Writer’s note: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by the LEGO Group, and I have not received any promotional considerations or free LEGO merchandise. If they offer me anything, however, I will grab it and run.
To the makers of LEGO,
This isn’t yet another complaint about how much it hurts to step on one of your pointy pieces.
Instead, on behalf of all parents, I want to explain how LEGO is so much more than a foreign object jabbing us in the soft, unprotected arches of our feet. It’s time for us to step up and openly recognize your product for all its wonderful qualities.
It’s easy to build a case that LEGO is one of the greatest toys on earth. Here are just some of the reasons why we love it:
It has something for everyone. The LEGO website lists 40 (yes, 40!) different “themes” of LEGO, with a variety of age-appropriate options. Your child can visit the world of Super Mario or Harry Potter, stage superhero or ninja battles, or create a social circle of LEGO Friends. Some kids are instinctively drawn to the minifigures, while others may prefer to assemble vehicles or construct buildings.
It allows crossover. LEGO pieces are interchangeable from one set to another, and the themes can overlap, too. My 10-year-old received a 3-in-1 burger van set as a Christmas gift, prompting him (and his dad) to line up the Star Wars LEGO characters to place orders at the food truck.
It’s super educational. All that building is good for kids’ brains. In addition to fine motor skills, they’re practicing creativity, planning, structural design, problem solving, patterning and symmetry.
It has universal appeal. Who can resist the yellow, smiling face of the classic LEGO guy? No skin color, no ethnic background… no nose, even!
It brings kids together. I witnessed this first-hand during a long, drawn-out day at a youth baseball tournament. Weary siblings were whining on the sidelines until a brilliant mom spread out a large blanket and set down a bin of random LEGO pieces. Kids immediately gravitated to the area and spontaneously started building. Even though they were different ages, they cooperated and co-existed just fine, as they all spoke the language of LEGO.
It unites kids and parents on a shared task. When my son was just starting out with LEGO, we worked through the building instructions together. I would locate and set out the pieces listed at the top of the page, and my son would add them to the structure in progress. I sometimes felt inwardly jealous that he was getting to have all the fun, and was secretly glad when his stamina faded and I got to “help” him finish it.
It presents a built-in challenge. The total number of pieces is boldly stated on the box, as if to say: “It’s 859 pieces, kid – are you up for it?” While this can be intimidating, each set contains a book of wordless diagrams that guide your child through the process and indicate exactly where to apply every single piece. When it’s completed, your child will have a tangible finished product plus a well-earned sense of accomplishment.
It teaches persistence. The assembly instructions also show your child the valuable skill of taking a large task and breaking it down into manageable steps. A giant Star Wars Millennium Falcon spaceship starts out as a small rectangle – then gradually, piece by piece, it takes shape. This process also teaches attention to detail, since an incorrectly placed piece will inevitably affect the whole design. It’s worth taking the time to do it right, rather than rushing or skipping steps. These are all useful lessons for today’s “instant gratification” generation.
It inspires independent creativity. Although it’s satisfying to follow the instructions and have a flawlessly uniform structure, it’s also liberating to break it apart, mix all the pieces together, and build whatever the heck you want. With LEGO, both approaches are equally encouraged (and if you need confirmation of this, watch The Lego Movie). It is truly amazing how kids can think outside the box and invent their own robot, creature, or futuristic aircraft. If you can, snap a photo of their unique creation before they dismantle it and move on to the next idea.
It reveals something about you. Parents will quickly discover their true LEGO personality, which may match one of the following three profiles:
- The Control Freak, who feels compelled to obsessively organize LEGO pieces by color, shape or theme. These Type A individuals will employ Zip-Loc bags, drawers, baskets, and partitioned containers to ensure that pieces from a given set don’t get separated (and thus become impossible to find later).
- The Free-Ranger, who believes that all LEGO pieces, regardless of origin, should live together in unrestricted harmony. I know a family who uses a plastic kiddie pool to hold their large collection of loose pieces. (The dad says he’s gotten used to the telltale stirring-and-scraping noise of the kids searching through it.)
- The Accidental Vaccuumer, who inadvertently sucks up irreplaceable tiny accessories, then shrugs and says: “Well, you shouldn’t have left it lying there in the first place!”
It takes time. A LEGO project can be just what the doctor ordered during long days at home, when kids need a project that will keep them busy (and give their parents a few minutes of peace). This amateur LEGO video even helped my kids understand how staying home is helping to keep others safe right now.
So, from all the adults sharing their living spaces with LEGO sets in various stages of completion, thank you for the hours of joyful play you’ve provided to our kids, and to us. An unexpected stabbing pain in our foot every now and then is a small price to pay in return.