What it is: I had heard about Lowe's Build and Grow several times from various sources but always assumed my children were too young and that it would be a class setting where we were expected to listen to a teacher and follow directions (something my children are not ready for yet). Then a friend told me that she'd been taking her son since he was 2. So we decided to try it out. We signed up at the South Durham Lowe's (MLK and Fayetteville). Within the store the clinic is in the far back right corner.
When you arrive your first time they will give your child an apron and goggles and the building kit for that day. There are kid-sized hammers available to use while there. I recommend getting a hammer for yourself as well as your child to facilitate the building process. There are a bunch of tables set up along the wall but I strongly encourage you to sit on the floor, it provides a better surface for hammering as the tables tend to give a little.
Inside the kit you will find wood parts, nails, stickers and instructions. The instructions are done really well. My 3 year old is able to follow along and select the correct pieces for each step. So we assemble the project, add the stickers and usually play with it a little bit before heading out. I recommend bringing a bag with you so that if you do have to leave mid-project for some reason you can contain the pieces (as the bag they come in isn't reusable). Make sure to stop on the way out and get an iron-on badge for your child's apron to show they completed this project.
I recommend planning a playground visit after your build and grow experience to burn off some energy and give yourself a breather. If you choose the South Durham Lowe's you can find either Solite Park (if you want sunny) or Piney Wood Park (if you want shady) within a few minutes drive.
What we liked: The toys they build are good quality and are played with often at home, as opposed to bird houses or other typical woodworking projects for kids. We've made several vehicles (cars, planes, trucks), a box and some puppets. We also appreciate that on days our kids are sick or out of sorts they are happy to let us pick up a kit and take it home to complete there. They don't seem to have an age limit either so we sign up our 1 year old as well and she "helps" build her toys too.
What we would change: You do need to register in advance and for some of the higher interest projects (fire trucks, race cars) the slots fill up a few weeks before the event so you do have to plan ahead a bit. Also they are on Saturday mornings which has potential to conflict with other events often, but as we said, they are willing to let you pick up the kit to take home as long as you pick up during that window. Also, many of the projects do have sponsors (Disney/Pixar etc) so if you are opposed to your child learning about characters that might be a deterrent, but you could always just not put the stickers on and paint the project instead. Speaking of the stickers, I've heard they tend to come off. We haven't had too much problem with that but our friends have. One friend uses Mod Podge to adhere the stickers better.
Website and other info:
Hours: One Saturday per month (often the 2nd Saturday), in the summer there is an additional hour on the subsequent Sunday 2-3pm as well as a 2nd project each month on another weekend.
Location: All Lowe's stores