Lego Design Party 9yr - Lego Building Contest
Holly in Albany, CA, USA
March 2010 Winner
My son has always been a huge Lego fan, so this year we decided to have a design/build party featuring Lego! We used real Lego and Duplo plus some simple craft materials to design and build a great theme party.
INVITATION: The first step in creating the invitations for this party was to build an actual Lego birthday scene! My son used his own collection of Lego pieces to create a scene of minifigs constructing a birthday cake, with a front loader delivering materials, flaming candles and all sorts of other fun details. We took a digital photo of this, printed and cut to fit on the front of the invitation cards. The cards were made from scrapbooking paper that is embossed and printed to look like an assemblage of Lego bricks (scrapbook.com); we chose green as that is my son's favorite color. I cut each sheet of 12x12 paper into three strips and folded each strip to form a 4x6 card.
The birthday scene photo was glued on with a border of Lego studs (the dots that stick up on the top of the bricks are officially called studs) showing all around the outside. On the inside of the card we pasted the party information which I printed on regular white paper. I created a background of repeating words related to playing with Lego (DESIGN BUILD CONSTRUCT ART IMAGINE PLAY CREATE ENGINEER PLAN INVENT ARCHITECTURE RACE TINKER ACT MODEL IDEA) in a font that matches Lego's logo. This showed around the edges of a box containing the actual invitation text: C-'s turning 9 and we're building a birthday party! Please come join the fun!" with the date and address etc. My son's name and the number 9 were printed in a font that looks like the letters are made of blocks and the rest in an architect's drafting font and everything was in Lego green red and blue. These went into coordinating bright color envelopes that I bought at a local stationery outlet store. I also created a return address label with a minifig graphic (from a dingbat font). They looked great when we were done!
DECORATIONS: Over a few weeks before the party my son put a number of his favorite Lego models and creations on display on the mantel and on an out-of-the-way table to serve as decorations. Over the mantel we hung a ribbon strung with the word LEGO made from those party-supply store banner letters (green red blue yellow). I bought a few sheets of another scrapbooking paper design that included the Lego logo and words like "bricktastic" and "blockhead" and we cut that into strips and taped them up along the front of the mantel. I printed a number of color pictures of Lego scenes and models mostly the posters and wallpapers available for download from the lego.com website and we tacked those up around the house. We used green red and blue plastic tablecovers on the furniture including one that we drew lines and circles on to make a side table look as if it were constructed of oversize Lego bricks! (We meant to use this idea in more places but ran out of time to set it up.)
The main table also had more strips of the "bricktastic" paper running down the middle and a few extra poster printouts sitting out on it along with some coloring pages and "idea books". And finally my favorite decoration: I cut 12x18 sheets of craft foam (from Michael's craft store) down to the correct size ratios to represent various sizes of Lego bricks or plates (the standard 2x4 plus some 2x2 1x3 and 1x2) punched a hole in the top of each one and used curling ribbon to hang them from light fixtures and drapery rods creating a sort of Lego mobile effect. Each 'brick' was made from a rectangle of craft foam with circle cutouts (about 3" dia; I used a biscuit cutter as a guide) for the studs attached with mounting tape so that they were a bit raised. There were bricks in green red blue yellow black and white hanging in several different places. We finished off the decorating with some blue and green crepe paper streamers.
COSTUMES: A few weeks beforehand we discovered the perfect party shirt on sale at ThinkGeek.com - a t-shirt with a Lego-compatible baseplate that velcros to the front. We bought one for each family member and we all had fun constructing our shirt fronts. (The previous Halloween I'd actually made an awesome minifigure costume for my son but it wouldn't have been practical to wear at the party as it was too hard to move around in!)
ACTIVITIES/GAMES: The first activity was just free play with my son's large collection of Lego which we'd cleaned out and dumped into our play table. At one point he got his friends to bury him in a pile of pieces which made for a great photo! We also had a huge jar filled with Lego elements sitting out and we asked the kids to guess how many Lego were in the jar. I printed a simple form with lines for them to write down their names and number guesses pasted it onto more of the solid-color scrapbooking paper to make a border and set it next to the jar. Once everyone had arrived we had the guests help us scoop all of our son's Lego back into the table and close it up so that it wouldn't get mixed up with the Lego we were about to distribute to everyone for the party! We made sure everyone had put down a guess for the jar and then got them into a circle for a pull-string pinata and handed out goody bags for them to use for collecting the pinata loot.
The goody bags were bright solid color lunchbag style (from party supply store) with matching circles of craft foam glued on the front so that the bag looked like a Lego brick. Cutting and gluing all the circles took a lot of time but the finished bags were so cute! The pinata itself also (of course!) looked like a Lego brick. It was made from a cardboard box wrapped in solid green gift wrap with craft foam studs glued to the top to form a 2x4 brick. But the coolest part was the way the pull-strings worked. The large opening in the bottom of the pinata box was filled with a pair of baseplates studs facing down and there were assorted smaller Lego bricks attached to the baseplates; each brick had a ribbon tied around the middle. Each guest chose a ribbon to pull and in most cases that would just pull off the one brick - which the guest got to keep. But there was one special brick with a hidden tie to a slipknot inside the box which when released caused the baseplates to come apart and the whole bottom to fall out of the pinata! Don't ask me exactly how that was engineered; my husband figured it out. However he did it it worked beautifully.
The pinata was filled with an assortment of real Lego and bags of Candy Blox (colored sugar candy shaped similarly to Lego bricks sold in bulk in candy stores and some supermarkets - you can actually build with it!) A note here on the assorted real Lego that we used for all of the party activities: I lucked into a great sale on the big (400+ pieces) Creator tubs at Target so I bought one blue and one pink which provided us with a good mix of basics and the rest of the pieces I bought used some in bulk unsorted lots at a local consignment store and garage sales and some by the specific piece on bricklink.com (more on that below) so it wasn't too expensive and we had an interesting collection of unusual elements like vehicle bases castle doors sails minifig tools hinged bricks and so on. Anyway after everyone had their pinata loot we had them sit down in the circle and got ready to figure out who had the best guess on how many pieces in the jar. To do this we needed to count the pieces in the jar! So we basically dumped the jar out in the middle of the circle and invited each guest to take first 30 pieces then 20 then 10 more and so on until we got down to a final couple of rounds of 1 piece each. The guest who made the closest guess was awarded the remainder. (The total incidentally was 1018.)
And then having collected a good assortment of pieces they were ready to build! I announced that we would have a series of building contests and handed out a plain shirt box to each guest to use as a tray for assembling and displaying their pieces along with a sticker to label the box with their name and a strip of the scrapbooking paper in their choice of green red blue or yellow about the size of a bookmark with another name sticker. I'd printed the names in the Lego-logo font sized to fit over the studs on the scrapbooking paper as if the sticker were a Lego tile onto a full-sheet white label and sliced it up. The bookmark strips were meant to be sort of like award ribbons and I'd printed more stickers with the words DESIGN AWARD and a little graphic of a prize ribbon in blue red and green (yellow didn't show up well enough). Materials ready I grabbed a stopwatch and gave everyone 3 minutes to build the tallest tower they could. We measured and awarded stickers. Then announced 3 minutes to build a bridge (stickers awarded for longest sturdiest prettiest etc.) 5 minutes to build a home (similar prizes) and finally 10 minutes to build whatever they wanted. This has to have been the quietest party activity I have ever seen! Everyone was really concentrating on their designs. (I was ready to do several other categories but we were running short on time; this is a great way to build some flexibility into the party schedule.)
When time was up they each put their box-tray on the dining room table for the judge's review (I recruited another parent to come up with a reason to award everyone a final sticker) and went off to get a snack while we readied the final activity: a treasure hunt. For the treasure hunt we divided the kids into four teams by having them pick a slip of colored paper (more of the scrapbooking paper) out of a bag; the color (GRBY) indicated the team. Each team was going to the same places but in a different order. In each clue location there was a Lego tub or bucket filled with Duplo bricks. Each team had to pull out their color of bricks and assemble them in such a way that their next clue could be read; the clues were written on clear stickers applied to the sides of the bricks. The clues were just a bit of rhyme like "for clue number four look behind a white door" (inside a hall closet). The last clue sent them to the backyard where we had set up a ramp for racing Lego cars - a piece of plywood we happened to have one end up on a sawhorse with lane dividers built out of Lego (hooked onto partially driven nails) and a hinged starting gate made of cardboard. In the last tub they found car-building kits various models with a sheet of assembly instructions stapled to a small plastic bag of pieces. The first team to finish the hunt got first pick of car kits but everyone got to build a car and then race it on the ramp. I collected these car kits from used pieces and inventory and instruction sheets printed from the collections at peeron.com and bricklink.com.
Given the number of people invited to this party doing this was much less expensive than buying a new Racers kit for every guest! Plus it allowed for a little more variety in the cars. I was able to get most of the Lego needed for the cars from the used lots I'd bought locally and then ordered additional wheels bases and other specific parts from a few different sellers through bricklink.com stores. The kids had a lot of fun racing the cars and then modifying them to try to make them faster. They even borrowed my camera to take videos they could review in order to decide for sure which car had crossed the finish line first. Finally we served the cake the birthday boy opened his gifts and the parents arriving for pickup admired all the kids' creations!
SNACKS: For snacks at this party my son and his dad built some serving bowls out of Duplo (we put pretzels in one and tangerines in the other) and my son and his sister assembled some cheese-and-cracker 1x2 Lego pieces! The crackers were rectangular club crackers and each cracker was topped with two cheese "studs" circles cut from sliced cheese with an apple corer. Stacked up they looked remarkably like small Lego plates (the thin pieces 1/3 the height of the standard bricks are called plates). We also had Lego-shaped ice cubes in the punch bowl from a mold we'd made earlier using a silicone mold putty (Michael's craft store) and real Lego. Some chips & salsa and bottled water finished off the food. The cups napkins etc. were solid green red blue and yellow.
CAKE: Of course we had a Lego cake! This design does not require a lot of explanation because it is basically rectangles but I had my son make a model with real Lego of what he wanted it to look like and we ended up with an L shaped tiered assembly of three 2x4 bricks plus one separate 2x2 brick. Each of the four bricks was frosted in one of our theme colors (GRBY); the cake was served on an actual Duplo baseplate (on top of a wooden carving board - that cake was heavy!). Getting the dimensions of the cakes right was a challenge; I was very careful to layer the cakes so that they had the right proportions and get them as level and as matched as possible. For the studs I baked a thinner layer of cake and used a small biscuit cutter to get flat cylinders. I frosted those on a flower nail and froze them before putting them on the main cake so that I could handle them without messing up the frosting.
FAVORS: The favors were the easiest part of this party: the guests simply took home the Lego they'd collected from the pinata the jar and the race car treasure hunt! They were thrilled to be told they got to keep it all. Plus their 'design award' ribbons which they could use as bookmarks and the candy blox from the pinata. Thank you notes were written on solid bright color notecards which my son decorated with leftover bits of the Lego scrapbook paper. (Unsurprisingly most of his gifts were Lego sets.) I don't know if the guests learned as much as I did about Lego engineering but we all had a great time!"
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