Legos: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Posted October 15, 2019

by Jenny Kleppe

Ah, Legos. A favorite toy of any building-loving, construction-engrossed, creative, inspired child. They are also a favorite gift given by well-meaning relatives. But as with all things, Legos come with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We shall start with the ugly. Without fail, when playing with Legos, the floor looks like this:

Now, I am a professional educator, an educated individual, and an experienced mother. I know that the little ones need their time and space to exude their creative whims over their Lego hoard. I know how wonderful loose parts are for developing creative minds. HOWEVER, just looking at the above picture makes me shudder. Makes me cry out at the painful memory of stepping on a rogue Lego in the middle of the night with bare feet. Legos take up a lot of space. Cats bat them under furniture. Dogs eat them (and eliminate them). They are difficult to clean up, and the young construction workers always want to save something for a completely irrational (from the adult’s perspective) amount of time. 

Recommendation: Is there a dining room table in your home that gets used only a few times a year? It can be the Lego table. Or in a play room you could set up a card table or blockade a “Lego area” on the floor, preferably a space away from pets. Laundry baskets turned upside down to cover Lego creations have worked in my small house, where we have no magical separate play room. Not having to pick up the Legos each time saves much time and negotiating.

Next, the bad (really, the not-as-good). Legos come in two forms; the giant box of mixed up parts (more on that below) and the prescribed, instruction-specific set. Building anything does use energy, but the kits where someone follows a step-by-step plan to build something that looks exactly like the picture on the box does not require imagination, decision-making, or planning skills. These are direction-following activities. Also, these finished products usually remain simply that, something to look at or set statically on a shelf. As children age, they are much more likely to want to build the Star Wars ship, the Harry Potter Castle, etc. from Legos.

Recommendation: Instead of the theme sets, procure a large bucket of mixed Lego pieces. Remember the joy from your own childhood of the giant bucket (that was also shaped like a Lego!). It felt like you could make a thousand creations and there would still be Legos to spare. And speaking from experience, obtain as many wheels, steering wheels, and windshields as you can. These are always the most coveted items.

And now, finally, the good! With a healthy dose of patience and the right storage options, Legos can be a wonderful toy that engrosses the young and young-at-heart for hours at a time. They are a timeless toy that does not need explanation or adult involvement.  Many children have an innate desire to build, create, and make things from their own imagination. When there is no prescribed pattern to follow, children will make what they see in their mind’s eye, and then use these creations as part of their play. The best part is you can use them over and over again for a million different combinations and inventions. 

Recommendation: Play Legos with your child! I promise they will have fun, and you might even have a little fun too!