If you’ve ever wanted to take your kid to a LEGO theme park and been disappointed that it was too far away, then cross your fingers that Lego KidsFest will be coming to a town near you. Apparently, being near this many LEGO bricks produces a contact high in small children and my kids are not immune. If LEGO KidsFest had not provided tickets to my family in exchange for our feedback, I might have been hesitant to go out of my way to attend this event- and I would have been wrong, wrong, wrong.
The hands on activities start right out of the gate. One of the very first things you encounter is the duplo building area, with giant piles of bricks and several tables that offer brick storage underneath the table top and holes near the build area for easy brick cleanup. (I need one of those tables. Or rather, my kids do, because, Wow!)
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of tailoring the environment to encourage creative play, and that is exactly what the organizers of Lego KidsFest have done. Every square foot of the event is packed full of opportunities to touch, see, and do. The kids can walk right up to their favorite characters and touch them and examine how they are built. Which mine did, with complete lack of restraint, so I’m sorry about all the times he probably photobombed your family. The entire atmosphere of the event encourages kids to touch, to explore, and to learn. There are no unfriendly “keep off” signs or warnings not to touch. There are some things that are off limits to fingers, but the space is designed to make that seamless.
My kids enjoyed the themed areas like Ninajago and Chima, not just because they love the characters, but also because they were set up with simple and effective play activities. Ninjago featured mechanical turntables that you can outfit with minifigs and then spin so they collide. The kids were having a great time planning their lineups very carefully, and reacted to finding out which mini fig was the last standing with utter delight. Chima had ramps, Speedors, bricks for building, and “chi orbs,” known to my three year old as WHERE IS MY FIREBALL? I DROPPED THE FIREBALL. (You know how when you find yourself somewhere you truly fit in, nobody even bats an eye at the weird stuff you do? That went over like it was normal, no matter how many times he did it.)
I enjoyed watching the kids in the brick pile areas (there are two- one for Duplos and one for regular bricks) because it was wonderful to me to see them building really HUGE creations or incredibly elaborate buildings and always having more than enough of whatever piece they were looking for. This was complete creativity, unconstrained by the limits of a personal brick collection. It was a joy to behold.
Also surprisingly fascinating was the monochrome building area. I am not sure what exactly is so appealing about this. If you know, please tell me because right now I’m thinking that it’s just another one of those inexplicable things that only I get way too excited over.
The convention floor is big and there is lots to see, so you’ll be doing a lot of walking and probably need to rest at some point. There are concessions (no outside food is allowed) and a video screen so you can take breaks before going on to finish getting as much brick fun as you possibly can. Your kid will also want to pose for plenty of photos with their favorite characters, so be sure to charge up your camera and bring an extra memory card, just in case. See more photos in the gallery. (Just click to see the full size photo.) KidsFest will be in Richmond, VA through October 5th, or visit their website to find other stops on the tour. As far as logistics, be forewarned that people arriving for the next session line up before it starts. If your kids are bad at waiting in line (mine are but we had arrived early so we went for it, and we all came out alive) you might want to time your arrival to skip the waiting. If for some reason you want to get in at the head of the pack, get there early and bring a book or something. Oh, and fear not! There is a LEGO store on site so you can purchase some additions to your home collection. We did a price comparison for the items we brought home and found that they were extremely reasonably priced for an on site sale! (We generally expect a large markup at events like this, but they were within five dollars of retail. Your mileage may vary, of course, since we didn’t check the whole store.)