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Most children’s toys are a product of their respective time periods. After short-lived crazes that involved begging parents for modish knick knacks that were sure to impress the kids at school, these novelties were relegated to fad status, whereby their only responsibilities were collecting dust in the attic and attracting nostalgic folks at garage sales.
That is, except for those familiar, brightly-coloured building blocks that seem to transcend time as generations grow up and grow old thinking about their next assembly project. LEGO® is a franchise that simultaneously keeps the principles behind good play intact, while also keeping up with rapid technological advances.
According to an article on Kids n Bricks, it is true that we are seeing more people use IPads and Smartphones to play games; however, even if the tools we use to play are evolving, we still embrace creativity and community in our play. This is where LEGO® outshines its competitors, because with these blocks, people are able to essentially design their own worlds and share their creations with others.
The emphasis on creativity is evident in LEGO® fans being able to not only choose what they will play (with), but also how to play and which tools they will use during their playtime. It gives a sense of empowerment when the player has control over their imagination and ingenuity.
At times, people do prefer to play on their own, whether it is online gaming or physical creation in question. However, LEGO® is very good at getting people to work in tandem with each other, because we have a natural tendency towards sharing our ideas and projects, and seeking consultation from others. What ends up happening, particularly in the case of LEGO®, is that we build models together and produce something that reflects our collective vision. Such a feat results from not only a high degree of imagination, but also a strong sense of concentration, teamwork, patience and attention to detail, all of which are important skills we eventually learn as we go through life.
With regards to imagination, LEGO® subtly teaches us to throw away the instructions and delight in the possibilities waiting for us to bring them to life in our creations - which is something that instructions keep us from doing.
Thanks to the literal world-building aspects that LEGO® provides, people can also use their creations in simulations. Children will usually play pretend and act out scenarios taking place within their buildings, using LEGO® characters and other action figures, while grownups might use them for educational purposes. For example, psychologist Alan Redman told Eddie Wrenn from The Daily Mail that he “managed to use Lego in a professional capacity, mostly in assessment exercises, but also as the basis for a spatial reasoning test.”
Not only does LEGO® excel in versatility, but it is also very easy to pick up and play. Psychologists say, according to Wrenn, that even young children are able to quickly put together structures and alter them according to their shifting ideas, compared to other construction kits, where the physical demands of putting models together get in the way of creativity and problem-solving opportunities.
The strength of LEGO® also lies in its gender inclusiveness. In The Telegraph, Elizabeth Anderson writes that ever since its inception in the 1950s, everyone has always been able to enjoy building whatever they want. LEGO® might target themes to certain demographics, and it’s truly remarkable how the toy ties in nicely with beloved licenses that encourage building such as the Star Wars franchise, but people will logically always have the choice in what they want to purchase and shouldn’t feel limited based on the norm.
Psychologists also say that LEGO® is also a great tool for relaxation. Managing Editor Jon Sutton of The Psychologist admitted to Wrenn that it became an obsession for him, and that he needs to stop telling himself that he’s only buying the toy for his children. He said that those moments of isolation with his craft were neither dull nor monochrome; rather, he revealed that he feels as though he’s in his element when building.
It is clear that we can learn a lot about what makes LEGO® so prevalent in a highly technological world just by looking at how we engage with the toy and each other during playtime. For one, our motivations are mutually shared, because our social skills and innovative tendencies are still present attributes within us. Nevertheless, we must also remember that when we invest in LEGO®, we are investing in an ever-changing play experience that lasts a lifetime.