Everyone who fondly recalls playing with LEGO® bricks can recapture their youth at Bricks 4 Kidz®, a Greenville business built around the use of these iconic toys, which now serve as tools for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment. Since opening Greenville Bricks 4 Kidz® in 2013, owner Bobbie-Jo Grinder has worked with public schools, childcare providers, Scout programs and the community to spread the word that hands-on learning can be fun.
With themes incorporating a wide range of STEM topics, Bricks 4 Kidz® aims to provide enrichment opportunities for students who are less likely to participate in sports, music, or other traditional after-school activities. The Bricks 4 Kidz® after-school program, available at select elementary schools in Pitt County, has become a cornerstone of Grinder’s business.
“It’s not traditional after-school care,” she explains. “We travel to a different school every day and work with the kids on a themed unit. We start by teaching a concept, like Newton’s Laws of Motion. The kids build a model that supports what they learned, then they get to experiment with different aspects of the model on their own to better understand the concept. It [targets] all learning styles, gives that visual, and they love it!”
Using a tiered skill level system, Grinder teaches programs and leads workshops for different ages and ability levels simultaneously. “It’s not about age,” she says, “it’s about skill level. We have different [skill] levels of the same model, so kids can get excited and be successful” on their own terms. “Wherever their learning capabilities are, that’s where they start. We don’t want them to be frustrated; we want them to have fun. Once they have that success, they get excited about trying a more challenging model.”
In addition to after-school programs, Bricks 4 Kidz® offers a variety of other opportunities for kids to experience the hands-on learning fun. In-school workshops, day camps, birthday parties, kids’ nights out, and parent/child classes allow kids ages 2 and up to build, play and learn.
Day camps are available during spring, summer and winter breaks, as well as on teacher workdays. “We want to accommodate our community [beyond just] major holidays. Most anytime the schools are closed, we are open.” Camp participants enjoy a day of fun and learning while getting to build and experiment with LEGO® bricks. “They have a blast,” Grinder says. “They may be building a motorized snake, but they are learning about the Everglades. They retain the information because they had an amazing time learning it.”
Parents can participate, too. With parent/child class offerings, kids can experience the fun of working collaboratively with their parents. “They say, ‘Wow! Mom is actually building with me!’” Grinder explains. “We use LEGO® bricks with the bigger kids, but we have DUPLO® bricks for kids as young as 2, which we use to introduce the alphabet, numbers, colors, directions, etc.”
During Kids’ Night Out events, parents can drop off children for a few hours while they shop or have a date night. “We feed them dinner, we build, we play, we might watch a LEGO® movie, and we have a good time. I think the parents have a harder time filling the three hours than the kids do!” Grinder laughs. “The thing we hear most often from our customers is that Bricks 4 Kidz® is a safe, comfortable, nurturing environment.”
Whether it’s a class field trip, a workshop, or after-school program, Bricks 4 Kidz® provides curriculum-aligned instruction at which kids excel. “It’s just amazing to me to see kindergarten kids who understand fractions because they are learning with LEGO® bricks,” Grinder exclaims. “When we can catch passion and help a kid explore it with LEGO® bricks, they learn so much more.”
With a professional background in human resources, Grinder recognizes that a child’s early exposure to STEM concepts is impactful even many years later. “Some of the most challenging [job] positions to fill were in accounting, engineering and information technology. Bricks 4 Kidz® starts preparing students for careers in those fields through play.”
From building and play, to problem-solving and critical thinking skills, Bricks 4 Kidz® is every kid’s dream come true.
To learn more about Bricks 4 Kids® and to register for programs, visit www.bricks4kidz.com/enc. Check out the Bricks 4 Kidz: Greenville-Winterville Facebook page for upcoming events.