It's a math question, isn't it? I think the key would be to be able to buy loose bricks and other parts as they do in the LEGO store. I think it would also be helpful to offer education sets to the general public as well. You'd be able to not only service the lay public but also to the school supply store-type customers too.

    Oh, he didn't build a jewelry box because he didn't have the right bricks? Sounds like a gifted artist to me. That must mean that your life is hard!!!!

    Stick with the Bricks for Kids idea please!!!!!!!! I hope you will offer classes and playgroups too. The other day, someone in my neighborhood brought up the idea of bringing Play Well Teknologies to our neighborhood to offer classes and so many parents said they wanted in.

  6. Faye, you are awesome. I fixed them all! I really need to get my act together. Happy Shopping to you. Also, I did talk to a LEGO store manager yesterday and he said that sometimes, they do sell just a box of bricks to a customer. I think those bricks do not come stacked and I have a feeling that unless the price is super great, it might be hard to figure out if you are getting a great deal. You kind of have to know how many of those little bricks can go into a container that is shown in this post and the going price on new bricks of that size on brick link.

  7. I tried the stacking lego technique last month with the $15 pick-a-brick cup and got a little over 400 pieces. Then just the other day I did another $15 cup and got 680 pieces to fit. Both times I had a mixture of big to flat pieces and filled the empty spaces with jewel, flower, and 1 peg pieces. Great tip and a cost effective way to add to the kits.