GeekDad Project: The Lego Request Hour

Geek Culture

Legos are obviously the toy of choice here at GeekDad, and while things like Lego Skyscrapers and  Mars Mission re-enactments are incredibly impressive, some of us (read: me) are less good when it comes to building intricate stuff. Some of us also have younger kids who just aren’t quite ready for Lego primetime.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.

I thought about what I could do with all my early-1980s space sets, and figured I could take requests from The Boy on what he wanted me to build. It gave me the chance to introduce him to one my favorite toys and, naturally, gave me an excuse to play with them again after 20+ years in storage.

As a super-duper double bonus, some of the results also wound up being pretty darn funny.

Two things to note before I start here:

1. The pieces are ridiculously small and are a definite choking hazard, so if you have a youngster who sees every shiny little object as a potential snack, this is probably not the best choice of projects;

2. I’m working with a fairly limited selection of pieces, so please … be kind.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way: Onward to fun!

When I first started this, The Boy was really into boats. Thus, his first request was one of the pontoon variety:

Not quite an exact replica, but close enough for a then two-and-a-half year old. I’m also proud to say it’s still in the bath time rotation, although it is a bit back heavy and lists to port just a tad.

Next up was a fishing boat:


While the seats did spin (much to The Boy’s delight) they also made it top heavy and caused it to flip with even the slightest movement while in the water. But being the intrepid Geek Dad and former canoeing enthusiast that I am/was, I took it as an opportunity to teach him what an "Eskimo Roll" was, noting that if a fishing boat were to actually do such a thing, catching a prize-winning large mouth bass would be the least of his worries.

This one was taken apart, however, since I needed the pieces for his next request: a helicopter:


It’s still one of his favorites and has held up remarkably well considering how often he plays with it. Although, if anyone can give me some ideas on how to do a tail rotor without it being bulky or looking totally absurd, I’m open for suggestions.

We continued with simple requests like this for a few weeks. But The Boy being … well, mine, he decided one day to up the level of difficulty and request Kelly, the crane truck from Thomas and Friends.

Normally, Kelly looks like this (which was the best image I could find):




Not terrible given my resources. I should note that the crane arm does have a tendency to fall off quite often, and my attempts to show him how to fix it himself have had mixed results—he’s getting the hang of it, but more often than not I have to come in and fix it. Which, to be honest, is kinda nice since it assures that I’ll have a chance to swoop in and be the hero o’ the day. (I should also note that The Mrs. can’t fix it either since she has all the Lego skills of a one-legged ground squirrel, thus making my household title of "Lord of the Legos" intact until The Boy gets a bit older.)

Again, though, a simple little truck with a boom arm and something to grab stuff with (an absolute requirement) just wasn’t enough for The Boy—Kelly absolutely, positively, without any doubt whatsoever, had to have a "face."

At first I considered making a face-esque pattern out of studs. After giving it some thought, I decided that’d be way too difficult.

I then considered grabbing a marker and just drawing a face on the front. After giving that a second of thought, I decided that’d be way too easy, not to mention perhaps permanently ruining the pieces involved.

So after some more thought and another cup of coffee, I found a work around:


The advantage? It was pretty quick, easy, and Kelly is perpetually happy.

The disadvantage? It takes a lot of room to get the head to fit right. Oh … and there’s the fact that between Kelly and several other characters I’ve built, I now have a rather macabre collection of beheaded space dudes:


Thankfully, The Boy doesn’t see much of an issue with just yanking the little yellow heads of these guys, probably because he has yet to learn the disturbing aspect of "Dada as guillotine."

Overall, I’m pretty pleased about coming up with this more-than-likely-not-original idea. It’s now our little Sunday morning thing, with me (if I’m physically able) pouring out the two shoe boxes of parts on the floor and asking him what he wants Dada to build next.

Trying to explain resource limitations to him is another thing altogether, and not always easy since I have to butcher other pieces depending on what he wants at the time. But that’s a minor point given how much of a blast I have building anything he asks for and how much fun he has playing with them.

So if you have a little one (sans oral fixation) and a bunch of Legos you’re just dying to introduce to him or her, the Lego Request Hour is a great option.

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