Monday, August 29, 2016

Who Created LEGO, Anyway? The History of LEGO

You know and love them as your child’s favorite toys, and you even know them as your own favorite toys from childhood (or today!). You probably know that LEGO bricks have been around for a long time, growing in popularity and gradually turning into an empire that includes theme parks, movies and more. But just how much do you know about how LEGO bricks got their start? If you’re like most of us, not much! It turns out the LEGO company has a history that is just as fun as the sets themselves, so we’re going to give you a quick lesson in the history of LEGO. Below are some key dates surrounding the invention and growth of the legendary brands:

1891: This is the year the man who started it all, Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, was born. The tenth son in an impoverished family, Christiansen lost his job during the Depression and started making wooden toys in 1932 to eke out a living. When he saw how much his children loved his wooden toy ducks in particular, he scraped together some leftover wood and put the ducks into production. Eventually, he started building miniature versions of the chairs and houses he worked on as a carpenter. We’re not happy he fell on hard times, but we sure are pleased it led to the next great chapter in his life!

1947: Several years and one factory fire later, Christiansen decided to reinvent his business by ditching the wood and moving on to plastics, producing over 200 plastic bears and rattles over the next two years. Around this time, he named his business LEGO, a play on the Danish words leg godt (“play well”). The decision to switch to plastic was a riskier move than it seems, as the public at the time was by and large against plastic toys. In fact, a Danish trade magazine called Toy Times skeptically proclaimed in the 1950’s that plastic would never be able to replace wooden toys.

1949: LEGO began producing “automatic binding bricks,” the earliest version of the bricks we know and love today. They were a modification of the UK-based Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, released in 1947. These, in turn, were a modification of the classically popular – but obviously inferior – stacking blocks.

1955: LEGO introduced the “play and learn” concept, which they still use today.

1958: Christiansen died from a heart attack at the age of 66, leaving his third son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, to run the company. The latter Christiansen saw vast potential in the interlocking bricks as a tool for creative play, and worked tirelessly to improve upon their original design, making them more versatile and strengthening their locking abilities. He also switched the type of plastic used. This is the year the modern LEGO brick design was patented. Amazingly, those early bricks are still compatible with the bricks that are produced today!

1968: Within just ten years, LEGO had become so popular that it was able to open the LEGOLAND theme park in Denmark. Today, there are nine LEGOLAND parks with three more in the works, in locations ranging from California to Malaysia.

1969: Spurred on by the success of the original LEGO bricks and hoping to introduce an even younger audience to creative play, the LEGO group created the DUPLO line, consisting of bricks that are about twice the size of traditional LEGO bricks.

1978: LEGO introduced the first human-like minifigures, now an iconic part of most LEGO sets.
Since the 70’s, LEGO has continued to venture into fun and educational territories ranging from its popular work with NASA to send LEGO into space to an innovative partnership with MIT that led to the LEGO MINDSTORM program. They were one of the original inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, and just last year, they replaced Ferrari as the “world’s most powerful brand.” And all of this because of one poor but enterprising construction worker! We can’t wait to see where else LEGO takes us over the years, and we know it will lead to even more favorites and “firsts.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How to Throw a LEGO-Themed Party

What better way to celebrate a special occasion than by throwing a LEGO-themed party? People of all ages can host fun, successful LEGO parties. Starting with some creative planning, you can build your party up just like you would a regular action figure set. Whether you’ve got a birthday coming up, have a group of friends that share your love for LEGO toys or simply want to throw a fun event, follow these LEGO-themed party ideas for a stellar event everyone’s sure to remember. These ideas also will lead to the perfect LEGO-loving child’s birthday party!

Invite the Masses

The first step for planning a party, LEGO-themed or not, is to create a guest list. Think of all the friends that would love to party LEGO-style and invite them to your shindig. You can always use Facebook to invite people, but for this theme, we think a traditional letter by mail is a better choice. You can find DIY LEGO-themed invitations all over the internet to help give you some inspiration!

LEGO-themed party invitations

Set Up the Decorations

It wouldn’t be a LEGO party without LEGO party decorations, so make sure to pick your decorations ahead of time. Simple things like LEGO-shaped plates and cups can go a long way towards making your theme more cohesive. If you want to get extra creative, you can even get a LEGO piƱata! Here are some of our favorite DIY LEGO-themed party decorations:

·       A LEGO banner
·       LEGO cutlery holder
·       LEGO mason jars
·       LEGO shaped decor

LEGO-Themed Treats

Once you’ve pulled together some fun decorations, it’s time to think about the food you’ll have at your party. It’s really easy to put together a few LEGO-shaped desserts. Whether you add some red icing to brownies or create the iconic LEGO head out of a marshmallow, you’ll soon discover that your options are limitless when it comes to these themed treats. To give you some inspiration, here are some tasty LEGO-themed treats:

·       LEGO popcorn
·       LEGO Marshmallow pops
·       LEGO sugar cookies

LEGO Party Games

When your guests aren’t admiring your decorations or snacking on delicious food, they’ll need something fun to do! You can set up different LEGO stations around the area, where people can sit, talk and build LEGO creations together. You can even host a contest between guests to see which group can build the best object!

Another tip: instead of music playing in the background, put on a LEGO movie to entertain friends and keep the theme cohesive.

how to throw a LEGO-themed party

Make the Perfect LEGO Cake

This one just makes sense. Cakes are rectangular… LEGOs are rectangular… you get the picture. You can have cakes made at a variety of bakeries that will personally create a LEGO design for you, or you can try it yourself in the kitchen. After all, if you’ve put together a thousand-piece LEGO set, how hard can baking one measly cake be, right?

A LEGO-themed cake

 Party Favors They’ll Never LEGO Of!

The final step to creating a great party is leaving people with something they’ll always remember! A good LEGO party favor is fun and usable for everyone involved, not just LEGO lovers. You can stick some of your pre-made treats into a LEGO shaped bag, give departing guests a DIY LEGO mason jar, or try making LEGO crayons!

LEGO-themed party favors

 LEGOs have been bringing friends together for decades, and with these fun DIY crafts, you can take it one step further with your very own LEGO-inspired party. Whether you go all out or choose a subtler approach, the thing that matters most is to have fun and celebrate with your friends!

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Parent's Guide to Storing & Organizing LEGO Toys

Kids of all ages love playing with LEGO sets in varying degrees of complexity, and that means if you’re a parent, you might get used to having DUPLO or LEGO blocks around for a long time – sometimes even “grown-up children” love working on LEGO projects! It’s the perfect intellectually stimulating, hands-on activity that can evolve alongside your child. The upshot? You’ll probably be accumulating a lot of LEGO blocks over the years. And if you’ve ever stepped on a LEGO in your bare feet, you’ll understand the importance of having a great system for storing and organizing them. Follow the tips below and you’ll be able to wrangle your child’s collection no matter how large it grows!

1. Keep Sets Together

If you’re not a “dump every LEGO block you have into a ten gallon bin” kind of person – or if your child has one particular set that they enjoy building over and over – help your child stay organized by the set. When they’re done building their project and it’s time to disassemble, putting the LEGO bricks back in their original box is obviously the safest bet; the child will be able to see instantly what set it is when they pull it out down the line. However, cardboard boxes do get dog-eared, torn, or accidentally thrown out. In these instances, Tupperwear containers and Sharpees are your best friends. Put the set into its own individual Tupperwear, and clearly mark what it is.

2. Hang Onto the Instructions

On the subject of organizing by set, don’t throw out those instructions no matter how much your child feels s/he doesn’t need them anymore! Keep them in the box or Tupperwear with their original set, or get creative and put all instruction sheets in a binder where they can be readily accessed and safe from crunching. Our favorite method is to leave the instructions in the box, but take quick photos of them on your phone and file it away should you ever lose the hard copy.

3. Organize by Color 

If your child is interested in more “free form” building and they’re happier with a pile of LEGO blocks than with a set, there are some fun and creative ways in which you can organize by color. Display a rainbow of LEGO toys in buckets or stack them on your child’s desk in clear containers. Here’s a clever use of magnets that arrange by color, with an effect that feels a little bit like walking into a candy shop.

Organizing LEGO toys using magnets & arranging by color

4. For Smaller Children, Create a LEGO Mat 

Many children attack a LEGO project by dumping the largest container of LEGO or DUPLO bricks they can onto the floor, leaving you to hunt around later for every last piece as you painstakingly usher the LEGO bricks back to their bin. Create a workaround by designating a blanket or tarp as the “LEGO mat.” Have them lay this down first and tinker around on top of it. When they’re done, cleanup is as easy as gathering the mat by the corners and using it to “funnel” the LEGO bricks back into a storage container.

5. Wash Larger Pieces in a Pillowcase in the Washing Machine 

With all that hands-on activity, things can get a little germy sometimes. For any larger pieces – and especially for DUPLO bricks – the easiest cleaning solution is to put the bricks into an old pillowcase and throw the whole thing into the washing machine, set on a gentle cycle. This isn’t ideal for tiny or fragile pieces, but it’s a great way to periodically clean basic bricks and blocks.

6. Put Your LEGO Creations on Display!

If your child is extra proud of a particular project, there’s no need to disassemble it right away! This is particularly true of sets like LEGO Ideas, which are wonderful pieces of artwork unto themselves. Put the finished set on a shelf, in a shadow box, or even in a display case. Allowing your child to take pride in their work will encourage them to continue building and learning for years to come!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Learning to Code with LEGO

From making phone calls to booking a hotel, technology has changed the way we live. So it’s no surprise that learning to code, which was once optional only for the bravest and “geekiest” among us, is becoming less and less of a choice for people in search of in-demand careers. More and more employers are looking for people with basic coding skills; and with the accessibility of coding classes, learning to code can be one of the best ways for people to make a big change.

This is especially true for the younger generation. Similar to learning any other language, coding skills are best developed young. And there’s great news: with companies like LEGO, developing critical coding and computer skills is as easy as playing with a favorite toy!

Among other initiatives, LEGO has created the WeDo 2.0 system, which is a combination of software and hardware that gives children over 40 hours of hands-on practice with the basic skills that allow one to code. Children are able to build, program and modify their projects. It’s a fantastic entry point into a sought-after skill!

Bits and Bricks

Created by LEGO, Bits and Bricks is an innovative game geared towards children as young as 5 and 6. It's part of the national Hour of Code campaign, which was created to help excite kids about computer coding. Child and adult LEGO fans alike will love Bits the Bot, a scrappy little character who just “can’t get his programs right.”

Create Your Own Robot

Our favorite part of computer coding with LEGO? It’s not just about being on the computer! You’ll still be able to get your child away from the screen and out into the “real world,” which is something we’ve always loved about LEGO sets in general. Children are able to use the pieces and make their own robot from Bricks and Bits. Once completed, they can then design a coding game for it. In addition, they can create an imaginary world that's full of obstacles by designing movement cards to include right turn, left turn and forward.

Children never too young to learn something new. By implementing a fun learning environment, they are even more receptive and eager to learn. Whether it's learning a second language or coding computers, knowledge is power.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Five LEGO Creations that Will Blow Your Mind

LEGO building bricks are indisputably one of the best toys on the planet. They offer amazing versatility as a building medium and have led to the creation of some amazing projects built by kids and adults alike. We’re obviously LEGO fanatics here at BRICK Marketplace, so we love reading about people who have taken the next step (or several steps) with LEGO construction projects, often venturing into some truly amazing territory. Here are five of our absolute favorite LEGO creations.

1. The LEGO House

When you were a child, did you dream about having an entire house made out of LEGO bricks? You weren’t alone. In the United Kingdom, television personality James May actually acted on this dream, constructing a fully functional house entirely out of LEGO bricks. The home required 3.3 million Lego bricks and featured a working toilet and shower. A pet cat made of LEGO bricks was also included in the home (sans litter box). The built-in bed, however, was admittedly quite uncomfortable.

James completed his 200-foot tall house with the help of more than 1,000 volunteers on a vineyard in Surrey. Unfortunately, the house was destroyed when the vineyard needed to reclaim the land at planting time. James tried to give the house away to anyone who could move it but found no takers for his epic creation. The silver lining? That must have been an easy demolition project.

2. A Working V-8 Motor

Building a detailed replica of a V-8 motor from LEGO bricks is a challenge in and of itself, but some of the brilliant people who work at LEGO did just that - and their engine worked! Since then, several working engines of various shapes and sizes have been built. This is pretty incredible to witness, so here is a video of a working replica V8 made entirely from Legos. You're welcome:

3. 2004 Volvo XC90 LEGO Replica

While replica V8 motors are smaller than the engines they represent, the Lego 2004 Volvo XC90 replica was carefully built to actual size. The SUV was created by professional LEGO builders who work at LEGOLAND California, and it’s incredibly detailed. The car can't be driven, but you would never know it if you were standing more than a few feet away. The building process for this project was captured on film and saved.

4. Obama Inauguration

Those who missed President Obama's inauguration were given a little extra time to see it in miniature. LEGOLAND California created and displayed a miniature replica of the event, complete with recognizable guests including Barbara Bush and Oprah Winfrey. The display was incredibly detailed and included thousands of Lego figurines. The display has since been removed, but pictures of the exhibit clearly show that no detail went unnoticed.

amazing LEGO creation: Obama's inauguration made from LEGOs

5. Torso Man

Artist Nathan Sawaya is known for creating stunning visual masterpieces with LEGO bricks, but perhaps his best is his sculpture of a man tearing open his own chest. From the open wound pours out several Lego bricks, spilling out onto the table. The piece is one of Nathan's most recognizable and has been put on display all around the globe.

amazing LEGO creation: Torso Man by Nathan Sawaya

From feats of engineering to beautiful art, LEGO is responsible for inspiring artists, builders, historians, architects, and scientists of all ages. Seek out some of your own inspiration today with one of the many sets at BRICK Marketplace!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Our Five Favorite LEGO Sets for Movie-Lovers

In 1999, LEGO released their first set designed around a movie: Star Wars, of course. Ever since then, movie-inspired LEGO sets have been used to capture the wonder in front of the camera and create a fun experience for film and action-figure lovers alike. Let’s take a look at five of our favorite movie LEGO sets, perfect for movie fanatics.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes the Avengers Quinjet Chase

If you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll know that the Quinjet is one of the most iconic aircrafts in The Avengers. It has appeared in two Captain America movies, the original Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron; and it’s even been spotted on the Netflix show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With that in mind, there’s no better symbol of the Avengers than this aircraft. This LEGO set specifically features the epic Quinjet chase in the Age of Ultron movie, but you can use the Quinjet to reenact countless scenes from these classic films.

LEGO Marvel Heros Quinjet Chase Set
LEGO Star Wars Poe’s X-Wing Fighter

In celebration of The Force Awakens premiere, millions of fans came together to celebrate the newest release of one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time: Star Wars. Keeping in tune with this, LEGO created an all-new set,so fans had the chance to enjoy the film outside of the theater by recreating their favorite scenes. This set in particular depicts Poe’s x-wing fighter jet and includes four spring-loaded shooters, two stud shooters, retractable landing gear and space in the back for BB-8. Figures for Poe Dameron, crew members, a pilot and BB-8 are also included.

LEGO Star Wars Poe's X-Wing Fighter
LEGO Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer

The new Star Wars is a definite win for movie-lovers, but of course, there’s nothing like the originals and the Star Wars LEGO sets that came with them. This set is a must-have for both Star Wars fans and LEGO lovers, and features the Imperial Star Destroyer, which was classically used by Darth Vader and the Empire. In total, the set includes over 1,300 pieces that come together to create an iconic ship from the Star Wars saga.

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer Set

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtle Sub Undersea Chase

For those movie-goers who are excited to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, this LEGO set is just what you need! While this particular set isn’t directly based on the new movie, it encompasses all of your favorite crime-fighting turtles. Included in the kit are the epic Turtle Sub, villain Kraang’s sub, an armory, missiles and more! Great for both kids and adults who have a passion for TMNT, this set will help bring the movie to life in a new way.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles LEGO Set

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes Spider-Helicopter Rescue

You can expect to see a lot more of Spider-Man in the Marvel cinematic universe, thanks to Sony Entertainment relaunching the series. But before the 2017 release, you can enjoy Spider-Man and all of his adventures with this popular LEGO set. It centers on Spiderman as he uses the Spider-Helicopter to stop the Green Goblin, which was portrayed in the original take of Spider-Man in 2002. In addition to having these items, you’ll also find Spider-Man’s spider web, missiles and more. We can only hope that when the movie is finally released, it’ll include a scene just like this one!

LEGO Spiderman Helicopter Rescue Set

These must-have LEGO sets are perfect for movie fanatics everywhere. Not only will you be able to connect on a personal level with your favorite films, but you’ll have something fun to create and show off to everyone! These LEGO movie sets are great for everyone, not just kids, so the next time you think about buying a movie ticket, don’t forget to pick out a LEGO set to go with it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Beyond Building: Fun LEGO Games Students Can Play

LEGO games for learning
LEGO toys are obviously great ways to enhance a child’s building/engineering skills and enhance their creativity as they embark on their own designs. However, what makes LEGO a true staple in any classroom is its ability to be included in a number of learning games that move beyond construction skills. LEGOs can be modified to become essential components of math, reading, science games and more. Below are a few of our favorite learning games that involve LEGO blocks, from least to most advanced.

1. Learning Symmetry with LEGO

Are you looking for a fun, easy way to teach young learners about the concept of symmetry? Grab a LEGO board and a number of LEGO blocks in a variety of colors and sizes, making sure there are plenty of each type. Then divide the board down the middle, and let your student or child build! The only rule is that whatever goes on one side of the board must go on the other side, too, in its exact relative position. Children can start simple, with just a couple blocks; and as they get more familiar with the concept, they can create ever more complex and symmetrical designs. For some inspiration, read this blog post about teaching symmetry with DUPLOs using a butterfly pattern.

2. LEGO Hangman

One of the best parts about LEGO blocks is that they can easily be written on and turned into letters! So grab a permanent marker, find some square-shaped LEGO blocks, and create your LEGO alphabet. Then, using LEGO figures, get ready for a fun round of LEGO hangman. You can get creative about how you choose to design the hangman post and the hangman itself, but we like this simple DIY version.

3. LEGO Poetry

Now that you’ve gotten used to using LEGO blocks as an alphabet, take things to the next level and write entire words on LEGO blocks. Model the words after those found in a typical “magnetic poetry” set, using a good mix of nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, and modifiers. Work anything “personal” into the set, like classroom-specific pets or phrases. Then allow students to rearrange the LEGO blocks to create new sentences and entire poems or stories, building as they go, for a narrative that will double as a visual treat! Make sure to photograph the end creation for display purposes.

4. LEGO LED Flashlight

Help students learn about LED technology while allowing them to build something simple, affordable, and downright cool – a flashlight. The very simplest version can be achieved by adding a battery and LED to the inside of a hollowed out LEGO, as shown here. However, we’d encourage you to use that as a jumping-off point and help your students create more complex builds using their LED technology.

5. LEGO Chemistry

Given the number of literal “building blocks” that are involved in chemistry, using LEGO blocks to represent chemistry concepts is a match made in heaven. Whether you’re illustrating atoms, bonding, or positive and negative charges, LEGO blocks can help. Check out this tutorial from MIT to teach how atoms bond into chemicals and molecules.

What are your favorite LEGO learning games? Let us know in the comments below!