My LEGO Party Turned Play-Well Engineering Workshop

By Carolyn Richardson

summer camp los angeles

James, our Play-Well instructor helps the kids build a LEGO tower. PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE MCCAIN

I’m a LEGO purist. I love dumping the big box of hundreds of bricks that can be made into anything I imagine onto the floor. My child is the opposite. Mirae, my soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter, is dedicated to the completion of the predetermined project on the front of the LEGO box. This line between free play and instruction was one we had to consider in planning a LEGO shindig with a mommy-friend this spring.

I thought I needed to create separate areas for the dump-and-imagine kids and those like my by-the-book builder. I also thought that meant renting tons of LEGOs. Then I found Play-Well TEKnologies, which hosts “LEGO-inspired engineering classes for kids K-8.” Our kids aren’t yet in kindergarten, but because they are LEGO experts (or so I thought), I was sure they’d be fine. I was both right and wrong.

I booked our Play-Well instructor James to come to Tarzana Cultural Center to conduct a LEGO engineering workshop for eight kids. All were right around age 5, with a 9-year-old big sister in the mix. James started his time by helping them build a LEGO tower to match his height of about 5’10.” They learned to cross the bricks to make the tower sturdier, and found building something taller than they were mesmerizing.

After the build was literally over James’ head, he introduced a new project that included battery packs and a zipline. Our little ones weren’t quite ready to build on their own, so James helped as much as he could, but then realized that airplanes would probably be more their speed. After a short (and welcome) talk about manners and respect for others, James showed the kids how to make airplanes complete with wings, tails and yes, spinning propellers. When they kept their fingers on the button, they made their planes’ engines hum and flew around the room like only Kindergartners can. This made for happy faces on both the kids and adults. James helped them construct a runway for their planes and an airport was born. Soon after, time was up and James had the coolest way to cap the party. I think it’s a rule that kids knock something down everywhere they go, and so, they got to knock down the tower.

James then had the kids return all the LEGO parts to their appropriate boxes, just like we do at home.

summer camp los angeles

James shows the kids how the belt-drive car works along the zipline. PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE MCCAIN

Here’s what I learned at my first LEGO party:

  • The kids needed to be a little older for the projects, so Play-Well’s age range of K-8 is on the money.
  • There’s a fairly balanced amount of free play and instruction, with creativity for each project built-in.
  • Not having something pre-built to start with was desirable as the kids were better at listening.
  • A party without a cake is called a playdate.

I’d do the LEGO party again, but I’d be happy to see what this experience would be like when the children are a little older and can appreciate some of the themes and more intricate models. The basic party/workshop package is for up to 16 kids and is $275. You could win a Play-Well party and $75 worth of BrikStix reusable decals for LEGO bricks by entering their contest. For full details and to enter click here. To learn more about Play-Well TEKnologies, visit their website at www.play-well.org.

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