Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review + Giveaway: LEGO Pick-A-Brick Wall: Building Kids' Gratitude One Brick at a Time

Recognize this store? New Yorkers and visitors to NYC may know.  It's at Rockefeller Center and this place is always PACKED! photo: LEGO

WHAT: More on Gratitude and LEGOs
DOES: sharing a new trick at Pick A Brick and updating you on the impact from previous Pick A Brick adventures
INVEST:  $7.99 for the small container; $14.99 for the large container
Pick A Brick blocks can be a choking hazard so I would aim for at least 3+
GIVEAWAY PRIZE:  LEGO Creative Bucket 10662- this one is new to me- has the new eyes! 

After reading the article in the Wall Street Journal: Raising Kids with an Attitude of Gratitude.  I started writing about what I had done with my kids and gratitude this year.  First it was supposed to be just for this blog but somehow it ended up at Quartz and then at Quartz's parent site, the Atlantic

I'm grateful for the big audience but I'm also grateful to fellow users of toys as tools for viewing toys the way I do.  Toys are tools with tremendous value but it really does matter who is the user of the tool. I think the readers here know that.

That said, here are some things that I didn't get to include in the Quartz/Atlantic article but these are the practical tips that I hope the readers here will find useful.  

From our very first Pick A Brick purchase. Read about the special stacking method

Like an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet (food), the Pick-A-Brick Wall can be overwhelming. The truth is, a buffet can never be all-you-can-eat because like the large-sized container to fill with your pick of bricks, the amount of space in your stomach for one meal is finite.  photo: LEGO

Teach Gratitude with LEGOnomics 101

I think this needs to be spelled out and the key word to remember is f-i-n-i-t-e. Teach them this word.  Tell them that is not a coincidence that it sounds like "finish." When children learn that a particular supply is finite, it's easier to contemplate the value.  I'm sure all of our children have at one point thought that the amount of money that can come out of an ATM was IN-finite.

But as the grown-ups we must teach them that things are finite. I think I failed Economics in college but this rule is simple: Except a parent's love, everything is finite, even your time with them is finite.  Thus being mindful about your finite space, resources, cash, time, really anything.... this concept helps kids become more grateful and I picked LEGOs to teach gratitude because they will learn so much faster using things that are most familiar to them.  Using toys, especially LEGOs adds a multi-sensory component to learning that you can't ignore. Seriously, it's no different from using unifix cubes to learn math.

There is much to gain in respecting what you have. Thoughtful storage with future usage in mind is a GREAT habit to instill. Don't we do this in the kitchen everyday? We pair our socks before they go back into the drawer.  BTW, this is an ongoing learning process. We are not perfect here. I am awesome at nagging to clean up, sort, organize.
Temptations! Adorations! He made me take this picture.  I trained my kids to take pictures of things they like in stores.  It's not the same thing as walking out with it but taking a photo helps them walk out without tears or tantrums. I also print the photo and post it somewhere at home. If they want to earn it somehow, I'm always ready to make a deal.

Maybe for your child the love is in accessories, clothing, skateboards, Pokemon cards... it really doesn't matter.  When they are grateful for what they have, they are well aware of the value and what they actually have at home (call it brick inventory if you will).  Being mindful can help kids make better buying choices. The message: My dear child, money to spend on this is finite but if you use your head, you can impact the number of bricks and more importantly, the kind of bricks you take home.

Of course, let it be said, that there are more things to be grateful for than toys.  But when they are little, you can use toys to teach those first lessons of gratitude. Hopefully later on, they'll generalize the learning onto other things for which to be grateful... such as  your time, their time, libraries, teachers, electricity, the earth...  you know what I mean...  Learning happens bit by bit, brick by brick, you can't teach them everything all at once. 

And NOW.... My Latest PAB Wall Trick: Stacking Roof Tiles!!

But first, I must apologize for the lighting in these pictures.  I had to take them when the kids were asleep. You can guess why. 

There are 219 Black Roof Tiles on top of this table now... and they all came home in one container. By the piece, they cost $0.25 each!  

Pictured: 219 Roof tiles and one large-sized container with cap.
Unbelievable, right?  I just flipped one row upside down and then put it together. Until this day, I thought roof tiles weren't good for taking home from the PAB Wall.
It's true, they all fit but look at the spaces in between, we're not finished yet!

We love flat tiles. We learned about them from Megan Rothock's books! Good for making floors.

When you buy a set, you usually just get a couple of these but now they can have their own garden.

My kids like translucent pieces that become "treasures" and these little purple plates are the "tickets" for the new train they got for Xmas.  I think we should start looking at the pretend play value of LEGO too. I don't think we are very mindful about using LEGO to build narrative.

It all fit!

It really did!
Good to Know: If you were to pour in just 1x4 bricks (unstacked) into the large container, you can probably get about 200 in there but you'll have no room for those lovable extras. (Yes, I literally tested this out at home. So geeeeeeeky, I know.)
This made up part of #1's birthday gift.  I know it doesn't look like a gift but my son knew exactly what went into it because he's done this too. When he opened his gift, he said, "I'm speechless. Thank you Mom."  This is a boy who wouldn't stop talking about Spinjitsu everyday for MONTHS.

The Impact of Pick A Brick: Months Later

Is learning gratitude the most important thing or is it more important to learn how to be grateful so that you can be happy? For me, it's the latter.  Our first Pick A Brick trip was last summer so I had some time to observe the impact.

#1 uses these bricks more often than any other brick he owns because he has more 1x4 in brown than in other colors, thanks to the PAB Wall.  He is able to reap the benefits of being mindful everytime he plays!  I don't know about you but I want my kid to be grateful for himself too. That's an important life skill.  I hope he feels a lot of pride when he plays with his special hand-picked stash.
If Number #2 could, he would own all of the Creator Sets. But we let him stick to the houses- his favorites (but we are not buying all of them though it's so tempting!).  He loves the videos on LEGO.com where the designers talk about the houses.  He has learned how to make furniture to place into his houses.  I think being able to know who the makers are has helped him.  Just like the way we click with certain authors.

#2 made this house using bricks from our latest trip to the PAB Wall. I was so happy to see him use the trick he learned from his Creator Sets. Not every kid is a great builder but he has been trying. I literally think the Creator sets are giving him a little boost in confidence.  They have the "quick build" ideas so that you don't have to build the big thing until you are ready.  For someone like my little guy, replicating (somewhat) the technique in his favorite set using the PAB Wall bricks was monumental. 

Some kids like to write cards to their parents for their anniversary, LEGO allows my son to express himself without needing spell check. He used his PAB Wall bricks for this.

More LEGO posts:

If you end up using these tips, I'd love to hear about it.  If you were trying to teach your child how to shop smart and recognize value when toy shopping, I will post her/his picture or video on this blog (if enough pictures come in) and you can show your superstar that others applaud their diligence.  Send your photos via email to me and make sure you get a reply.

And now try to win the LEGO Creative Bucket 10662
photo: LEGO
photo: LEGO
oh, isn't he cute? I've never seen pieces like this in an open ended bucket set. VERY COOL!   photo: LEGO
The buckets appears to have a bunch of eyes that I first saw in Megan Rothrock's LEGO building workshop.  I love them.  They are so much more fun than the drawn eyes on little 1x2 bricks.  Check out Batty SNOT (LEGO tech term meaning "studs-not-on-top")  

Megan Rothrock of LEGO Adventure Book 1 and LEGO Adventure Book 2 taught a Halloween Building workshop at the Bank Street College of Education Bookstore. It was awesome.  photo: Megan Rothrock
There are 12 of these eyes in the Creative Bucket 10662 so I'll be mad at you if you don't try to win this one.   It's out of stock right now but there is one bucket left reserved for the winner here.  Thanks to LEGO saving the bucket for the readers here. 

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win!  Please answer these questions if you have time.  I'm so curious to hear your thoughts!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you are a LEGO.com shopper, make sure you are in the VIP program! Some readers have told me that they had no idea about the program and are upset they never racked up those points! (100 points is about a $100 purchase and it will get you $5 off your next purchase) Here is a link to the LEGO store.   Note, if you are looking for MSRP, you can just check the LEGO store site. Some stores will sell above the MSRP.  These links support Toys Are Tools too.  Choose the store that is convenient for you.
  1. Creative Bucket 10662
  2. Ninjago
  3. Creator

And if you are an Amazonian jungle shopper then here are the links to support Toys Are Tools!  Thanks in advance.  Here are the products mentioned at Amazon.

  1. LEGO Store at Amazon
  2. Creative Bucket 10662 (remember it is $29.99 MSRP)
  3. Ninjago
  4. Creator

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review. The reviewed items were purchased by Jenn and her family. LEGO is contributing this out-of-stock prize (Woo-Hoo!)  



  1. My 8yr old son would love the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 because he loves robots and machines. He currently has a motorized building set that he can put together and take apart that isn't Lego, but he really enjoys it.

  2. My kids are little so probably the largest Duplo creative bucket set, because we can just never have too much Duplo (except when it's clean up time!) We already have a basic bucket, don't even know which it is, excellent starter set but you can do much more when you dump a few of them together. We also have the first zoo set which is a nice add-on, and the figures lead to more pretend play. Combined, those were the best birthday present ever.

  3. For grown-up choice, am I allowed to say Mindstorms even though my kids are 3 and 1?! Sorry, it just looks too cool and fun. But I myself have always been a huge lego fan, who cares if the kids won't appreciate it for another few years???

  4. My son is almost 3 and is still obsessed with his Duplo Lego's. He has almost all of the sets but the cars and trains are still his favourites. He also enjoys building houses. Fire station, Big farm, Creative cars, Construction site, and Number train are the ones he uses the most.

  5. Basically any other Duplo set would make his day. He would love the Safari ones in particular though because he loves all the different animals!

  6. I would absolutely love to begin collecting the Marvel Lego figures. I'm kind of a nerd. I would just want the figures though, not necessarily all the other sets to build, because I just don't have time to build them. I also just don't have the spare money to collect them. Sad times, lol.

  7. If I could design my own box of Lego's, I would create "soft" Lego's, for younger kids. Why? Because Lego's hurt to land on. My son fell backwards once and cut his head open on a Lego and nearly needed stitches. Soft Lego's would be perfect for younger kids who still want to enjoy fine motor play without the pain of stepping on Lego's or landing on them. It would probably just be basic bricks in primary, secondary and pastel colours, as well as a handful of clear ones. As far as price range, $14.99-19.99 seems fair.

  8. If I were brilliant enough, I'd want to design something entirely different with the same basic idea as lego - just a different shape/connection to keep us creating in different ways. Compatibility with original legos optional. Maybe something that goes more easily in different directions (as opposed to legos needing to be built up almost always). I'm not enough of an engineer to actually have a viable idea, though. Knex has already been done... I just love building/creating toys and can't get enough of them. Same size and price range as original lego would be about right. Large bucket of random pieces. Maybe simple-machine type components - wheels, pulleys, levers and such that could be used with the bricks to create more function, though not necessarily motorized.

  9. My son is seven and he's LEGO-obsessed! His current favorites are minifigures and the Monster Fighter series. He would love to have the Ghost Train or the Vampire Castle.

  10. If I were choosing, I'd buy my son the LEGO deluxe brick set. I love everything that LEGO makes and of course, I love the sets that come with instructions that result in a finished product but the very best thing about LEGO is seeing my son create something entirely from his own imagination. There's nothing in particular stopping me from purchasing this set. We have a very tight budget (my husband is a teacher and I am a stay at home mom) so we tend to save bigger purchases like this for birthdays or Christmas.

  11. If I were the Product Development Chief at LEGO, I would design some "real life" sets. I would love to see a school set and a playground set. I think it would give kids a great way to work through some of the things that happen outside of the home through creative play. I'd try to keep these sets priced in the $25 and under range to keep them accessible to everyone. The other products that I'd love to see are licensed sports sets. My son would love to build an NFL stadium and how much fun would NFL minifigures be? The stadiums could be priced higher (in the $50-$100 range depending on size) and the minifigures could be priced like the current minifigure packages (around $2.99).

  12. My little grandson will turn four in two weeks and I think he would love their Lego Big Farm Set. They live on five acres and are surrounded by farms which he really enjoys. He loves Legos and has a great time building with them!

  13. My favorite for him would be the Lego City Fire Collection. I can see him becoming a pretend fireman with this set!

  14. My three kids are 8, 11, and 13. I have both genders of kids. They LOVE LEGO and do a lot of free play. Any of the sets would be enjoyed! They have done LEGO league for the past three years. We get our bricks from thrift stores by the bin, and have a tip for you -- get mesh laundry bags with zippers and wash them in the clothes washer (be sure to load towels too to prevent too much banging). Because we usually get these bins, they love looking for cool pieces an inventing dioramas and objects.

    My favorite items are the EV3 and the Death Star!

    I wish LEGO would reintroduce the custom minifig online and let you order it directly! My kids used to love playing with that. Love the newer minifgs like the scientist and all.

  15. thanks for this comment. I never knew about that. Sounds really cool. I wonder if I could make myself! Oooh... another way to pretend play family!

  16. I am so jealous of these five acres. What my kids would do for five square feet of their own grass..... I hope he gets the farm set of his dreams

  17. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH. I was just thinking about this. Are there any school sets or playground sets? The friends have a high school don't they? I once wrote about a playground set. The therapist who reviewed it with me really liked having a playground set to use with patients. http://bit.ly/17EA8Rk

  18. I know there were NBA and soccer sets but I don't recall an NFL sets. Laser Pegs has NFL sets I believe. But I think those NBA sets are cute. They are retired though... I am currently trying to piece together one. I am not getting very far.... I'm not detail oriented enough.

  19. Kim, should the school set have a smart board? Would be so cool to imagine a modern school set. I want to challenge my kids to make that!

  20. there is a book called the LEGO Build It Book by No Starch Press, http://amzn.to/1ihxMce, if you had the Creator Red Car 5867 which we actually had when we reviewed the book , you could created every model in the book. (think there was over 10). Really great instructions. But Creator Red is retired so it's costly. http://amzn.to/JHTHgI But one may possibly do the same thing with the Creator Highway Speedster 31006. ($25) http://amzn.to/1ihyx4X Must take a look at the parts list. Might be a fun project. Definitely a gratitude exercise.

  21. very interesting idea. I think if someone made me a LEGO brick pillow, I would love it. If they stacked, I would be completely tickled. If LEGO made soft bricks, maybe kids could build their own beanbag chairs and such.... I would love to see kids build more furniture and life sized toys like Woodmobiel.

  22. would love to know what is the set? We had Robotix once. It was awesome. Vintage store find.

  23. Do not give away your special Duplo sets. I don't know the zoo set but if they retire it then you may want to sell it later. My husband was so mad at me for giving away the Thomas duplo sets we had. We had many, if not all! ARGH!!!!!!!!! If I tried to sell those today... well, I'm just not going to think about it. My husband is very protective over all Thomas trains ... more than the kids.

  24. I still remember our first box of duplo bricks that I bought in a garage sale. Huge box. $3. I love garage sales.

  25. I think you need to get this book. http://amzn.to/1ihAfmS Some people have coffee table books. We have LEGO books. Sometimes books are just better. Less space, no dusting, always intact. Maybe LEGO should make a minifigure a day desk calendar. Wouldn't that be cute? And they could make one for kids too.

  26. Yes! My husband is a teacher and we are fans of modern technology in education. I think a smart board would be such a cool idea to incorporate.

  27. I've never seen any of the sports sets. I'm going to have to Google them. :)

  28. I must have miscommunicated somehow, our duplo isn't going anywhere!

  29. This is another post I will refer to again and again.Everybody like to get
    new something. Your described information about great person who are really has invented big thing As I have share my blog about Gay sex shop. Having fun with rectal toys and games is nothing new and it’s been a big think with regards to sex-related satisfaction for many years now. Having fun with rectal toys and games is incredibly typical though, especially amongst the gay fraternity. However that does not mean that it’s fun to be had by Male vibrator only.

  30. My niece is also a great fan of lego collection, it is next to barbie in her toy list. This is where she empties my pocket.

  31. Love this idea. My boys would go nuts!

  32. Thanks for a good reminder for realizing us Parents the things we are not doing but we need to do for our kids. For toys, we need to make sure that beside providing entertainment they are educational as well. Also, we need to stop spending a lot of money into toys as there are websites like Sprogs http://www.sprogsinc.co.uk/ that offer great kids products at affordable prices. Thanks again for sharing this article.

  33. Great blog..

    It is essential for parents to create a healthy learning
    environment for their kids. it is imperative as it nourish urge of reading and
    learning in kids at early stage...Learning is essential
    for every human being on earth. I am volunteering my services at a school which is running for poor kids. i feel so satisfied teaching and helping kids read and write.

  34. My son got the cargo airplane and absolutely loves it!

  35. I love it when my kids can build new things with their legos. If I were designing a product, it'd have ~200-300 pieces, have a booklet with lots of small ideas they could put together + some larger things to make (out of the pieces). And ideas to get them started building more. It'd cost ~20-30 dollars.

  36. I loved the technic sets when I was a kid. With the gears that would move the helicopter blades and all. I plan to buy those for my kids (and me!) but their fingers aren't strong enough yet to put the gears on.