How My Love Affair with Legos Ended as the Christmas Season Began

November 30th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post about my intense admiration for Legos’ marketing for nearly a year now, ever since my then six-year-old discovered the joy of assembling hundreds of tiny plastic pieces into intricate Star Wars ships.


No, they’re  not the “greenest” of toys, and though sometimes I shudder when I think of the plastic involved, I must say Legos are the ultimate in “Re-use.” Have you seen the re-sale market for these toys? Many of them actually INCREASE in value.

But that’s not what caused me to fall in love with Legos.  First, there’s the fun factor. Building Legos is  a great activity for both parents and kids. Legos stretch your imagination – as well as your patience!  You can never do anything “wrong.” If a little brother crashes a Lego Starship, why, you can just build something else!  And after you “get into” Legos, you discover that kids bond over building Legos. It’s as if they have a Secret Boy Society of Awesome Lego Builders.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Lego Store, like the one in Tysons Corner, shopping for them is a huge adventure. Our local store sponsored a huge “Build a Yoda” contest, where kids gathered to watch a team of “Master Lego Builders” craft a giant Yoda – and even got a chance to help out!


Your child can  join the “Lego Club” or “Lego Club Junior,” to receive well written, imaginative magazines full of Lego pictures, of course, but also with stories written to grade-level, word puzzles, Lego building contests, photos of kids with their prize-winning Lego creations, and more.   And once you’ve been to a Lego-Brick Fest, like the one held this summer in D.C. – well, by then you’re a goner (like my dear friend who flew from California to DC to attend!)


LegoLand? It was on our wish list of “must -dos.”

And did you know there are even REAL Lego cars, like this one driven by the Lego Lady?


So I knew it would be a Lego-heavy Christmas this year. Last year Santa brought our son an MTT Troop Carrier Lego ship,  which would cost you about $100, if you had to purchase it instead of getting it via reindeer express.  That’s another unique thing about Legos – the first ones we bought were about $10, and as our son grew more skilled at building them, he would save his allowance for a really “big” one, that might cost $30 or even $60. There are even Legos for as few as a couple of bucks, and of course, for the adult builders, even more expensive items. Adult builders, you say? Who knew?

I suspect this is the last year that my 7-year-old will likely still “believe.” I’m sure he probably has a few doubts, as I did when I was a 7-year-old.  But for now, I humored him with the traditional, “What are you going to ask Santa for Christmas?” question.

Normally we “get off easy” at Christmas time. Back when Big Boy was just 3 1/2, he decided that Santa brought just three presents. Maybe it’s because the Wise Men brought 3 presents?  I don’t know, but we never disagreed, and he never questioned why his Aunt spoiled him with even more presents than Santa.

But this CyberMonday, when I set out to google the best prices for my son’s three favored Legos, I was shocked. The total price tag? $850  (And these were the ‘best buys” I could find. I’m sure you could spend close to $1,000 on the same items).

We’re not spending that kind of money on Christmas gifts from Santa.

But I never expected my son to learn that there is no such thing as Santa Claus because he didn’t get the three gifts he asked Santa for under the tree.

Yes, as a kid I didn’t get all the things I asked for either, but heck, I remember making long lists – with way more than three items!

I realize that through this “love” of all things Lego, I fell hook, line and sinker into the ridiculous Kid Marketing Juggernaut.  But what really makes me angry is the prices that Lego is charging for these much sought after toys that are the “in thing” with the elementary school crowd.

Now, I understand that there have always been high priced kids toys. I recall laughing at $400 kids’ BMW cars in the Neiman Marcus catalogue. But that’s to be expected, after all. Neiman Marcus – aka Needless Markup – is a luxury department store, squarely targeted at the elite. You expect to – want to – spend dearly for unique items when you shop at Neiman’s.

But Lego? Selling $200, $300, $400 and dare I say, even more expensive toys that they’ve marketed as the all-American boy “must have” toy seems somehow twisted, especially in this recessionary year. I’d love to know what the mark-up is on these items.

And that my friends, is my story of how I fell out of love with Legos on CyberMonday, 2009.

Now…anyone got a Jango Fett Slave 1 Lego, Imperial Star Destroyer Lego, or Death Star, you want to re-sell…cheap?

Legos? You’ve been warned.


Postscript: After re-reading this, I looked more closely at the toys in questions. Two are marketed for boys 8 -12 and 9 -14, but the Death Star is for age 16 and up. So I can foresee Santa writing Big Boy a note explaining he’s too young for the Death Star (which incidentally would set Santa back a cool $400).  As for the others….I’m sure I’ll think of something. Now I’m wondering…was this post just a cranky, late Cybernight Monday rant, or do I have a point? What do you think? Meanwhile, gotta prepare that non-commercialization of the holidays post! :)

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Serendipity: Earth Day During TV Turn-off Week

April 22nd, 2008

No doubt the blogosphere will be abuzz today with recommendations about how to spend your Earth Day. Clearly, if you can pick up some litter or skip a car trip, you can make a difference. But what else? How can you celebrate a meaningful Earth Day with a child?

Maybe it’s not just serendipity that causes Earth Day to fall during TV Turn-off Week. Maybe it’s Divine Inspiration.

As Treehugger pointed out, “The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.”


Why not use this week, when the TV is off, to teach your kid how to recognize different trees? It’s okay if you don’t know yourself…just grab a book or an Internet print-out like this one.

The best way to develop an appreciation for the Earth and its fragile bounty is to spend time with her most magnificent creation, Nature. If a child learns to love plants, trees, and animals, he’ll naturally want to learn how to take steps to protect Nature.

So this Earth Day – TV-Turn-Off Week, get outside and appreciate what we’ve been given. Then think about what you can do to help preserve it for future generations.

Help a child learn to recognize a Maple leaf as quickly as he may recognize a McDonalds logo.

Happy Earth Day.

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

McDonalds on Eco-Friendly Happy Meals

April 1st, 2008

Every parent knows that being stuck on the road with a hungry kid is a dilemma. It’s so hard to find healthy fare on the road that even some Green Eco-Moms find themselves in McDonalds. More importantly, most American kids eat at McDonalds. Think of the huge environmental impact McDonalds could make by greening the Happy Meal and replacing the Cheap Plastic Crap Happy Meal toys with an eco-friendly alternative toy!

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report about McDonalds Corporate Sustainability Blog. I wasn’t familiar with McDonalds environmental initiatives, so I checked out their blog, and left a comment suggesting McDonalds could do even more for the environment by introducing organic Happy Meal selections and eco-friendly Happy Meal toys.

Take a look at McDonalds response via this link.   And let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!

And by the way, their response came 13 days after I left the comment! (The date doesn’t  show up on their blog, but I have it via email).  

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic “Kid Marketing”– Feeling the Onslaught?

March 5th, 2008

So long, Tony the Tiger. Hello, Peter the Probug.

I’ve posted here about how my son recognizes “Kid Marketing” at the grocery store as the hydrogenated oil and sugar-laden processed treats that are major no-nos.

Suddenly, it’s getting a lot harder to say “no” to “Kid Marketing,” because my son also recognizes the USDA Organic Seal. Now he says sweetly, “But Mama, it’s organic! It must be good for you even if it is Kid Marketing.”

A Five Year Old’s Dream Organic

And most times, he’s right…the “Organic Kid Marketing” products may still be good for him, but they often cost several times the price of conventional organics, which are already expensive enough!

I imagine that if my kid wouldn’t eat anything healthy at all, I might welcome the overtures of the organic kid marketers. But since he was doing fine with regular old organics, the organic kid marketing hype is an annoyance.

Is anyone else sharing my feelings of resentment at the onslaught of Kid Marketing at the organic grocers? It used to be that organic shops were a refuge from Tony the Tiger, Lucky the Lucky Charms Leprechaun and all the other Kid Marketing icons. I could take my son with me to the organic market, buy a carton of yogurt, some bulk oatmeal, and be done with the shopping with a minimum of fuss and whining.

But I knew I was in for it last week when my son breathlessly told me after school one day, “Katie has the coolest yogurt at lunch. I want some! It’s orange and it’s ORGANIC!”

At the organic market that afternoon, he pointed at a garish orange four-pack of Lifeway Organic Probiotic Whole Milk Kefir Cultured Milk Smoothies. That particular day, I was too tired to say no …it was after all organic and it was just yogurt.

But later I realized that I already have several large containers of biodynamic yogurt in the fridge, courtesy of our CSA. And he liked that yogurt just fine. So why was he so insistent on this yogurt?

“Well, it tastes good,” he responded.

I reminded him that we had plenty of yogurt in the fridge that tastes good.

“It’s ORANGE. My favorite color,” he announced.

“And?” I prodded.

“And it has an alien on it too!”

So I’m buying more yogurt with more packaging because my son wants orange packages with aliens? (Actually, it’s Peter the probiotic bug, according to the packaging).

Look, this story is a bit embarrassing to tell, but I know I’m not alone here…am I? Tell me, what’s been your experience with “Organic Kid Marketing.” Are you starting to feel the onslaught too?

Or is it just the products that has me down? Perhaps. Why don’t the frozen vegetables come with aliens on their bags? Works for me!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008