Lego Archives - Eva Varga

September 15, 2017

Traveling isn’t easy. There are frequent hiccups and unexpected delays that can lead to headaches and frustration. Over the years, we have learned a lot. We have become more savvy about what we need pack to assure we are comfortable and more flexible in how we pack to avoid potential catastrophes.

Today, I share a list of travel gifts for young adventurists and travelers – things you will find make travel with kids easier and more enjoyable.

Perfect Travel Gifts & Tips for Young Adventurists & Travelers

This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a commission when products are purchased. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists

We absolutely love to travel. Until recently, my hubby’s high pressure job necessitated that he decompress every six months. Even so, it would take him nearly a week before he could relax enough to enjoy himself while on vacation. While his work doesn’t permit us to world school on a full-time basis, we have become accustomed to traveling regularly for 2-3 week holidays at least once a year.

Build Excitement Prior Departure

Over the years, we have surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyland, slowly built anticipation for Florida with clue envelopes, and done all the planning ourselves. What we have found works best for us, however, is that everyone is involved in the planning.

When the kids were younger, we subscribed to a monthly travel adventure from Little Passports. It was a fun way to spark interest in travel and engage them in a great learning activity. They loved following along with Sam and Sofia, marking their new location on the world map and “stamp their passport book”.

Now that they are older, they take a more vested interest in our travel destinations. We generally discuss our next excursion concurrently while on vacation. This helps to make the long flight hours and delays more endurable.

Once we’ve settled on a destination, we are each expected to research the attractions and activities we would most like to take part. We make a list and share our ideas at a family meeting.

Not only does this help to build their excitement, they learn a lot about geography and budgeting as they help to plan our excursions and are more invested upon our arrival.

Perfect Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists & TravelersTravel Gifts & Tips for Packing

When we first traveled abroad to Scandinavia, our luggage was delayed and we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark with just one suitcase. The kids had their clothing but hubby and I had only our carry-on bags. Fortunately, our bags arrived the next day but we certainly learned a lot in regards to packing on that first trip.

We now split our things between our four suitcases – a few days of clothing in each suitcase. We use Eagle Creek packing cubes to keep everything nicely organized and to take the stress out of packing for these extended holidays

Hubby and I have two large garment folders each. Each one holds several days of clothes. The kids use the medium cubes and the small cubes are perfect catch alls for outlet adapters, chargers, batteries, our first aid kit, etc.

What I love best about the packing cubes is that they come in a variety of colors. We can easily identify whose cube is whose. Eagle Creek now has a lighter weight fabric and a wider range of color options in their new line of Specter Cubes.

One quick and inexpensive way to distinguish your luggage from another traveler is to use tassels or pom poms on the luggage handle. Alternatively, luggage belts work well to secure the contents in case a zipper breaks in transport.  

I love the green color of our Eagle Creek luggage (pictured above), making it more visible on the luggage carousel in baggage claim. Though we have not yet invested in new suitcases for the kids, when we do, I know it will be Eagle Creek. They stand behind their lifetime guarantee. When the zipper on one of our green suitcases broke, we simple dropped it off at an Eagle Creek retailer, and they repaired it and shipped it back to us FREE of charge! How’s that for customer service!?

Another product we love are the colorful daypacks and gear by Cotopaxi. Lightweight and versatile, the daypacks are perfect for carry-on luggage as they fit under the seat nicely and have ample space for a change of clothing, your shaving kit or vanity bag, a jacket, and a few incidentals to keep you busy en route.

Use this link for a $20 Cotopaxi discount

Cotopaxi is making a difference in the global community, creating innovative outdoor products that fund sustainable poverty alleviation, move people to do good, and inspire adventure. Their products are guaranteed to last 61 years. If there’s a problem with your product, they’ll gladly exchange it, get you a replacement, or repair it. I love a company that stands behind their products!

Lastly, we have a set of TSA-approved luggage locks to secure our baggage – comforting when we have late departures and need to store our luggage with the hotel prior to our departure. The TSA logo on these special locks alerts inspectors that they can unlock the luggage without cutting the lock or damaging the bag.

We have had our locks for several years. The resettable 3-dial combination is easy to set and alleviates the stress of having to carry another set of keys.

Travel Gifts & Tips for the Departure

To keep the kids busy en route, we generally bring along the iPad and their Mandarin schoolwork. Often they are expected to journal about their trip in Chinese. They also bring along a puzzle book and a paperback book or two that they will discard along the way when they finish with it.Fun Travel Gifts for Young Travelers

My son is now twelve years old. Unlike his sister, he is not an avid reader so it is rare to catch him reading quietly. He has always been fascinated with airplanes however, and will generally content himself with watching the planes take-off and land while at the airport. Once we are underway, he makes quick friends with the stewards for soda refills as we watches the inflight movie.

One thing we’ve found that works well for him is to carry a Lego mini-fig or two in his carry-on. His grandmother also gifted him with a small digital camera a year ago and he uses it to digitally journal his trip from the perspective of his mini-fig. It is so fun to watch him as he carefully poses his pocket size toy and carefully words captions and anecdotes in his journal.The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netMy son has recently developed an interest in speed cubing. He thereby carries a puzzle with him everywhere. Even if your child is not a speed cuber, learning the algorithms to solve even the original Rubik’s Cube 3x3x3 takes time. It’s thereby the perfect activity for teens to occupy themselves during long flights and car drives.

Tips for Improving Your Experiences Upon Arrival

As I eluded to earlier, teens have a more vested interest in the trip when they have been given the chance to help plan the destination and the excursions you take part in upon arrival. This was never more evident than during our recent trip to the East Coast.Our advance research and planning paid off. While in New York, we purchased a CityPASS as the majority of the sights we wanted to see were included. We thereby saved money on admission fees and avoided long lines at the ticketing window. It was well worth our time.

My daughter loves to visit art museums while my son enjoys air and space museums. We thereby did our best to alternate visits so everyone was happy. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t always have to do everything together.

National Portrait Gallery: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.netIn Washington DC, the boys spent an afternoon at the International Spy Museum while Geneva and I took our time at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which were conveniently located next to each other. We were able to take our time to explore the exhibits without feeling rushed by those who were less interested. 

Even with an itinerary and well-thought out plans, things do not always go as planned. When things go awry, we have learned it is critical to sit down each evening and reflect on what did go well in addition to that which fell apart. We also discuss what we each could have done to make the day better.

These vacation debriefs, as we have come to call them, are easy to implement and have opened valuable dialogue. We learn more about one another’s expectations and how we can improve our communication skills when we are in stressful situations.


Looking for more gift ideas? Hop over to the iHomeschool Network linkup for many more Christmas Gift Guides.

February 14, 20161

As parents of middle school age children, I am sure you have long been aware that the toys that we choose to buy for our kids can make a difference in their development. Being presented opportunities to see, play with, and experience specific materials present different challenges, require different skill sets, and cover a variety of different learning areas.

Classic Toys to Challenge Middle Schoolers

Educational toys encourage specific learning areas such as literacy, math, science, and music. Games and puzzles teach strategic thinking skills and encourage laughter and social awareness. They also bring family and friends together to make wonderful memories that will last for years to come.

I love classic toys for many reasons. One of things that I have discovered is that these timeless classics continue to captivate people of all ages.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netThe Amazing World of YoYoing by Erik Everson, age 13

One amazing hobby (and potential) profession is yo-yoing. There’re all sorts of variations and styles. The five main styles are:

1) String Tricks
2) Looping
3) Two-handed String Tricks
4) Off String
5) Freehand

String Tricks is the most popular style and the style I will focus on today. What makes it so unique you ask? These aren’t traditional yo-yos that most people grew up with. These are known as non-responsive yo-yos, which means they do not come up with the tug on the string. The ones that come up with a tug on the string are called responsive yoyo’s.

What makes yo-yos that are non-responsive so unique is the string can touch the yoyo in many more variations without accidentally coming back up to the hand. This makes your trick variation possibilities expand so much more.

Well then, how do you get it back up, you ask? The basic way to get the yoyo back up is to put a layer of string into the yoyo. Most of the time this trick is called “the bind”. If you’d like to see this performed, search on YouTube under, “How to Bind with a Yo-Yo”.

Competitions happen around the world. It’s amazing to see how many people are have taken up this hobby/profession. If you’d like to see some amazing performances of String Tricks here are some names to look up: Gentry Stein, Zack Gormley, Paul Kerbel, and Brandon Vu. These are just some of the many amazing yo-yoers.

In conclusion if you decide to join me on this amazing journey you’ll have the time of your life. Remember not to take it too seriously, it’s yo-yoing.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netCubing with Pizzazz by Jeffrey Varga, age 11

I first discovered the Rubix Cube in 2014 when I received a classic cube in my Christmas stocking. I played around with it a bit over the holidays but I never got further than solving the green side so I gave up. My parents told me that was far as they ever got, too.

I didn’t think too much about it until several months later when I saw a video on YouTube where someone solved it in under 30 seconds. I thought to myself, That’s cool. I want to to be able to solve the puzzle like that. So I searched for ‘how to solve’ videos on YouTube and began to practice the algorithm.

There are 43 quintillion possibilities, but only one correct solution. Knowing how to solve a Rubik’s Cube it is nearly impossible without a little help. When it comes to solving the Rubik’s Cube, t is really simple, you just have to follow the steps and you will be solving the Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes (yes, that quickly!).

I am now a cuber and my best time is 21 seconds. I can also solve the 2×2, Pyramix, and 3×3 Cuboid Shape Shifter (pictured above). My favorite cube is the 3×3 MoYu HuaLong because it feels like butter when you turn it.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netLego

The history of Lego spans nearly 100 years, beginning with the creation of small wooden toys in the early 20th century. Manufacturing of plastic Lego bricks began in Denmark in 1947, but since has grown to include factories throughout the world. Today, the company is an iconic brand.

Founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, the word “lego” is derived from the Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”. The word “lego” also means “I put together” in Latin, and “I connect” in Italian.

For decades, Legos were mostly something kids played with and adults stepped on barefoot in the dark. The Lego universe has been expanding rapidly in recent years, however, with the opening of colorful retail stores, a continuous stream of specialty parts, architecture and city sets, and alliances with the “Star Wars” franchise (amongst others).

Clearly something has clicked — Lego recently became the world’s biggest toymaker. With the popularity of the Lego Movie, it is of no wonder that many teens and preteens are jumping into the foray and trying their own hand at Stopmotion videos.


In 1974, Horst Brandstätter introduced the iconic Playmobil plastic figurines and toy sets to the market. They are now a staple in kids’ rooms in around the world. The simplicity of the figurines stimulates the children’s imagination and creativity.

The Playmobil brand is typically thought of a toy for younger children, like Lego, the simplicity of the figurines and the variety of sets makes it a wonderful resource for their Stopmotion videos..


Fischertechnik is another German brand with a strong presence in the toy market. The company’s toys are used in education to teach about simple machines, as well as motorization and mechanisms. The company also offers computer interface technology, which can be used to learn the theory of automation and robotics.

The company first began as a fastener manufacturer, but in 1965, Artur Fischer invented a building block system for a toy set initially intended as a Christmas novelty gift for engineers. The construction toy’s popularity took off and soon hit the shelves in toy stores across Germany and later the world.

Fischertechnik’s success even pushed Lego to introduce its own line of educational toys at the end of the 1970s. The new division “Lego Technic” included gears, axles, pins, and beams in addition to the simpler brick-building properties of traditional Lego sets. These popular building sets provide hands-on experience with simple machines and engineering concepts. With the STEM II kits, kids can even learn computer programming.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these Classic Toys @EvaVarga.netMy Little Pony

Originally a favorite amongst little girls, the revamped incarnation of the “My Little Pony” franchise has drawn a cult following of teenagers and even grown men. The Pony world includes art, video games, music, T-shirts, and fan fiction — created by fans and based loosely on the canon but jumping off in unorthodox directions.

It wasn’t long before my teen daughter mentioned that she was devoted to the My Little Pony TV show, which airs on Discovery Family. The truth is she more than mentioned it. She watches it all the time, racing through her homework to catch an episode before bed. She has even created several OCs (original characters).

Linking up at Junior High Junction

February 23, 20142

My little man turned 9 this month and early in January, he expressed interest in having a Lego themed birthday party.  Fortunately, a local start-up offers Lego Robotics, Stop Motion Animation, Computer Programming, and 3D Printing classes as well as summer camps, field trips, and birthday parties for youth. We had previously participated in a 3D Printing class so when I suggested we do the party at Build It, he was ecstatic.

I could not have planned it better for the new Lego Movie was released just a week prior to the party so the anticipation of going to the party was very high!  They knew they would get a chance to create their own Lego stop motion animation. What could be better?

Lego Bday14web

It’s a Lego Party!

This was one of the best parties ever – both from my perspective as a parent (no stress and mess) and from the feedback received from the boys. There were many activity stations to choose from and the boys were actively engaged the entire time.

Everything is awesome!!

When they arrived, they were immediately drawn to the center table where a dozen bins filled with Legos awaited them.  Without prompting, they got started right away building vehicles to test on the ramp.  When a few cars didn’t make it to the bottom, they were encouraged to modify their design and try again.  No hints were given .. the perfect hands-on, inquiry activity.

When the green screen was discovered – it became a great hit.  The boys loved using the props and remote control to take pictures of themselves inside the Minecraft world.  The pictures were saved and will be available for download in a few days.  Buddy was also able to select something to be printed with the 3D Printer. The boys enjoyed watching the printing process every so often as they bounced from one thing to another.


The highlight, of course, was the Stop Motion Animation station, particularly with the older boys.  They spent a lot of time here tweaking their scene and recording their storyline.  I can’t wait to see all their videos when they are available for download soon.  They will then be able to use iMovie to import audio and sound to their animations.

The Lego party invitations helped set the tone of the party – Buddy helped to select a mini-fig image representing the interests of each of his friends.  We printed these out on card stock and on the backside we adhered a mini-fig template with the party particulars.

My little man has now requested the iStopMotion 3 software (affiliate link) so he can further pursue his new passion … how can I say no?