16 Cool and Easy-to-Build Lego Projects
I didn't get much Lego-building experience as a kid, so I've have to work twice as hard to come up with cool yet simple Lego projects that impress my own kids.
Half the time, when playing Legos with the kids I poop out and just throw some random bricks together and call it a masterpiece. Not exactly quality building! This inspired me to make this list of fairly simple projects.
Most of these will require some trial and error to build correctly. Rather than giving your kids specific instructions, pose each project as a challenge; part of the fun is figuring out how to make it work using what you have.
1. Balloon-Powered Car
This one is an easy way to give a basic Lego car some horsepower.
- Make a basic "car" out of Legos. Nothing fancy, just four wheels and a frame of long skinny bricks to hold them together.
- In the back, build a frame to hold in the balloon. Be creative, and make sure it has enough bracing to keep it stable.
- Insert the balloon into the frame you've made on the back, with the opening facing the back and the balloon-end facing the front.
- Fill the balloon and let it rip!
Part of the challenge of this activity is to build a frame in the back that effectively holds in the balloon and keeps the model stable when the pressure is released.
2. Christmas Ornament
You can really make any Lego creation into a Christmas ornament by hanging it from a tree. But a fun holiday challenge is to make blocky bricks into a traditional spherical holiday ornament. How will you accomplish that?
3. Rubber-Band Gun
Mom's sure to be a hit by making this rubber-band gun! This challenge can be broken down into the following elements:
- Shooting mechanism: In order for the rubber band to fire, you need two things. First, a stable hook at the front to hold it in place, and a moving mechanism in the back that, when fired, will release the taut rubber band and propel it forward.
- Trigger: This is arguably the most challenging part of the gun to make. The part of the gun that you squeeze needs to be attached to an axle that will push the shooting mechanism in the back of the gun forward, releasing the rubber band.
- Barrel: The length of the barrel will determine what kind of rubber bands you can use. Be sure that the barrel and shooting mechanism are sturdily in place, so that the tension of the rubber band doesn't pull them apart. The barrel will usually be made of two long, thin bricks, but with a block's worth of space between them to make room for the trigger and shooting mechanism. Don't forget to have a notch or hook at the end for the rubber band to grab.
- Handle: This is what you'll hold on to when pulling the trigger. It should be very sturdy to support the weight of the gun as well as the pressure from your hand.
4. Lego Earrings for Mom
These earrings are more decorative than they are challenging, but a great gift idea for the mom of Lego-loving kids. Using a hot glue gun, attach earring hooks purchased from a craft store to Lego pieces. You can also decorate the blocks with smaller ones, but make sure they're not too heavy.
5. Upright Piano
A piano would be a great addition to any Lego world, such as a dollhouse or a school. How realistic can you make yours look?
These simple little birds are excellent for playing in a game of Creationary! See if the other players can guess what you're doing when you start to build one of these little guys.
7. Super Mario
My kids love anything Mario, Luigi, or Princess Peach. See if you can build an 8-bit Mario out of Legos.
8. UFO Spinning Top
This simple build is probably more fun for younger kids than the older ones. They'll get a lot of joy out of being able to make a toy on their own. Try giving your younger kid a selection of blocks to challenge their problem-solving skills.
9. Monthly Mini-Builds
Mini-builds are released once a month on the Lego website and at their stores. If you go to the store, you and your kids will get to participate in a hands-on event where everyone builds the same model from instruction. Or, you can download the instructions for the model and do it at home. Normally, you don't need to buy any special pieces or bricks to build; the mini-build model will use what you already have. Each month's model is usually seasonal or commemorative.
10. Rubber-Band Car
This is similar to the the rubber-band gun in its complexity, and is a wonderful challenge for an advanced builder. In order to build the car, you need to create a mechanism—such as a gear—on the back axle which can hold the rubber band in place while you wind it back, wrapping the band around the axle and stretching it taut. When you let go, the force from the rubber band should propel the car forward. See if you can find the right rubber band to make it go as fast and far as you can.
11. LED Minifigs
Simple, creative, and a little spooky—mini-LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are just the right size to put inside the heads of Lego mini-figurines.
This is more of a Lego modification project than just a simple Lego creation. However, making little jack-o'-lanterns out of blocks is a really cool Halloween project.
Why Legos Are Important at a Young Age
I'm a reasonably intelligent woman, and have always scored well on both language and math tests. However, as a child, I was never very interested in Legos or building and wasn't encouraged to try. I'm determined that my girls will be exposed to the engineering skills that Legos naturally teach.
I love this video. Speaker Christ Rogers from the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach has been working with the Lego Group to bring engineering into every classroom as a way to teach creativity, teamwork, and systems engineering as well as math, science, and literacy.