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Mom loves to build, kid loves to play...what sets should we get?
I was never into Lego much as a kid, but my four-year-old son got some sets for Christmas, and I am HOOKED. I've done two modular buildings so far and loved them. My son likes building, but he gets bored quickly and would rather play. For example, he has the Junior Fire Emergency set; he built the fire engine himself, but didn't have the patience to finish the little station at the same time. That said, he loves hanging out with me while we build, helping find pieces, talking about what we're creating, etc.
I want to build our collection, but I'm not sure which sets "play" well and which just look really cool. The challenge is that he's not really into superheroes yet (other than Spiderman), hasn't seen Star Wars, and seems a little young for stuff like Ninjago and Chima. So, we're trying to stick with things that are more along the lines of the City or Creator sets. (Friends is fair game as well.) We did have fun building the little City camper and van, then deciding that their campfire spread and he got his fire truck to come put it out. ;-) The modular buildings are amazing, but hard for him to get in and really play with.
tl;dr: Does anyone have recommendations for sets that are both fun builds for adults and have good play value for preschoolers?
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He used to be 'my little helper' and I did the building and he found the pieces but I am now relegated to watching and sorting and attaching the occasional difficult section so be warned you'll have to buy lots of your own lego too
With my kids the trains have offered the most play time. They can spend hours making up stories about who is getting on and off and why.
#60060 Auto Transporter is a fun build, gets played with a lot. Sponge Bob #3816 and #3831 are two of his favorites, #3833 gets ignored.
I pick up most of our LEGO at thrift stores, typically just bags of parts. On a good day these bags form a specific set (or two). Thrift stores are also great for finding Duplo on the cheap, and my grandson loves the Disney Cars themed sets and the #5995 Airport. He has a hard time building with regular LEGO, but will spend hours making his own creations with Duplo.
I agree with Bumblepants. Bring him to the shop and see which sets pique his interest. But if you have strong feelings against clone brands, watch out for themes that LEGO does not have that others have picked up. I have several off-brand sets of Despicable Me minions. The sets are not up to LEGO quality, in my opinion, but he absolutely loves to play with them. And I found myself incapable of saying no when he held up the box and said "Minions please".
I guess we'll have to go to the Lego store this weekend. Oh darn... ;-)
If you want smaller sets, there are always a few City sets that should appeal to a young child, yet be fun (if quick) to build. Look for the mid-range sets such as a large firetruck or construction truck. These will probably be the most fun for you to build while being good for him to play with.
You might also want to look into Mixels. They are small sets, only a few dollars, with lots of great parts. Get a handful of them and you have everything you need for building robots or other fancy things.
As far as Chima and Ninjago (and now Nexo Knights), you'll never get the whole theme, so it's probably fine to grab one or two of these if there's something he likes.
And don't forget that whatever you buy, if it's not quite right, you can just tear it apart and use it to improve something else, or make something totally new.