Lego: The Best Children’s Toy?

The Building Blocks of Children’s Creativity

Lego comes with a mix of happy and sometimes painful memories. At the height of inspiration, standing on any of the bricks would spoil the moment. My parents brought boxes of these bright plastic bricks for my siblings and I, but why were they such a success?

Lego comes in all shapes and sizes. Bricks, humanoid ‘mini-figures’ and specialist pieces. Rooves, jewels, tools, capes, caps, cars, windows, wheels, swords, sharks, dinosaurs – and lots more. Variety breeds possibility and the chance for imagination. While Lego sell ‘set boxes’ to make individual pieces, realistically they are only ever made once. The instructions become useless once the model is broken up and added to the individual’s Lego ‘collection’. I never managed to find all the pieces again, even though I knew they were in my box.

Lego doesn’t require a certain number of players. This is one children’s toy where sharing can be encouraged easily… as long as there is enough to go around. There is no need for batteries, paint or water. Once all the pieces are gathered up, there’s no mess. (Well, I say no mess… a child’s bedroom is rarely clean and tidy, with or without Lego.)

Lego is for anyone. Or is it? My brother, sister and I played at being architects together, and part of the appeal is that Lego is not a toy marketed at only girls or boys. That is, until Lego decided to market sets for boys or girls. For boys there Bionicles masked alien-looking ‘throwbots’ based on the elements which could fling disks at each other. The ‘girls’ Lego sets had larger figures and fully made furniture, with less opportunity for creation. Among the plastic dolls there were fabric blankets which slipped off of the structures and, well, just looked odd. Is it not acceptable for girls to play with small pieces of Lego? Aren’t they creative enough to build? Or perhaps Lego simply wanted a way for girls to play in a more ‘dolls house’ manner, more interested in the social interaction between the figures? Either way, the larger pieces were not compatible with the collection of mini-figures and bricks, which frustrated me and my sister. The plastic dolls were left in the box.

Educational toys are often hard to sell to children. Lego isn’t. Playing at being an architect, engineer or even ‘God’ is fun. Simple. But it also tricks children into teaching themselves about physics. The structural integrity of their creations, and speed of any vehicles was always put to the test in my household. Lego also produced an electronic programming toy ‘Mindstorm’, which my brother used to set up simple command structures. Turning LEDs on, off, and controlling a webcam. I hear the more modern versions are more advanced.

While I extol the virtues of Lego, I must also remember my peeves. Lego is expensive. None of my houses had bricks of the same colour. I would have loved to own (all) the Harry Potter Hogwarts sets, I couldn’t afford them on my pocket money.

I’m not going to kiss and tell fibs. Lego was a huge part of my childhood. My friends and family could play together, and there was no ‘right’ or wrong way to play. As we got older, our ideas became more regular, the buildings grew. So much so, that there are many adults and children enjoying pushing the limits of what they can create. Is Lego the best children’s toy? It’s certainly one of my favourites, but not something you can cuddle up to.

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