LEGOs might be the most popular toy in the history of toys but that doesn’t mean they’re not without some limitations. They don’t bend. They don’t fly. And, unfortunately, they can’t teach your kid to program a robot that will fetch you a beer. Unless, that is, you have one of these 10 innovative LEGO-compatible companion kits and add-ons.
LEGO wants to give your kid a leg up on getting into a fancy engineering school. The Boost is their set of Bluetooth-enabled smart bricks that lets you build and program robots and other functioning models using motors, sensors, and an interactive coding app. Make a talking robot. A guitar. A space rover. A pet cat (what?). And even an automated production line that builds … more LEGO toys. The creative toolbox comes with over 840 pieces, but it’s totally compatible with the other hundreds of bricks currently lying around your living room.
LEGO Boost (Starts at $160, Available August)
Flexo Bendable Construction Bricks
One of those innovations you’re surprised hasn’t existed for ages, Flexo’s a set of traditional LEGO-compatible construction bricks that are connected by flexible elastic tendons and boast “a full range of movement, from flat to 180 degrees.” They were designed by a dude in New Zealand as more of an add-on to your kid’s existing brick collection, but each kit includes both tendons (in 4 sizes of varying flexibility) and bricks, so you don’t technically need anything else.
Flexo Bendable Construction Bricks ($25-$473, Pre-order for January 2017)
Brik Tiles are 10-inch x 10-inch plates that let your kids cover their walls with LEGOs. And not only can they change their new “wallpaper” pattern on a whim (as they’re wont to do), but you don’t have to break out the paint thinner and putty knife to make it happen. Each tile has an adhesive back that can be reused multiple times and stuck on everything from the fridge to the toilet (for target practice, of course).
Brik Tile LEGO Compatible Wall Tiles ($20, 2-pack)
Flybrix’s “crash-friendly” DIY LEGO drone kits come with everything needed to launch a 4-, 6-, or 8-propeller drone with limited aviation knowledge and no tools. But, you’re more than welcome to help your kids out if you want. The LEGOs, propellers, motors, circuit board, even the pilot are in the box; just plug and play. You can even use the bricks already scattered around the house to build a giant jumbo drone and/or finally get that LEGO Millennium Falcon off the ground and on its way to Alderaan.
Brixo are curiously LEGO-like construction blocks that provide the electricity to animate your kid’s Brickenstein. They’re painted in shiny, non-toxic chrome and powered by built-in, low-voltage batteries. Connector Blocks form wire-free circuits into which Action Blocks are embedded to deliver LED light or motorized movements. Trigger Blocks are added to activate said movements via light, sound, and motion sensors. When combined with the King Of All Bricks, Brixo makes helicopter rotors spin, fire engines light up, sharks shoot frickin’ lasers — anything you can think of to make those LEGOs come alive. All while you amuse yourself by refusing to give your kid instructions beyond, “Just be ‘bout that Action, Blocks.”
Brixo ($35, Pre-order for March 2017)
MeeperBOT is essentially a remote-controlled baseplate on wheels that lets your kids drive any LEGO creation around the kitchen while you’re making dinner. And naturally, they do said driving using a smartphone app. MB runs on a single 9-volt battery, syncs via Bluetooth, includes 2 rear-wheel 300 RPM motors, and comes in 8 colors.
GoBrix by ThinkGeek are remote-controlled building bricks with simple motors designed to bring compatible toys (LEGO, K’Nex, KRE-O, and Mega Blox, for example) to life. They keep it simple: a tiny motor inside a brick, into which you can insert wheel axles, robot arms, or whatever you want to move, easily activated by a push-button remote. And yes, the remote is also LEGO-compatible, so you could snap together a remote-control remote in what would be one of the more gratuitous dad jokes anyone could make using only LEGO. Even better, they’re pretty damn inexpensive.
GoBrix by ThinkGeek ($10-$15)
Having already mastered the art of creating miniature working replicas of iconic amusement rides, the good folks at CoasterDynamix are on to a new challenge: turning those models into LEGO-compatible, brick-based construction toys. First up, Coney Island’s famous Cyclone. The 1,000-piece kit (targeted at ages 14+) includes the track, the train, and a hand-crank chain lift to make that sucker move (although it works with Lego Power Functions like motors and batteries too, if your fingers get tired). It measures about 4 feet in length and can be combined with multiple kits into one giant badass coaster.
CoasterDynamix ($149, Pre-order for May 2017)
Technically, TinkerBots are an independent set of interlocking bricks and modules for building simple robots. But that shouldn’t deter you; they also make a LEGO brick adaptor to bridge the 2 worlds. TB’s come with a powerbrain (Li-Ion battery, speaker, gyro-sensor, Bluetooth, etc.), motion modules (motor, pivot, twister, grabber), sensors (light and distance), bricks, and wheels. Robots can either be controlled via smartphone app or with some crazy simple programming; as in, press the “Record” button on the powerbrain, make the robot move how you want, and then hit “Play.” That’s it. It’ll repeat every motion you just ‘taught’ it.
TinkerBots (Kits start at $169)
Walking Dead And Game of Thrones Minifigs
Since your kids probably (hopefully?) aren’t watching either of those shows, these custom mini-figurines from Demonhunter Bricks are really for your desk. And that’s cool. They sell all your favorite characters (Daryl and Daenerys, of course) with weapons, either individually or as a complete set.
Crazy Bricks Minifigs (Start at $18)