Back-to-School Incentives with LEGO

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Images: LEGO

The beginning of a school year is hard for many reasons. New subjects, new schools, new classmates, new rules, and new expectations are all a pain for kids to be subjected to one at a time, but having them all at once can be nearly paralyzing. With school back in session, some parents are looking for new ways to encourage kids to meet new challenges or try new things. Here are some tips for using LEGO as an incentive to invest in their own development over the school year.

When to Give Incentives

Knowing when incentives are appropriate is a critical part of using rewards. For example, kids who are just acting out may need a more direct parenting technique, like evaluating transition time or how your kids’ day is arranged. The kids who benefit from (appropriate) incentives are kids evaluating daunting tasks like joining a new club, committing to a reading challenge, working on volunteer projects or just improving their grades.

Start at the Right Level

The most important part of inventives is giving kids an appropriate incentive. Jumping straight to the big ticket item can cause a cycle of bigger and bigger rewards. Most kids and challenges are going to have a feel to them, so go with your gut. The list below will give you examples to help you decide.

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Blind Packs

Price: $3.99
Target: Kids who have trouble reading, completing periodic/recurring tasks, and kids who need a better reason than “I told you so.”

Blind packs are a great because they are cheap, random, and (let’s face it) a little addictive. These are good for kids who need small encouragement over a longer period of time, or need a goal. If they want all of the figures in any set, they’re going to need at least that many blind packs to get there.

The Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series is 22 minifigures featuring characters from the Wizarding World. GeekDad announced these in June, and they’ve been available since August 1st. Here’s a short video of me opening 5 blind packs to feel out the set.

As you can see in our blind pack video, it is difficult to determine which figures are hiding inside the packs, which heightens the excitement to open the next one. I opened 5 and only had one duplicate, which wasn’t too bad.

Use LEGO blind packs to reward kids for meeting thresholds. Whether it’s reading a book, turning in all their homework for the week, or getting a higher-than-their-average score on a test. If I could have received a blind pack every time I tested 100% on a spelling exam, I’d rely on spell check much less often, I’ll tell you.

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Brickheadz

Price: $9.99
Target: Kids faced with genuinely unfair class expectations, an unavoidable unpleasant bus ride, or kids who can’t get out of bed.

The LEGO Brickheadz series is great for generating habits and coping with new situations. The most common example I can think of is tweens who can’t bring themselves to get out of bed in the morning. With these kids, a little habit building goes a long way. You can reward Brickheadz to kids who get out of bed on time without reminders every day for 2 weeks, a month, whatever.

Also a good option for Brickheadz are kids who just need a compromise in a situation with little room to compromise. Many parents are unable to drive kids to school, but their students are unhappy with the bus system. In these cases, it’s best to calmly explain the situation and why it can’t be changed. Importantly, make sure to validate the kid. Then, as a thanks for their tolerance and patience, give them a Brickheadz kit to build.

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Fandom Kits

Price: Varies greatly
Target: All kids.

Fandom kits can be a little cliche, but they are also a great incentive in a huge array of situations. With licensed kits, you can show your kids that you pay attention to more than one of their interests at a time. Kids who can’t use their computer after school to play Minecraft, might enjoy a LEGO-themed Minecraft kit.

Other fandoms, like Star Wars, have a seemingly limitless number of kits. If you have an ongoing need for affordable and regular rewards, Star Wars kits can be a great collection to focus on.

Photo: Rory Bristol

The App-Controlled Batmobile

Price: $99.96
Target: Kids faced with a large but daunting project.

The app-controlled Batmobile is probably the best tool in your arsenal. It is versatile, beautiful, and interactive. Because it’s powered with the LEGO Boost system (now live as the Powered Up app), the kit’s robotics will be useful in other ways if your kid wants to build something truly unique.

At the beginning of each school year, many teachers provide a syllabus to help students prepare for the year. Take an hour to review these alone and with your kid(s). This will help you both manage your expectations for the year. Make special note of large projects which can take over parts of the year.

Two great examples include college applications and science fairs. Each of these are huge projects which aren’t done quickly or lightly. Some students will be driven to do these (and do them well) for their own motives, but that won’t be everyone’s kid.

To help get your teen excited for these tasks, promise an app-controlled Batmobile. At just under $100, this won’t break the bank, but is sizable enough to stir the yearning in most young minds. The Batmobile is rugged, powerful, and very nice on the eyes.

LEGO Boost note: An important detail to note is that the Batmobile will be programmable after an upcoming update to the LEGO Boost (now called Powered Up) and kids will be able to set the Batmobile to perform a huge array of actions.

A Quick Review of the App-Controlled Batmobile

Pieces: 321
Ages 8+ if building/programming alone, 6+ with parents’ help with electronics.

The App-controlled Batmobile is one of the most interesting kits I’ve built in a long time. We’re talking months if not years, here. For starters, it’s a fully-functional RC car connected to your devices. It features tons of unique new-in-August-2018 elements, including a brand new Batman minifigure.

First, there’s the app. The app is pretty straightforward and allows you to control the Batmobile from quite a distance. (We tested it at 25 yards through several rooms/doors, and it still had a stable and effective connection. Warning, though, it is entirely possible to wreck things with the Batmobile if using it recklessly. (Ask me how I know.)

Part of the fun is the built-in functions. There are 6 pre-programmed buttons which allow you to perform various tricks.

Evading 180

This maneuver makes the Batmobile dart backwards to disengage and flip 180 degrees to flee.

Wheelie

GIF: Rory Bristol

The wheelie is pretty straightforward. The Batmobile pops a decisive wheelie before settling down again.

Parry

GIF: Rory Bristol

The parry reminds me greatly of a dog wiggling their butt in the air. The Batmobile scoots backwards while shaking the head-end of the car to disengage from obstacles. This is especially great if you manage to get a cat toy stuck under/between the tires.

Scan

The Batmobile will search back and forth as if scanning for villains to hunt.

The cab of the Batmobile is easy to open, so you can keep Batman inside or on display elsewhere if you like. I think the car is perfectly to scale for a minifigure, which was a pleasant surprise for me.

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The electronics are stored centrally, with a tailgate which opens to reveal the innards. The top is also easy to remove in case you need to replace the batteries. The design means that you can run the Batmobile into obstacles without damaging the electronics, but everything is accessible when needed.

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Being a Batmobile, there are bats everywhere. I disliked the one prescribed for the tailgate, so I replaced it with a smaller element. This is because the larger one falls off if you back into something. There are a dozen or so bat elements included, which means you can customize the look of your Batmobile quite easily. Being LEGO, you can even include elements from other kits, if you like. No two Batmobiles have to be the same!

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Here is my personalized Batmobile for your viewing pleasure.

The Batmobile costs just shy of $100, but the design, tech, and app functionality mean it is totally worth the cost. The unique pieces and the fact that we’ll soon be able to program the car are just icing on the cake. Again, this is one of the most interesting kits out there, in my opinion.

Final Advice

This list is obviously not comprehensive. There are too many variables including your budget, your kids, their challenges, their goals, and what motivates them. My advice is to remind you to keep in mind that incentives can’t replace attentive and compassionate parenting. When you meet kids on their turf, many challenges will melt away. If nothing else, remember to clearly set expectations of how/when an incentive will be rewarded, and meet that commitment. Incentives don’t work if the kid doesn’t trust that they’ll actually manifest at the end.

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