Ask A Lemur – 3rd Party Elements, Raising Children & the Lie that was Susan Williams

Hello again, Dearest Readers!

Stern Lemur

I had a strange experience this last weekend. I had the honor of attending a rather unusual tradition that is practiced in the United States. It was called “Super Bowl”. Josh had a party at his house and invited me to come over. I was very excited to see how big this super-bowl was and what sorts of yummy things it held. Come to find out there is no actual “bowl”. There is a lot of food involved but no bowl. What’s up with that?

So, I was the first guest to show up. Apparently the first one to arrive gets to wash the host’s cars. I’ll remember that for the future as no one else had to wash anything. Anyway, the rest of the evening seemed to involve watching some guys on TV fight over an inflated pigskin. I’m not sure why they were fighting over it, as no one got to eat it when it was all over. But the food was good (Bacon-wrapped Jalapeno poppers, FTW!) and I learned enough to yell at the TV when everyone else was. I’d go again next year, but I’ll try to be fashionably late.

On to your questions!

Why do so many people think that 3rd party items are cool but consider clone bricks to be taboo?

This is a great question and the answers are highly subjective. For those how don’t know, 3rd Party items are made by LEGO fans and intended to complement LEGO. Clone bricks are elements made by companies that compete with LEGO.

In general, 3rd Party Items are intended to fill a niche that LEGO is not supplying. For example, LEGO has stated that they will not make modern weaponry. Several small companies, owned by LEGO fans, have attempted to fill that void. 3rd party manufacturers make a large variety of items that are intended to work with or replace certain LEGO elements but are not meant to compete with or replace LEGO as a whole. The quality tends to be high, though it does vary. Fans of the various 3rd party companies tend to be very vocal and enthusiastic.

Clone Bricks are made by companies that are trying to compete with and replace LEGO itself. They make versions of the exact pieces that LEGO already makes and are trying to convince people to buy their products rather than LEGO. The quality tends to be lower than LEGO, but there are exceptions. The names of clone brick companies are often used as substitute expletives.

There are LEGO fans who won’t touch either 3rd party items or clone brick. There are other builders who will use anything and there is a wide range of people in between. The general consensus seems to be that 3rd party items are okay because they are made by fans of LEGO and are meant to add to LEGO. Along similar lines, clone bricks are bad because they are intended to compete with and/or replace LEGO.

In all honesty, there are problems with the logic of any of positions. It all comes down to personal preference. For the most part, they all taste the same. Arguing over it is silly.

Do you have any advice for raising children in an Adult-Fan-Of-LEGO household?

I don’t have any kits of my own but I have consulted and observed several different LEGO-owning parents. In regards in how to keep your young infant or toddler safe while still keeping your LEGO accessible, I would recommend keeping your brick in something made of clear plastic with sturdy, latching lids. The plastic is easy to clean, you can see inside of them without opening them and the latches keep them secure and closed if the child pulls them over. Try several different brands, fill them with some brick and see how they stand up to some rough, experimental use. It is rather amazing what a wrecking ball a little child can be, once they become just slightly mobile. Also invest in a quality folding table for building. I know many people build on the floor, but a portable table will raise everything out of the child’s reach and give you some breathing room.

Once the child is old enough to learn what they can and can’t touch (this is earlier than you might think), they need to learn not to touch the LEGO. This is for safety reasons. LEGO is small and is a significant choking hazard for small children. It is impossible to remove every hazard in your child’s life. They need to learn to listen when you say ‘no’.

Once the child is old enough to play with LEGO, you should let them. This may sound odd, but many AFOLs refuse to let their kids play with the LEGO in the house. Let’s call that the “Don’t touch Daddy’s LEGO” syndrome. There is a huge difference with the way children play with LEGO and the way that adults use their collections, so you will need to make some decisions how to deal with that but don’t make LEGO something that they think they aren’t allowed to use.

Since I was at Josh’s house this weekend, I asked him how he deals with the situation. He has three kids and all are LEGO fans. His oldest daughter is a teenager. She likes LEGO but doesn’t build much. She doesn’t have her own collection but builds with his collection once in awhile. He also has two sons (8 and 11). They are each huge LEGO fans and have their own ideas of what and how to build. They use his collection from time to time but they each have their own separate collections. There are other families in which the AFOL collection is a family possession, held in common. This has other issues, such as how and when new sets or pieces are added to the collection and how the collection is used or sorted.

In the end, everyone handles the LEGO in slightly different ways. The key is to keep your young child safe until they are able to able to handle the brick. Then introduce them to it in such a way that it is beneficial to them while keeping your enjoyment of LEGO alive. I hope this helps and isn’t too vague.

Has the Lemur gone by the name of Susan Williams in the past?

Ouch! While I and Ms. Williams seem to have much in common, I would NEVER lie to my readers. For those who don’t know, the LEGO company fabricated a person to answer their fan letters and such. They called her Susan Williams and she was the public voice of the company for many years. Scores of young LEGO fans imagined her sitting in her office, doling out love and friendship to fans all over the world. However, Susan Williams was a LIE! She never existed.

On the other hand, I am alive and well, here in the depths of The Brothers Brick compound. I also answer the readers questions and try to help when and where I can. But the main difference is that I’m real, fuzzy and cute. She wasn’t.

To prove it, I will be attending BrickCon 2015, for those who want to see me in person. I’ll be there, alive and in the fur, baby!

A. Lemur

8 comments on “Ask A Lemur – 3rd Party Elements, Raising Children & the Lie that was Susan Williams

  1. Marmidotte


    I love it how you answer questions, and wanted to thank you for doing that. Also, as an AFOL mum (married to an AFOL dad) with two Lego-fans kids, I wanted to add that age on lego sets is more a guideline than a fixed limit, since our 6 years old already builds Lego Architecture and Lego Technics on his own… He also loves to create various vehicles. His sister is more about building mini houses and decorating them (albeit in a weird manner…).

    I have a question of my own: Will there ever be a Lemur minifig?

  2. Deus

    How dare you say cloners and LEGO taste the same? I have been chewing on LEGO in my younger years (which I regret now) and also owned some clone bricks, also chewed by me. The taste is NOT the same. I mean, ones heart hurts when he or she damages LEGO via biting or anything else, but clone brands just taste disgusting!

  3. Carlo

    I do not go for third party elements just because they aren’t really Lego’s, and I’m not a fan of other types of interlocking bricks. I am disgusted with Megabloks, and am glad Lego sewed them. They are a lot cheaper quality, and Lego’s were invented first. I will say if you’re just out for fun, clones are fine. Serious. Never! Anyway, I may be starting a Lego blog (hope you follow it) and I would like to say that my favorite mini-figure accessories are armor and helmets. I have Tremor’s armor ( JOY) which I traded from a friend. I am looking out for power miners heat armor, Terabytes helmet, and Drillex’s armor. Sadly, they are all pretty hard to find.

  4. legozebra

    Hello again Lemur! What is your stance on the word “Legos?” Is it ok for you to hear it spoken aloud or do you constantly reprimand people for saying it?

  5. plutoniumboss

    Actually, Carlo, Mega Bloks have improved drastically in recent years. The plastic quality is much better, and they are doing things beyond just copying LEGO like they used to. I wouldn’t say they are equal to LEGO, but they are far from the ripoff they were years ago. They’ve been making the effort to create their own identity, and I can respect that.

    I used to be a die-hard LEGO purist, but certain other brands have gradually gotten my attention. Mega’s mini-figures are fantastic little action figures with realistic weaponry that LEGO would never do, and Spin Master’s transforming IONIX bricks are fascinating pieces of engineering. KRE-O has some major quality issues, but I’m a fan of the Transformers characters, so I’ve gotten a few of those as well, just because having Optimus Prime in minifigure form amuses me.

  6. LEGO Ink

    Thanks for the segment for Fans w/ Children, or maybe Fans w/ Adults. It was neat to see a written perspective that encouraged together play, seeing as how that’s what LEGO represents, while maintaining a certain…discernment…for larger collections. My wife & I have two children under age 6, that pretty much bypassed DUPLO because ‘Dada’s GOs’ were always more appealing. Safety and portion control were tough for a while, similar to your snack-ly struggles, but even our youngest knows that he can play with just about everything as long as he asks. For specific sets, no head/hair/printed torso/etc. switching.

    My real question:
    Is there a preferred method for starting an ‘extra’s’ store, such as Etsy or BrickLink?
    – Where do you go to set your shipping prices?
    – Do vendors use those At-Home postage machines, or wait in Post Office lines every other day.
    – Are there vendors that travel with parts, or all, of their inventory?

  7. trhoffmanmd

    Hi Lemur,
    What is your favorite building technique for LEGO bricks, and where do you go to find new techniques for either building or cooking the bricks?

Comments are closed.