Little engineers are often easy to spot. No, they don’t sport mini pocket protectors or pint-sized graphing calculators in holsters. Well, maybe on Halloween… They’re the mindful minis who are busy building indestructible sandcastles at the beach, fixing your bike when the chain comes off on the trail, and tinkering with your toaster oven at breakfast. And you can almost hear their grey matter gears shift into overdrive when a new box of LEGOs appears—kid on Christmas morning style. These little LEGO lovers can’t get enough of those colorful bricks and the endless possibilities they offer! So whether you’ve got a future engineer, architect or plain old LEGO-obsessed kiddo (there might be an app for that), boy, have we got place for you. Get ready to check out the coolest in geek chic at Play-Well TEKnologies’ new Activity Center. Build on!
A New Twist
Play-Well TEKnologies has had a presence in Seattle and the Eastside for about 4 years now, offering school enrichment programs and off-site camps and classes. But their new Activity Center, now open in Kirkland, is worth getting excited about. More than just an extension of your living room LEGO staging area, this space is thoughtfully designed for LEGO-licious learning. They’ve got plenty of space and tens of thousands of LEGOs (and here you thought you had a lot). And they’re all (gasp) organized! Every. Single. One. We know. You’ve got to see this. Psst… Activity Center Manager Brandon Jones might even share a few of his organizing secrets with you, if you’re lucky.
The new Activity Center plays host to weekly workshops that teach engineering fundamentals to kids ages 5 through 12, using LEGOs (standard and motorized) to bring learning to life. Like all of the program’s curriculum, the workshops feature projects developed by engineers and taught by the Play-Well staff, many of whom are engineers, electricians, architects, and teachers themselves. Projects change from class to class, but the process stays the same whether you’re building a gondola, a catapult or a merry-go-round. Instructors teach a basic model and help the kiddos construct the same. The Littles then personalize their creation by adding special touches, like mini-figures, baskets to carry animals, whatever they can come up with. It’s these little extras that get kids encountering and solving (hooray!) real-life engineering scenarios. Now that’s hands-on learning at its engaging best! Before you know it, your little one will be talking “mass” “torque” and “balance” with the Google Geeks in your life over early morning coffee…er, we mean orange juice.
Workshops are held on Mondays and Thursdays from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, and the age ranges vary. Be sure to pre-register for the right section, as the class concepts are specifically geared to each age group’s level of understanding. At just $16 a pop these 90-minute workshops are cheaper than a babysitter and definitely more awesome. You can either drop your little one off or stay to observe. Just bring a coffee and a good book. There’s a seating area right inside the studio that’s perfect for watching your little one tinker.
Good to know
With all this amazing LEGO play going on, it’s a good bet your little one’s going to ask you to buy her something. You saw that one coming, didn’t you? Play-Well isn’t associated with LEGO, so they don’t sell LEGO products (Phew! You’re off the hook.). But the instructors can tell you what LEGO sets to buy to recreate your project at home. They also have one small, self-packaged kit for sale ($42) that includes the basics you need to start building with motorized LEGOs. Coupled with your sizeable (nah, you?) collection, it’s a perfect (and easy) pairing.
Once the summer hits, the Activity Center trades in their workshop programs for week-long, half-day summer camp sessions. The classes run for 3 hours in either the morning or afternoon, and like the workshops, are divided by age groups: 5 and 6 year olds, kids 7 through 12, and the 10 to 14 year old group. Project themes like Super Heroes, Jedi Engineering, and Ninjaneering (trust us, it’s a thing) are just a sampling of what you’ll find on this amazing summer agenda, where campers can expect to build two projects a day, with a much-needed snack break in between. Be sure to pack some brain food for this one!
If the LEGO Lover in your family is looking for a birthday party spot, you may have just found the perfect place. The Activity Center’s birthday party package includes a 90-minute workshop, followed by 30 minutes of cake and presents in the party room. The birthday boy or girl can choose the workshop focus, and it’s often easy to align the party and workshop themes (think knights building catapults or Star Wars coupled with some Jedi engineering). A two-hour party package for up to 16 little engineers (or up to 24 for an additional charge) will cost you $300, or they can bring the party to you for only $250.
Celebrate Good Times
Play-Well Activity Center’s Grand Opening celebration is fast approaching! Mark your calendars for family LEGO play time on May 18th, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Drop by any time during the day to check out the center and get your LEGO play on. Instructors will be there to answer questions and help kiddos (both big and small) experiment with some of the workshop projects on their own. Carve out about an hour for playtime, questions and cake, but feel free to stay longer if you like!
Around the Area
Big kid playtime means little ones should stay at home, if possible. But if you have a small sib in tow, we suggest heading over to the nearby Hougton Beach Park, especially on a sunny day. With a playground, beach and unbeatable view, the Littles can get their wiggles out while the bigs build the afternoon away. There’s plenty of time to make the drive, play a while and still make it back to see your kiddo’s final creation in (fully motorized) action!
Play-Well TEKnologies – Northwest Activity Center
11743 124th Avenue NE
Kirkland, Wa 98034
Ages: 5 and up
Do you plan to check out Play-Well’s newest space? Tell us about your adventure in the comments section below.
Photo credit: Brandon Jones at Play-Well TEKnologies