HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Jim Beute’s LEGO model of the USS Virginia has taken him about two months to put together.

“I’ve got old-time drawings and blueprints of what the thing looked like when they were building it. The fun part of this was research. Fortunately, I’ve got cool people at the Mariner’s Museum where they can go get those limited source materials,” Beute said.

The 54-year-old is part of a growing group of grown-ups who get together once a month to share their Lego creations with the Hampton Roads Lego User Group.

“It’s a common story for how I initially got into LEGO,” he said.

“I was a kid and I got a set for my birthday and I loved it.”

He shed the hobby as he grew, but when his son picked it up many years later, Beute rediscovered his love of putting the bricks together.

“I don’t have a lot of stress in my life, but it is the best retirement hobby I could have asked for,” he said.

Beute says participation in the Hampton Roads Lego User Group has attracted more grown-up LEGO enthusiasts toward the end of the pandemic. This tracks with recent research suggesting more adults turned to toys during lockdown — perhaps to feel closer to a simpler time. A study by the NPD Group found record-breaking increases of the number of adults purchasing toys for themselves in 2020 and 2021. “Kiddults” now make up 14% of the toy market.

“I’m in a very serious career, I’m a financial planner, and I like the escape from the hard things of telling people their finances aren’t great, or ‘Congratulations, you have enough saved for retirement,” said 34-year-old Susan Newman, who owns an impressive collection of American Girl dolls.

Newman is from Chesapeake and has made several visits to the American Girl Cafe in New York City.

“They give you a doll and they strap it into the table and you have tea with them,” she said.
“It’s kind of fun to relive your childhood.”

For Newman, the dolls are more than just a blast from the past.

“My mother is deceased and she bought them for me so it’s very kind of sentimental in that way, she was the one that introduced them to me and taught me the love of tea and you think of dolls you think of tea parties, so it’s kind of comforting,” she said.

Costing upwards of $100 each, Newman thinks there’s a reason behind these pandemic pastimes becoming so profitable.

“There’s adults with adult money that are like, ‘I didn’t get this when I was a child, let me have it now and I’ve just kind of expanded my collection just because of being a “Kiddult,” she said.