Playtime is one of the most fundamental and fun activities that all children do. During playtime, children learn how to interact,  socialize and make friends with other children. This also teaches children to be creative and imaginative, making playtime more fun.

A Lego Duplo large green building set which is designed for kids 3-6.

A Lego Duplo large green building set which is designed for kids 3-6. Image courtesy of Lego.com

During the years that I grew up, there were no Gameboys, no X-boxs or Playstations. There were no tablets or smartphones or a PC to surf the internet with. There was no internet at all and cable TV. The only electronic handheld console we had back then was the Nintendo Game n’ Watch. It was all play during weekends from sun up to sun down, with an hour lunch break. Although our parents would force us to take a nap after lunch, we were always raring to go out and play. If outside play was not an option, then we always went to a friend’s house and played Atari games and pass time with the interlocking blocks called Lego.

I feel the need, the need for speed! Lego Maverick, Goose and thier F-14 Tomcat fighter jet. Image courtesy of kotaku.com

I feel the need, the need for speed! Lego Maverick, Goose and thier F-14 Tomcat fighter jet. Image courtesy of kotaku.com

My first encounter with Lego was when I was in first grade and my fascination did not stop until I entered college. I mean, I stopped buying Lego back when my focus turned into collecting CDs and playing in my ska band. From playing with basic Lego bricks to having complicated builds using Lego Technic, it has taught me to be creative, patient and solve simple problems about engineering and physics. Even my 7  year old nephew today is into Lego.  I have given him my 3 big tubs of collected Lego bricks. Even if I stepped into a hard Lego brick on the floor  and felt like a barbed wire or a time bomb, I just cannot hate Lego. Who hates Lego? I don’t know anyone who hates Lego. For decades, Lego has brought joy to millions of children around the world, even grown ups have continued to love the brand.

A Bit Of Lego History

At present, Lego bricks are manufactured by a private company called The Lego Group that is based in Billund, Denmark. The company and the toy began in the workshops of carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, who first made wooden toys in 1932. By 1934, The company was named Lego from the Danish word leg godt, meaning “play well”. By 1947, they began producing plastic-made toys. In 1949, they introduced the “automatic binding bricks” which is the predecessor of the modern Lego. The bricks were originally made from cellulose acetate and are stackable blocks that interlock together by use of several round studs on the top and a rectangular hollow bottom. The plastic blocks snapped together, but did have a tight fit thus stability during build ups was not that good.

In 1958, Ole’s son Godfred became the junior managing director of the company. He envisioned the blocks not just as simple, stackable blocks, but a toy system. The interlocking issue was resolved by manufacturing the blocks with three lined circles underneath that made the locking more tight and secure. The material was also changed to ABS polymer. The modern logo was born and the toy system never looked back and became one of the most famous and beloved toy brands around the world. The mini figures were introduced in 1978 which was made a staple on all Lego set up to this day, The Duplo sets that were made for toddlers and the Lego Technic for the advanced builders.

Since the modern Lego was introduced, over 400 billion Legos have been made. That is 62 bricks for every person on the planet and 7 Lego sets are sold every second. Lego is the 5th most popular toy brand in the world today. Present day bricks can still interlock with the bricks from previous decades, even with the bigger Duplos. Even the advanced Lego Technic blocks can interlock with regular Lego bricks.

A lego creation of LOTRs Battle Of Helms Deep using 150,000 blocks and 2,000 mini figurines. This is a fanboy nerdgasm. Image courtesy of theawesomer.com

A Lego creation of LOTRs Battle Of Helms Deep using 150,000 blocks and 2,000 mini figurines. This is a fanboy nerdgasm. Image courtesy of theawesomer.com

The Lego Possibilities

Lego has withstood the test of time. Its popularity has never waned and many kids are still discovering the wonderful world of Lego around the world. Partnerships have also made Legos know for a new generation through movie tie ins, print media and animations. Lego Starwars, Lego Lord Of The Rings, Lego Batman, Ninja Go, Legend of Chima and the blockbuster The Lego Movie are just a few. It proves a point that Lego is still relevant and a force to reckon with in the world of toys.

Marvel's Guradian Of The Galaxy Lego "The Milano". Image courtesy of http://comicsalliance.com/

Marvel’s Guradian Of The Galaxy Lego “The Milano”. Image courtesy of http://comicsalliance.com/

Not only that, Lego bricks and sets allow for a great range of creative play. Beyond the fun it gives to many, specifically children, the different colored blocks provide hours of pattern practice, fine-tuning the children’s motor skills and problem-solving abilities. Lego allows unlimited creative possibilities and imaginations.

The Building Blocks Of Imagination,  Creation And Spatial Development

Much research has shown that early experiences in puzzle play and block building can change the spatial reasoning of children as young as 3 years old. Spatial reasoning and problem solving by imagining how things function or go together is a valid predictor of a child’s future performance in STEM fields according to many experts. These findings were published by the journal “Child Development”. The findings also stated that even preschool kids possess spatial assembly skills that are related to emerging mathematical skills.

Lego Saturn 3 spaceship. Any kid would drool to see this live. Image courtesy of  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Lego Saturn 3 spaceship. Any kid would drool to see this live. Image courtesy of http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Spatial activities like block building helps children in distinguishing the characteristics of a single object while determining the relationship between different objects. Complex math problem solving also relies on spatial reasoning skills. Although experts cannot pinpoint a direct understanding between the two, it somehow offers many clues why spatial reasoning and mathematical skills are related. Researchers had preschoolers between 3-4 years old  perform block assemblies and math tests to examine the relationship between spatial reasoning and math skills. Researchers used large Legos, Duplos and Megablocks that are appropriate for the child’s age. For each of the assembly tasks, each child was tested individually and the parents answered questionnaires regarding the spatial relational terms applied at home.  The  research showed the importance of providing young kids with spatial activities during their early development. Lego helps in improving a person’s thinking skills. Young kids will learn to solve some minor setbacks that come up while playing Legos. Through block selection and all time strategies for building, a child will develop analytical skills that can be an advantage while growing up.

Lego And The  Future Engineers

Lego can also open kids in the field of engineering, even if they don’t know it. Whenever a kid opens up a box of Lego and goes right to the wordless instruction manual, the kids can turn random colored bricks into a plane, a car, a truck, a building, a spacecraft of a scene from a movie. Once the marketed model has been made, the box and instructions have vanished, a kid can make anything out of the bricks. The only limit is their imagination. According to Tiffany Tseng, graduate researcher in the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten Group, physics and math concepts are built into every Lego project. She also stated that every kid can build whatever they imagine and at the same time, enhance their spatial reasoning, learn about design, structural stability and practical sense of geometry. She also added that Legos are good introductions in communicating ideas with physical objects. By putting things together and taking them apartm kids will get interested in how things work. Every Lego project is a door into engineering because engineering solutions are being applied while you play. It is also a known fact among MIT students and graduates that Lego has inspired them to study engineering.

A Lego Technic motorized Off road tractor BF-2014 for advanced builders. Image courtesy of http://www.us.lego.com/

A Lego Technic motorized Off road tractor BF-2014 for advanced builders. Image courtesy of http://www.us.lego.com/

Playing with Legos taught us order and how to follow instructions. Whenever you open a box or dump a tub of Lego onto the floor, it is chaos. Following the instructions to put them together and to then build something, that is order. It taught us to be imaginative and be creative. Whenever we discard the instructions and add a new set to the current Lego pieces, it is an excitement that cannot be described. It made our minds crazy about the many possibilities and the many things we can create. It’s like Christmas every time.

Lego has crossed boundaries and cultures. It has united many people from enjoying and building anything using these colorful, interlocking blocks that stood the test of time. You step on it, it hurts and you cuss because of it. But you can never really hate Legos. Ever.

 

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.