Our older son loves Lego. He’ll play with it for hours, and he’s usually creating things he dreams up himself. But he also enjoys following Lego instructions, and he adores a book that he received for his birthday, full of instructions for creating all sorts of landmark buildings using Lego. Some of the structures require more Lego than we have, but there are quite a few simple ideas that he’s bookmarked.
The first thing he made was a little hot dog cart. It turned out just like the picture in the book, except he didn’t have an umbrella to go on top. He came and asked me if we could buy one. I checked just out of curiosity, and I found the exact umbrella from the book, for sale on eBay – along with a few extra bricks – for $5. But I love teachable moments like this. Do we want our kids to grow up believing that for every whim and desire, there’s an instant solution in the form of online shopping, or do we want them to think outside the buying box and come up with more resourceful ways to solve problems? When we think about it that way, most of us would agree that the latter is preferable (and we need to remind ourselves of this when we’re faced with our own whims and desires… our kids are constantly watching us, and if they see us always buying things, they’ll grow up believing that’s the best solution).
So I asked our son if he’d like to make an umbrella. At first, he was not enthusiastic, and told me that he thought we needed to buy one instead. But I reminded him that he would have to work all day to earn $5, whereas we could tinker around with some cardboard and felt and glue for about 15 minutes and probably end up with an umbrella that would work just fine and would give us a much better sense of satisfaction than a purchased umbrella. I think reminders like this are good introductions to the “your money or your life” concept that I hope our sons hone over the next decade.
Anyway, we gathered some supplies: cardboard and a can from the recycling bin, a scrap of felt, glue, and a little Lego piece that we knew would fit over the piece he was using as the umbrella pole.
We traced the bottom of the can onto the cardboard and onto the felt, and cut them out.
Then we cut some segments out of the cardboard so that it would bend a little into the shape of an umbrella,
And cut a slit in the felt circle so that it would bend around the cardboard base.
We glued the felt to the cardboard and then attached the Lego piece to the center of the underside of the umbrella, using lots of glue.
We had to leave it overnight to let all that glue dry, but in the morning it was perfect. The Lego connection piece is really solidly attached, and the umbrella is a perfect addition to the hot dog cart. It comes apart from the support pole just like the real Lego umbrella would, and can be used in other creations because it has a real Lego attachment piece underneath it.
All in all, a win. Our son loves it (he decided it was a great idea once he saw it starting to take shape). We used scraps from around the house instead of spending $5, and our boys got another lesson in the value of being creative rather than being a consumer. Five dollars isn’t a huge sum of money. But it’s half of ten dollars. And as Mr. Money Mustache so eloquently stated, “if you start respecting your tens at age 20, you’ll be retired by age 30.” Or if not, you’ll be well on your way. We want our boys to have a healthy respect for money, and to be resourceful and creative when faced with challenges. Little lessons like this are where it starts.
And what’s not to love about a Lego hack?