Last year, some good friends of mine travelled from the country to Sydney to bring their kids to the Lego exhibition at the Powerhouse. At the time I was a little surprised that Lego could inspire such devotion. But last weekend I was introduced to the world of Lego for the first time and I now understand where that devotion springs from. I think I’ve been converted to a Lego fan! And I’m obviously not the only one. I recently learned that if you laid end to end the amount of Lego sold in a year, you could circumnavigate the world ten times.
My daughter was recently given her first big tub of Lego for her sixth birthday (we’ve had little bits and pieces of Lego before, but never a big set) and it kept her busy for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon. That was 3 hours of blissful peace and quiet while Molly took her afternoon nap. I put on my Angus and Julia Stone live album and sat there fishing for pieces from a huge tub. It was quite therapeutic – almost like running sand through your fingers! I was just sifting through piles of Lego looking for the pink arch piece or the red flower piece or whatever. And I was really enjoying it until that moment where there was one crucial piece missing in a set that we’d only just opened, which meant we couldn’t finish what we were making. And then it ceased to feel therapeutic and suddenly felt like a lesson in anger management! Grrr. But even with that frustration, if I had boys, I would definitely be investing in some pretty nice Lego, because anything that can keep a boy quietly occupied without a computer screen has to be a good thing.
There actually has been some research into developmental outcomes of playing with construction blocks – not necessarily Lego but anything that involves building things out of bricks and blocks. Obviously it’s good for fine motor skills and spatial awareness, but it also helps kids cooperate because if you’re building something you’re better off working together, rather than being competitive. It teaches children to follow instructions, but also to develop creative problem solving when they go off-plan. It’s even been shown to lead to improvements in maths! I also think there’s some good discipline involved because it teaches children to follow a task through to completion. Then at the end there’s all the imaginative play that takes place when they’ve finished building their rocket or space station or whatever. Birdy played with her horse and stable for the rest of the weekend, but the great thing is that when they get bored of playing with what they’ve made, they can just smash it up and make something else!
Finally I think that Lego can be a great vehicle for teaching children about forgiveness because when their little brother or sister inevitably destroys that space alien they’ve just spent three weeks making, they’re going to have to learn about forgiveness!
Do the kids (or big kids) in your family enjoy playing with Lego? Did you play with it as a child?