Legos: A Love Story

legos greatest toy how to play what sets to buy value

I love Legos, and I know I’m not the only one.

Pinterest is flooding my inbox to tell me my Lego party pin has been re-pinned–again. Readers email me asking for advice about which Lego sets to buy. My friends and I compare notes on which cities have the best Lego stores, and how to get the most bricks for the cheapest price. We talk about which sets our kids love–and which ones we’d buy for ourselves if money were no object.

Legos are versatile, gender-neutral, timeless, and loved by kids and adults alike. The very same bricks my 2-year-old builds towers out of can be found in the lobbies of the snootiest architectural firms to entertain clients while they await their $400/hour appointments.

Today, I’m sharing a little bit of my family’s experience with Legos. I would love to hear yours, too.

Our Favorite Lego Books

We love the bricks and the books. Good Lego books are fun to peruse, filled with ideas, and are way more portable than the actual bricks (think dentist’s office or car trip).

We love all of the books by professional Lego builder Sean Kenney–we just wish there were more of them! Cool City is our favorite of the three. I’m looking forward to Cool Castles, coming this October. (Sean also has great material on his website.)

The Ultimate Lego Book also continues to be a favorite.

Regular architecture books inspire many of my son’s designs. Skyscrapers and  Architecture: The World’s Greatest Buildings Explored and Explained are favorites.

What sets do we buy?

My kids prefer to buy their Legos in sets, and not just giant tubs of bricks. They’ll follow the directions to put together the set once (and only once), and then the pieces will be mingled with the general collection.

We love the Lego City collection, and we’ve recently been ogling the architecture line. (Make sure you see the Lego rendition of the Sydney Opera House.)

We’ve enjoyed buying bricks a la carte in Lego stores, but we’ve just discovered that Pick a Brick is now available online. We’ve used Pick a Brick to buy:

  • little fun pieces, like flowers and wheels and roof tiles.
  • lots of bricks in one color–like lots of brown for the Empire State Building my son has in progress.
  • add some color variety to our Lego collection by buying plain bricks in pink, purple, and lime green.

For adding lots of basic bricks to your collection, I can’t find a better value than this box. (But if you know of a better deal, let me know!) It’s not a “set” but the bricks work out to be about 4 cents each.

Lego & Friends? No thanks.

I love the versatility of Legos, and my kids and I both shy away from the specialized sets. We don’t buy Ninjago or Star Wars legos, so we’re definitely not buying a highly specialized set like the Butterfly Beauty Shop.

In my house, the boys and girls build very different things out of legos. My sons build aircraft carriers and skyscrapers and lots and lots of trucks. Not my girls: they build clubhouses, cell phones and swimming pools. They make barns and flowers and horse-drawn carriages.

The girls and the boys love to browse the building lines: the architecture series and the modulars leave them drooling. If we wanted to spend $200 on a Lego set, I’d buy the town hall, complete with mayor, journalist, and bride and groom minifigures.

Legos are a value-added toy.

Legos are a simple but limitless toy for lazy days, and my kids play with them a lot during quiet rest times on hot summer days. They’re happy playing, and I’m delighted to have them engaged in self-directed, creative play. But Legos don’t have to be a solo toy: sometimes my kids and I conspire to build things together.

We use Legos for more than play time. Sometimes we’ll do Lego math: Pinterest has lots of great ideas for educational activities. And my son is getting a feel for the value of a dollar as he saves up for some of the bigger Lego sets. (Q: How many loads of laundry will he have to do to save up for that small set? A: 10.)

Perfect (or not) for Type A parents.

Legos are small pieces, and sometimes it feels like they’re taking over my house. But even if we lose a few pieces, we can still play with them (unlike board games). This helps me stay relaxed even though our Legos aren’t perfectly organized or sorted.

(Of course, it might just drive you crazy if your kids mix all the pieces together from different sets like mine do!)

What’s your experience with Legos? Did you love them as a kid? Do you love them now? Do your kids? Hit us with your best tips in the comments!

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  1. Johanna says:

    We gave my son his first legos for his 4th birthday. He already loves them, and I know they will be a life long enjoyment. Thanks for all the recommendations. We are only beginning our love affair. 🙂 I need to get him some more, though, as he is already frustrated with that basic set we gave him…

  2. I have SO many fond memories of playing Legos with my brother when we were younger. And, not-so-young. We’d play Barbies in my room (where he’d yank their heads off and throw them across the room) and then play with Legos in his (where he’d build towers, castles, airplanes, etc, and I would make intricate houses and apartment buildings). His small room would have blocks from wall-to-wall, and at the end of the day we’d clear a path from the door to his bed so Mom and Dad could come say goodnight without stepping on any. I remember once we built a whole fleet of airplanes together (with me doing most of the brick-searching while he built)…and then figured out an aircraft carrier…and I was left to make a tiny hut with the few blocks that were leftover! Ah, the memories. My children will have them for sure.

  3. I am with honest answer.=) I love everything about legos-except for stepping on them.=) My kids are always building with their legos. Currently my oldest has a Sears Tower on display. I love how legos spark imagination. My kids also get the sets-and build them once. We have tried to keep them separate, but I think they are too young for that right now. They want to keep on building-not display a model forever.

  4. Jennifer Haddow says:

    Mine loves to buy the specialized sets, build them once, and then DISPLAY them! I wish I could get him to build, tear down, and build again in a new way. He freaked out yesterday because he “broke” his Space Police Lunar Limo, and he couldn’t find the directions. I told him to just use his imagination, and you would have thought I was speaking a foreign language! I like that architecture series – I’m going to see if I can steer him in that direction by buying him one of the lower priced buildings. He needs to loosen up 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Jennifer, you can find the directions for nearly all the sets online at the Lego customer service page:

      We’ve been thinking about buying a few of the more complex architecture sets, and have been toying with the idea of designating those as “display” models–or at least not letting all the pieces get mixed in with the rest of our Legos. That’s one of the reasons I’m hesitant to pull the trigger on the Sydney Opera House or Fallingwater.

      I’m a rule follower by nature, and I can appreciate your son’s perspective 🙂

  5. Erin says:

    Like Jamie, I have lots of great memories playing with my brothers legos in his room. We would build cities for the Micro Machines.

    When I was a little older, probably around 8 or 9 I got my own pink set of Legos with windows and doors and flowers and flower boxes. It was heaven to my girlie soul! I don’t have kids yet, but they will be getting Legos in all colors – Lime green, Hello!

  6. Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama says:

    Anne! Thank you for the basic bricks suggestion! We are planning on giving DD1 Legos for her birthday this year, but thought we’d have to trek to LegoLand for plain (non set) bricks.

  7. Suzette @ jambalaya says:


    Legos were for my brothers growing up – I don’t know why they weren’t brought into play for me and my sister! I can remember my brothers begging me to build with them – I always struggled with the imagination part but maybe because I was too busy reading a book 🙂

  8. Sel in NZ says:

    In New Zealand we call it Lego without the ‘s’ – funny. Still same marvelous invention though. My son has his heart set on a dinosaur Lego set. Has anyone got this set for their kids and what was your impression? I’m supposed to go shopping this week for his 5th b’day on Sunday. Thanks

  9. Emily says:

    My siblings and I played with Legos for hours when we were kids. DH is going to get his first set soon – he’s outgrown the mega blocks for preschoolers.

  10. We LOVE Legos and I have to say…one of the best (and most expensive) gifts we ever gave our kids (er…um…husband) was the Lego Mindstorm set up.
    I know.
    Crazy expensive.
    But seriously…they are making robots.
    Real robots that pick up cups and shoot colors balls in the order they program them to 🙂
    It’s pretty fun.
    My favorite “sets” are the Creator sets…especially the older ones (usually only found on ebay or somewhere)…they have lots of gears and axles etc.
    And the trains…the trains are awesome too.
    Ours get all mixed together except for a couple special ones and they mostly just create there own contraptions. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Kara, we have one train set and love it! But we haven’t tried the windstorms…or looked into the old Creator sets. Thanks so much for the new Lego ideas!

  11. Carrie says:

    Whenever we step on Legos here, we always say: “Free acupressure!”.

    My kids are big Lego fans – and I’m glad. I have no knack for the things but my mom of all people is a Lego fanatic. She has an entire shed outside her house full of Lego. It’s a kid paradise.

  12. deborah says:

    My son is a Lego man all the way! We should own stock in the Lego company! 🙂
    I love Legos too. I like toys that are timeless. We started out with a tub of bricks, a set of just windows, a set of just wheels and a set of people. Now he likes the specialized sets. Some stay built and some get put together, then taken apart and the pieces used for other creations.

    When my son started collecting Legos, my brother told me, “Buy sets, because they come with pieces that are special and you can’t get otherwise.” I didn’t really get it then, but now I do!

    We have ordered from pick-a-brick online! It is great! I also like Lego Education. They have some really neat stuff.

    I will confess that I like Lego Friends. Probably, because I know my daughter would have loved them when she was little. She spent hours playing with Pollys! She likes playing Legos with her brother now. They build some pretty cool stuff! Recently she was working on a racetrack and horse stable, while my son built a custom cutter crew!

  13. Katie says:

    The DDH has a couple of bins of Lego bricks saved from when he was a kid (somehow all my family’s Legos are officially my brother’s, though my sister and I both played with them too), and I’m sure we’ll only add to the collection once T-Rex and his siblings are old enough not to choke on them. 😉

    Actually, the DDH has to go to California for a conference for work in September, and he is desperately trying to figure out if he can squeeze a visit to Legoland in there. His hotel is apparently right across from Disney Land and I know there’s a big fancy Lego store in the shopping avenue there (or there was eight years ago anyway), so hopefully he’ll at least be able to do that! Legos are just the best.

  14. Linda Fristedt says:

    I am a huge Lego fan.
    There’s a new franchise out there called Bricks And Minifigs (B.A.M.) where they buy old Lego, have huge displays (often for sale) and tables of loose pieces you can buy by the bag.
    They host Lego parties, too, and though the prices aren’t “bargains,” you can get soooo many things unavailable outside of eBay. Check online to see if there’s a franchise near you!

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