Team Building Through Play

Back in 2009, a corporation asked us if we could provide them a fun team building event using LEGO® materials.  Well, our organization had been playing with LEGO® bricks since 1997, so we thought, why not give it a try.  Approximately 9 years later, we have now run team building events for Fortune 500 companies around the country, including organizations such as Google, Microsoft, VISA, Pixar, and Clorox.  Check out what we have done below and the philosophy behind our team building events:

Check out some of the events we have run below:


We ran a team building event recently for Google’s Global Food Program Team. Here is what they accomplished:

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We participated in one of Medtronic’s retreats and had them building with LEGO at a winery.

Clorox visited Play-Well Pleasanton and created a Rube Goldberg LEGO project that used it’s own products.


We ran a team building event for 100 B.O.S.S. Staffers.  Here is an article describing that day:


MarkWest Energy in Colorado held their annual retreat for their engineering staff and we provided them some creative, collaborative challenges with LEGO.

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An NCAA college basketball coach had us create a LEGO basketball challenge for their team before the start of the season:


Amazon asked us to create a LEGO building contest for their team of engineers. Here is what they produced:


We brought millennial students and working professionals together to learn about each other, how they work, and what is important to them all through LEGO.

Click HERE for more information about our Play-Well Team Building Events or you can complete our Team Building Interest Form HERE.

Google & Play-Well Connecting Over LEGO

We recently ran a Play-Well Team Building Event for Google’s Global Food Program Team.  The goals were to inspire creativity, collaboration, all while solving problems in a fun way.  And of course, we used LEGO to do this.  Check out some of the LEGO challenges they got to do.


The team dove fully into the project, sometimes even standing on tables in order to accomplish their goal.


We hope that will stay up there.


Staff took a lot of joy in trying to knock each other’s LEGO Towers down.


This LEGO tower was left standing though.


Now on to the more complex LEGO build.


One of the challenges is to figure out how to get many different contraptions to work all at a uniform rate.


Attendees used everything at their disposal to help solve a complex LEGO build.


Even choosing to build on the floor if necessary.


One of the managers overseeing his staff’s work. He was quite impressed.


Now they have figured out what they need to do and are building fast.


We even had time for LEGO car races.


And the competition was fierce.


Some staff even left the build to watch the LEGO races.


Back in the room, the large build is moving quickly.


Once that task was done, it was time for the creative LEGO builds.


Many different ideas were coming into play.


This build included a pirate theme and a flag.


This group incorporated flowers, twigs, and a wine cork into their LEGO contraption.


This team was quite proud of their LEGO creation.


Overall, people were having a great time.


In the end, we had a debrief about the build and the day.


Many people had built some impressive LEGO creations in such a short span of time.



We reviewed some of the lessons we learned that day about the team. Overall, a really great group that worked extremely well together.

If you’d like us to provide a team building event for your organization, simply complete our team building interest form HERE.  For more information about our Play-Well Team Building events, click HERE.

Palling around at Paypal

Paypal asked us to participate in their Take Your Child To Work Day.  We ran 8 workshops for quite a few future engineers, showing them how the engineering backgrounds of their parents all started with problem solving and playing.  Here are some pictures from the event.


Arriving at Paypal Headquarters.




We built a Paypal LEGO sign just for the event.


Our workshop is right this way.



Father and son getting ready to participate in their LEGO Engineering Workshop.


Kids built an amusement park in one of the 8 workshops that we ran.


Our engineering instructors showing how gears work.


This kids are excited to see what their project is going to do.


Proof that you can build any shape with LEGO Bricks.


We have no idea what exactly this is, but we know it is pretty awesome.

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Our Play-Well Staff is done for the day. Thanks Paypal for having us!

If you’d like us to participate in your organization’s family fun day, let us know ( Thanks Paypal for having us!

Playing In Hacker Square At Facebook Headquarters

We were extremely excited to be a part of Facebook HQ‘s Take Your Child To Work Day.  The event was featured on Business Insider.  We brought two 5×5 ft Facebook signs made up of 5000 pieces of LEGO each, as well as over 100,000 additional LEGO pieces in order to run some of our crazy LEGO stations for employees and their kids to play in.  Here are some pictures from the event.


The entrance to Facebook’s take your kids to work day.



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We are the booth on the top left with the 5000-piece Facebook LEGO sign. Photo Source:



Starting to build Hacker Square Photo Source:



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Building Facebook Signs for Facebook’s Hacker Square. Photo Source:




We brought two 5×5 foot Facebook Signs made out of over 5000 pieces of LEGO.

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Our staff is ready for all the Facebook families.


Father and son compete in our Battletrack area.


The booth is now packed with families.


Kids are building in our soap box derby challenge area.


We are building Facebook’s Hacker Square, including Facebook logos.


Our conveyor belt delivers LEGO to build our LEGO Facebook logo.


Facebook Hacker Square is complete.


There even was a LEGO wall.


We are done for the day. Thanks Facebook for having us!


Here is one of our Facebook signs we built for the event. Let us know if you’d like us to build your logo out of LEGO.

If you’d like us to participate in your organization’s family fun day, let us know ( Thanks Facebook for having us!






If you’d like us to participate in your organization’s family fun day, let us know ( Thanks Facebook for having us!

Helping Boulder Public Library Renovate with LEGO

For Boulder Public Library’s Main Library renovation, we ran our Engineering with LEGO workshops and were able to create a 16 ft tall tower to welcome patrons to the new main library.  A little Colorado State pride also made its way to the top of the tower.

Boulder Public Library

Picture courtesy of Boulder Public Library

If you’d like us to participate in your upcoming event, check out our Play-Well Special Events Page and complete one of our event forms.

Can We Measure Learning Through Play?

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This look of wonder and amazement in our students is what we strive for in each of our classes.

A question was posed on the LEGO Foundation Ideas Conference Forum: How can we measure learning through play?

The background of the question was:

“Measurements of learning is currently driven by a discussion of standardized tests in schools, which comes with a risk of teaching to the test, and not focusing on the soft skills with children’s motivation for learning and lifelong outcomes. Who are measurements actually for? And how can we provide new ways of measuring the critical soft skills, like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, at the same time as making them relevant for the everyday situations in the home, and practices in the classroom?”

We at Play-Well have been asking, answering and re-asking this question for the past 18 years. After teaching over 500,000 kids, we have come to a few truths about play:

  • You can get kids excited about learning through play.
  • Children absorb and remember information when they are fully engaged, especially through play.
  • While it cannot replace scholastic practice in the classroom, play can be used to successfully explain and exemplify complicated academic concepts.

We know that play is powerful. We see it every day in our classes and hear it from parents. One parent relayed a story to us about a kindergartener: after one of our classes, who went to the playground, slid down the slide, and said to himself, “wow, this slide has a lot of friction!”

So, how do we measure this knowledge? That is where it gets tricky. Not only because the goals of each class are unique and difficult to pin down, but also because it forces us to confront an uncomfortable truth: we shouldn’t measure play.

Do we undermine the self-direction of play through measurement?

Play-Well Students

The entire premise of play is that it is self-directed and open-ended. Kids might play to explore the world, solve problems, or express who they are. These are only a few of the reasons children engage in play, and each has its merits in creating a well-rounded child.

Our friends in Montessori education have been strong advocates for self-direction in education: children may choose an activity and work on that activity until they feel they have completed it.  They are done when they believe they have completed it, without the interference of their teacher. They understand that self-direction empowers children and that confidence helps create life-long learners.

Any attempt to measure organic play limits the open-ended nature of it; and in doing so, we may unintentionally saddle children with adult expectations or ideas of what “success” is.

How effective would measurements on play be?


We could come up with metrics to measure some aspects of play, but we must ask ourselves: would the data we received be worth the potential harm created in collecting it?

Our most satisfying times in the classroom, as instructors, are when our students have epiphany moments. We know that we can create the environment for those opportunities to happen, but it is out of our control as to when they happen.

Let’s revisit the kindergartener experiencing friction on the slide. We had reviewed that term numerous times through playing that week, so at some point it resonated with him. How do you measure that?  When did the connection between our class and the slide occur?  Did he have the epiphany on the slide or somewhere else? Does it matter? Furthermore, in peppering the child with questions attempting to solve the mystery, we ruin the positive association that child had with learning about friction. In the journey from qualitative play to quantitative measurement, the true magic of play will be lost in translation. It will fall short of what is possible if we just allow kids to explore the world for themselves, at their own pace, and trust that learning will happen.

A teacher in the U.S. recently wrote a resignation letter, stating that she needed to step down because she believed her profession no longer existed.  With so much of her job being about standardized tests and constant measurement, her ability to actually be a teacher, allowed to play and experiment to get her kids excited by learning, was gone.  By forcing common standards of teaching in the U.S., the powers that be had stifled this teacher’s ability to do her job in a way that spoke to her children.

In the play setting, who is the better teacher? The adult or the child?

Errol Teaching

So, given all the risk, why would we evaluate play or use play as a measurement tool? We love our children and we recognize play as nourishment for young minds. We want to support that in any way possible and we want that support to be based in peer-reviewed study. This is where we hit the crux of the questions posed: who are measurements actually for?

In simplistic terms, measurements are for adults, and play is for kids.

If you were to ask a child at play, “are you having fun?” She would say, “yes.”  If you asked her to articulate why she is having fun, you’ll probably hear, “I don’t know, it just is.”  She might not fully understand why she does what she does, or what she is learning when she plays, but it is happening. Children submit their bodies, their minds and their spirits to whatever creative world they are traveling through when they play and they do so without judgment or expectation. You can see it in the way their limbs hang when they are being carried to bed after a long day of play: that child gave all of himself to his adventure today. The fullness with which children embrace and indulge in their experiences is something from which we adults can learn. So let us take an opportunity to embrace the process of play without analysis of the results. Can play be a valuable learning tool or method of measurement? Yes. How can we prove it? We shouldn’t bother trying. Or as a child would say, “it just is.”

What will save us? Perhaps Play.


Ken Robinson, in his lecture about schools killing creativity, explains how the musical Cats almost didn’t happen. The most successful musical of all time only happened because the creator was pulled out of a regular classroom and identified by a teacher as being a dancer, instead of someone who just couldn’t sit still in class. Ken explained that world-changing potential is sitting in our classrooms, but we need to allow kids to play if they are going to understand who they want to be. We as adults must exercise some restraint and allow children to experience that process uninhibited by our desire to understand it. We must treat play as sacred and do all that we can to keep it whole. This is how we can advocate for children and also for ourselves. Because the next great solution, the life-changing invention, the cure for cancer–these things won’t come from a mind that can merely think outside the box; they will come from a mind that thinks the box doesn’t exist.

Contributors To This Article: Erik Olson, Maddy Gabor, & Jeff Harry

Boulder Public Library’s Introduce A Child To Engineering Day

On Saturday, February 21st, we teamed up with Boulder Public Library and local residents to build the city of Boulder out of LEGO.

Over 600 people came out to help build Boulder and learn about the world of engineering using LEGO.

The city of Boulder put together a video of the event.

We also were featured on the local Colorado TV Station, Channel 9 News.

Check out the pictures from Introduce A Kid To Engineering Day below.

Colorado Mountaineers Stadium

The Colorado Buffalo Stadium complete with clouds in the background and the LEGO guys running the Buffalo on the field.


Gondola area

The gondola room where vehicles traverse up to the mountains of Boulder with the help of the young drivers.


Mountains of Boulder

The Rocky Mountains built out of LEGO. Snow and clouds cover the mountain.



Our awesome volunteers getting prepped for the event. We had over 30 volunteers come help us out at the Boulder Library.


Building 1

Families hard at work on the city of Boulder.

Building 2

That building is coming along nicely. Almost ready to add.

Building 3

The buildings and houses are beginning to surround the mountain. It is only going to get bigger.

Building 4

These kids are excited to see the city of boulder complete.

Building 5

We are almost there.

Building 6

Here it is. Countless amount of houses, buildings, stadiums, and towers to make up the City of Boulder. Awesome job!





Building 7

Here is another angle on all of the creations. Amazing work.

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Building 8

Before our staff had to take them apart, we took one last photo. Such a fun day. We want to thank the Boulder Public Library for having us and all the people that came out to help make this day awesome. Thanks so much!


It was an awesome event that we hope inspired more kids to get into STEM-related fields in the future. For everyone that came out to this event, thanks for coming.  If you’d like to run an event like this with us, visit our Special Events page for more information.

Playing Well In 2015!

As we ring in the New Year, we just wanted to say thank you for your support and for joining us on our Play-Well adventures in 2014.  We hope you and your family’s 2015 is filled with happiness, fulfillment, educational epiphanies, and of course, awesome LEGO builds.  We hope you’ll be able to LEGO more this year and play well!  May this be your most satisfying and memorable year yet.

Happy New Year 2015 - Play-Well