Friday, 23 October 2009

In Celebration of Lego

In his book Superpowers for Parents (click here for my review), Dr Stephen Briers writes “The pace of our modern world conditions our children to expect everything instantly...most children play computer games that deliver a rapid succession of satisfying “hits” in return for very little sustained effort. One drawback of this is that today’s children often have very little experience of the benefits of perseverance. They have never had opportunities to prove to themselves that it can be worthwhile tolerating frustration and pressing through unyielding circumstances.”

My mother, a nursery nurse, calls it “instant gratification”, that children expect everything to give them pleasure immediately.

This is a worrying trend of our increasingly technological world. I have therefore been very reassured to see my children endlessly enjoying Duplo and now Lego. T was given sets of Lego for his 6th birthday and I love watching the systematic way he goes about making the items, tipping the pieces from each bag into separate pots and methodically following the pictorial instructions, mostly by himself.

Maybe it helps having an engineer for a father. I once read an editorial about Lego in the New Civil Engineer (M gets the magazine and I like the pictures of incredible structures!) Antony Oliver wrote enthusiastically about the many virtues of Lego. Firstly, he said, it was his most successful foil at attracting his children away from the television and computer. Secondly he commented that compared to “so much of the tat which is put in front of our young, Lego is a very honest toy. You get out of it what you put in.”

His third point related to the positive impact for engineering if more children are playing with lego (his editorial was about sales of Lego being up) and this point ties in with Dr Briers. “Construction toys like Lego provide a vital part of the education process. They really do provide the bedrock for young minds to learn the basics of design, construction and problem solving and fuels their imagination as they construct something from nothing, over and over again.”

It’s not all perfect with Lego. T is currently building a house which is quite complicated so there’s more “mummy! There’s just one problem here...can you come and have a look”. Trying to ascertain why there was a green space where there should have been the end of a long white block whilst trying to lift his 18-month old sister out of the bath was not particularly easy. Neither was trying to get him away from the project and into bed.

But I am very grateful for his interest. Stephen Briers writes that “good emotional control and strong problem solving skills consistently emerge as two characteristics of children who are better at coping with life. In reality these two factors are related.” With all the challenges facing children in their lives, I am grateful that a toy my child loves is also helping him learn important emotional lessons.


Alison said...

My son loves Lego. He goes to a great Lego workshop once a month. My husband had loads from when he was a child so he's got all that too and the beauty of it is that it's still all compatible with the current stuff.

The only thing that irks me is that some of the 'sets' (Spongebob, Pirates etc) are too prescriptive and contain imagination rather than expand it. I find he makes a set and then would like another one, rather than building things from scratch. I am useless at this though and need instructions!

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Yes, I am wondering what will happen when tiny but crucial pieces of the sets are lost. I hope it will all just become amalgamated with lots of scope for imagination at what can be done rather than frustration about what cannot!