Inside: 25 fun learn at home Lego activities for families managing school closures.
With many of us facing the prospect of (or already managing) school closures I was thinking about which of the learning activities here at Childhood101 would be most useful for parents (and teachers allocating work to be done at home), and what sorts of toys or resources families are likely to have access to. My mind immediately turned to Lego – most probably because I could hear my own children playing with their beloved Lego collection at that very moment!
Lego is such a fun building toy and a great learning resource. Building a set straight out of the box is great for encouraging kids to learn to follow a sequence of instructions, and requires intense use of visual discrimination skills and fine motor skills. Then there’s the creativity of free building with a collection of Lego bricks!
However, Lego is also valuable as a resource for a whole range of learning activities – everything from writing to spelling, math to science, social studies to art.
The collection of activities below has been collated with parents with children at home as a result school closures in mind, so many of the activities are open ended – meaning they can be used with children across a number of different grades or ability levels – you might just tweak the instructions, the amount of support you give, or your expectations of the final product, depending upon the age of your child.
The math activities are more specific to one particular grade or learning objective, but I have tried to include individual activities suitable across a range of grade levels so that all elementary/primary students have some fun Lego learning math activities at hand.
I hope you find these ideas useful.
25 Ways to Learn At Home With Lego: Elementary/Primary Grades
1. Sight Words/Spelling Words Building
Use a permanent marker pen to write individual letters (one per brick) onto the side of small Lego or Duplo bricks (the square 4 stud bricks work well for this). Your child can then find the bricks needed for a word and assemble them in order.
If you need a set of sight words to use, try our free, printable Dolch Sight Words Flashcards.
2. Lego Barrier Game
This fun game is perfect for playing in pairs, and is fabulous for developing oral language communication skills.
You’ll need two identical sets of 12-15 Lego bricks.
With each player sitting on opposite sides of a table, set up a large book, box or other barrier in the middle of the table – so that one player cannot see what the other is doing. Player One builds something using their own collection of bricks; make sure that Player Two isn’t able to see what they are making. Then Player One needs to give Player Two a series of verbal instructions, one at a time, so that Player Two can re-create the same construction.
Have fun comparing the results once the construction is done! You can simplify this game with fewer bricks in each set, or make it more complicated with more bricks.
Extend the learning by then having your child write down the series of instructions for making their creation.
3. Lego Story Starter
Build 2 or 3 custom minifigs and a building or landscape setting, and use this as inspiration for writing a story. This could even be a multiple part drama that is added to over a series of days as your child plays with their figurines and setting.
4. Lego Comic Strip
Or use the minifigs and setting above as inspiration for creating a comic strip. You can find a set of great, free printable comic book pages over at Picklebums.
5. Stop Motion Animated Movie
Making a short stop motion animated movie is lots of fun. Your child could relate this activity back to the previous storywriting challenge, or even create a movie to accompany another area of study, for example science or social studies/HASS. You can find a short example created by a nine year old to accompany learning about the Australian Gold Rush over here at Picklebums.
This handy post from Tinkerlab explains the stop motion movie making process in more detail.
Science, Technology & Social Studies
Set a Lego building challenge, such as;
6. Build a structure that includes at least one moving element.
7. Build a tower that will hold a golf/tennis ball at least 15 inches/30cms off the floor.
8. Build a vessel that will hold water without leaking.
9. Build a famous landmark: You can find a free, printable set of famous landmark picture cards to inspire your build here. Alternatively, try building a local landmark from your own community.
10. Make (and test) the strength of a bridge: For challenge instructions, check out this post at Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls.
11. Build a balloon powered vehicle: you can see some examples here at Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls.
12. Build a marble maze: you can see a fun example here at Mama Papa Bubba.
You can find more simple, openended construction challenges in our free, printable set of Lego Challenge Cards.
13. Set a Rube Goldberg Machine Making Challenge
Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor and he is best known for his series of popular cartoons depicting complicated series’ of gadgets arranged in a convoluted sequence to perform a simple task. You can see some awesome examples of Rube Goldberg inspired chain reactions here at Boys Life. While in reality your child’s will be much simpler, it is still fun to have a go making your own!
My seven year old daughter explored Rube Goldberg machines at school last year and was so inspired by the process that she then started making them at home too. You can see an example of one of her machines below. The video is super short but I hope it will give you an idea that the big, impressive machines really can be simplified down for children. The objective of this machine was to knock the pen off the table – not a very noble outcome but prior to this she was using a similar machine to knock cat treats off the table to feed our kitten. Whatever inspires them, I say!
- Marker pens (especially chunky markers)
- Pieces of other construction sets
- Toy vehicles
- Cardboard tubes (raid the recycling!)
- Plastic cups
- String or yarn
- Balls of aluminum foil
- Roll of duct tape
- Golf balls
Building a Rube Goldberg machine is great for encouraging children to develop problem solving skills and perseverance. You can follow up by asking your child to draw and label a blueprint of the machine they’ve made, extending the learning even further.
14. Create a Lego model that informs others about a topic you are studying or interested in
Our (then) 11 year old chose to construct a Lego model as part of a school project researching the impact of an environmental issue – she chose coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
This was a great Lego build for encouraging her to think about how to use a range of Lego pieces in new and interesting ways, and how effective it would be in communicating a message. I think this is a simple building idea that can be easily adapted to other areas of study for those who have a well stocked Lego collection.
For parents, think about what you know about what your child is learning in science, social studies or even health, and ask them to build a model that teaches you something about what they have learned.
More than the other areas of STEM education, choosing suitable Lego mathematics activities for your child will largely depend upon their grade level and the curriculum used in your area.
15. Identifying Numerals
Challenge your child to build each of the numerals 0-9 using Lego bricks. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
16. Pattern Making
Use Lego bricks of the same size to make repeated patterns. Start by making some simple 1:1 patterns for your child to extend, for example, red-blue-red-blue etc. Then try 1:2 patterns, for example red-blue-blue, red-blue-blue etc. Then try three colour patterns, for example, red-blue-yellow etc. Increase the complexity of the patterns as your child masters a previous combination.
Mix it up by asking your child to make patterns for you to continue.
17. Simple Addition
Lego is a great hands-on counting tool to use for completing addition and subtraction problems in the early grades. You can write a list of addition problems and then encourage your child to make two stacks of bricks and then combine and count to calculate the total. For example, for the equation 2 + 4 =, your child would make one stack of two bricks and one stack of four bricks and then combine the two stacks to make one tower of six bricks.
Another simple addition activity using a common household game is Uno Flip with Uno Cards.
18. Tens and Ones
For children learning about place value, use individual four stud bricks as ones and towers of ten four stud bricks as tens. Set tens and ones building challenges such as “Can you make 26 using tens and ones? How many 10s did you use? How many 1s?”
For another fun way to revise place value learning, click through to find out how to play Place Value War with Uno cards.
19. Measurement #1
You can use stacks of the same brick to measure almost anything! Your shoe, the width of the coffee table, your whole self! Count the bricks you’ve used and record the name and length of the item on a piece of paper.
20. Measurement #2
Add a ruler and set a measurement guided building construction challenge, for example, build a tower that is exactly 10 inches high.
21. Floor Plan
Older children can be challenged to create a floor plan of your house with narrow Lego bricks on a large baseplate (if you don’t have a large baseplate, we have joined smaller flat plates to make larger building surface before. This is a technique many of the Lego set use so your child may already be familiar with the concept).
22. Times Tables Race
For this game you’ll need a dice, 24 Lego four stud square bricks and a marker pen.
This game works for revising each of the times tables 1 to 12, but only one set at a time. First, choose which set of tables you will be revising – in this example we’ll use fives times tables. Write one multiple of five on the side of each of the bricks so that you have two sets of the multiples for the five times tables – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60. Pile these loosely in the middle of your playing area.
Played in pairs, the aim of the game is to be the quickest to build their tower with the multiples in order, in our example from 5 to 60.
To play take turns to roll the dice. Each player wants to roll a one first. Once you roll a one you can take a brick marked with 5 (in this example 1×5=5) from the pile. Then you want to roll a two. Once you roll a two you can take the next multiple brick from the pile, again in our example, 2×5=10, and add this brick to your tower. Then you want to roll a 3.
Continue in this way until you have rolled a six and then you will need to start your dice roll at one again but this time rolling a one is actually rolling a seven, so 7×5=35, a two is eight so 8×5=40. Continue taking turns in an attempt to build your tower (it can take many rolls to get the number you actually need!) up to 12x your multiple. First person to complete their tower is the winner.
A few additional free Multiplication resources that are great for learning at home;
- These printable Multiplication Bookmarks are another free resource you might find useful for children learning to recite times tables.
- Playing the BAM! learning game is a fun way to revise times tables with craft sticks. It’s a super simple game to set up and play.
- For children who are already quite adept with multiplications tables 1-9, you can also play Multiplication War with Uno Cards.
Lego Art Ideas
23. Lego Printmaking
Print with Lego or Duplo bricks to create interesting pictures and patterns paint. You could use a stamp pad or squeeze some acrylic paint onto a paper towel or kitchen sponge – just so the paint is not so gloopy! Press the brick (stud size down) into the paint and then onto paper. Using your bricks to create a cityscape is particularly satisfying. Or try printing one of the landmarks included in challenge #9 above.
24. Build and Sketch
As an art form, still life drawings and paintings are not just about jugs of flowers! They can depict all sorts of inanimate objects – both natural and man-made. Create a still life scene out of Lego and then have fun sketching your still life onto paper and then colouring or painting it.
25. Mosaic Self Portrait
Grab an empty Lego base plate and your collection of small bricks and have a try at creating a mosaic self portrait!
If you catch the Lego mosaic making bug, you can check out our collection of Lego Mosaic Ideas for Kids. The world map mosaic is our favourite!