Legos were the primary imaginative playground of my childhood. I collected thousands of pieces across many sets, ranging from medieval Europe to outer space. More often than not, I would assemble the sets as designed for a short time before breaking them down to create universes of my own. I wove entire sagas with those bricks. It’s no coincidence that, in adulthood, I would eventually become a writer as well as a traditionally published novelist.
The Lego group, meanwhile, is one of the largest and most successful privately held companies in the world. First founded in Denmark in the 1930s, Lego licensed sets, movies, and video games are seemingly everywhere.
Legos are also expensive. Right now, a classic set of Legos runs around 7 cents per piece at big box stores. Licensed sets — like Star Wars, Marvel, or Disney Princess — cost 11 to 14 cents per piece. Certain specialty sets, like Lego Friends, fall somewhere in between. A typical small Lego Friends set of 100 pieces is going to cost close to $10. Big Lego Star Wars sets can cost a lot more than that.
Alternatively, you can sometimes find imitation Legos. But in my experience, they are inferior to the real thing. They don’t fit or stay together as well, and the designs are usually less inspired.
Some dollar stores, including Dollar General, carry authentic Lego sets. But they’re almost always small. And Legos are far too expensive for an extreme discounter like Dollar Tree to carry. Instead, Dollar Tree sells its own custom Lego knockoffs: Make-It Blocks.
Make-It Blocks are a Dollar Tree exclusive. Like everything at Dollar Tree, each Make-It Blocks set currently costs $1.25. My local Dollar Tree carried an assortment of different Make-It Blocks sets, from single base plates to small sets. I picked up two of the small sets to try.
One set was 25 pieces (5 cents a piece) while the other was 30 pieces (4.1 cents a piece). That’s a little less per piece compared to one of the bulk classic Lego sets, and it’s the cheapest I could find for building blocks like these.
Each of the sets I picked up came in a simple box with a plastic pouch and instructions inside. The box said they were “Compatible! Fits All Major Brands!” which I took as meaning, “these work with Legos.” On the back, each of the sets I picked up offered two different designs for each set.
The instructions were clear enough, laying everything out step-by-step. I had no trouble following them. For the most part, assembly went as expected. Most of the pieces fit together like they were supposed to, and most of them stayed in place like they were supposed to.
But not all. A couple of the pieces — especially ones that involved putting a round piece into a hole — required some time and force to get them to fit in right. And in some cases, not everything was 100% flush the way I would expect from Legos. On the other end, these mostly stayed in place when attached, but they weren’t always as forgiving as Legos; in one instance, one piece I clipped on was so tight I had to get pliers out to remove it.
I also had one piece on the tank that I simply couldn’t get on. It was a round piece intended for the tank’s cannon, a black nub with a hole that the cannon piece would thread through. As the video above explains, I couldn’t get that piece in place while also keeping the cannon together. I did find that if I assembled it without the black piece, the cannon worked, but it meant the cannon wasn’t quite assembled as the instructions indicated.
Also, the Dollar Tree company name Greenbrier International is printed on both of the sets I bought, including in a prominent spot on the plane’s wing. We’ve seen this before with the DT-exclusive Final Faction figures, and while it’s not a deal-breaker, it doesn’t exactly make the set more immersive.
On the positive side, there were no missing pieces, and the pieces do seem to hold together once assembled. I think kids who play with them will find they don’t come apart any more than regular Legos would, which is good. Also, the Dollar Tree bricks do seem to connect fine with their Lego counterparts.
To evaluate Make-It Blocks, it’s important to understand them in the context of the name brand. Legos just work. They fit together the way they’re supposed to, stay together, and disassemble without hassle. It’s a high bar.
Dollar Tree Make-It Blocks aren’t Legos. They don’t fit together quite as well, don’t nestle into each other quite as cleanly, and don’t separate quite as easily. (They also have the Dollar Tree company name printed on them.) In other words, you get what you pay for.
But they also aren’t the worst Lego knockoffs I’ve ever used. They do seem to stay together, the designs are decent, and they are compatible with Legos. If you’re looking to supplement your existing Lego sets on a budget, they might be worth taking a flyer on.