This stuff could end wars they said…
Lego has been around for over 90 years. The name means “play well” in Danish and those little plastic pieces have certainly provided me, my parents and my son with many, many, hours of “playing well”.
I have happy memories of my 70’s Lego and the hours spent turning the little coloured blocks into space stations, trains, submarines or any other structure that resided inside my fertile young mind. I wish I still had my original Lego, partly for nostalgia and partly to recapture the feeling of infinite possibility that the block used to offer a younger me.
I love the fact that Lego now has become ever more sophisticated but the principles remain the same. My 70’s blocks would fit easily with the parts of the latest Batman kit. In this piece I will address our global love affair with Lego.
Above: an original 70’s Lego set
Good clean screen-free fun
Lego is a desirable distraction away from the iPad or PlayStation. Over exposure to online gaming has become quite a serious problem in many families. It is no coincidence that gaming companies hire staff with psychological qualifications to ensure that their games become more addictive than a competitors’ offering thus winning profitable market share.
There are reported cases of children becoming physically and psychologically harmed by excessive gaming. This problem has become significant enough for an organisation called Video Game Addiction Help , akin to Alcoholics or Gamblers Anonymous, to be set up to offer support people who are suffering physically or psychologically through over exposure to gaming. Luckily, there are no such dangerous stakes for the eager Lego builder!
An inter-generational icebreaker
Lego is a great icebreaker as it is everywhere! Lego kits are sold all over the world and have been for generations. It is true that granddad’s 1960’s Lego blocks conjure up similarly happy memories to young Toby’s latest Batman Tumbler kit release.
Freestylers v kit builders
Lego builders often fall into one of two camps. A Freestyler or a Kit Builder.
A Freestyler will relish and thrive on the challenge of diving headlong into a pile of Lego and creating, something, anything that takes his/her fancy. This builder is inspired and experiments with all the different shapes and colours of Lego piece until they are satisfied with their build. This is a true Lego Clubber!
Above: Beautiful freestyle piece by Caitlin, age 13, Lego Club, St Paul’s Worthing
A Kit Builder is a collector who loves to curate a cast of great models and is obsessive in pursuit of the perfect build. This person will have that limited edition Doctor Who set with the TARDIS and Daleks! They will be unrelenting in the quest for exact detail and will produce some amazingly complex models. The buzz would be in completion and display of a great looking piece.
I think that both builder types are equally inspiring. I wish that I had the tenacity and drive for perfection of the pure kit builder. I also wish that I had the vision of some of the great Freestylers that come to my Lego Club. I sit somewhere in the middle. I am a hybrid builder. I think that the great results achieved by building a complex kit is just as rewarding as the model made as a result of ploughing through a mountain of Lego to find the final piece for your homemade camper-van cum space ship with its own lighthouse!
We love a Lego life-hack
We love our Lego hacks, the uses for those little plastic block are limitless. These include the mini-figure USB cable holder, the Lego brick kitchen utensil storage, Lego marble run, Lego coat hook, Lego key ring and holder, even a DIY Lego kitchen island (pictured), Lego wall art and Lego pen pot. A product that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful deserves the longevity and acclaim that Lego receives.
I think that these uses of Lego speak to our sense of playfulness and lighten our day. I mean who wouldn’t smile at the sight of Lego Storm Troopers breaking out of their bread bin?
Above: The other Scandinavian kitchen of choice
Lego photographic art
Another inspired use of Lego are the wonderful photos by Andrew Whyte (no relation) of his mini-figures photographing the world from their perspective. This is another playful and highly creative use of Lego, way beyond what the original conceivers of Lego intended, but brilliant none the less! Andrew’s Legography portfolio is amazing and I cannot recommend his site enough.
Above: Routemaster, by Andrew Whyte from the Legography collection.
Good for the soul
At the school I work in we often use Lego as a way of settling children with Emotional or Behavioural Difficulties into their school day. A Lego based therapy approach is used to support children with communication needs by our team of expert Learning Mentors. Lego as a tool for inclusion is both innovative and practical. I mean is there a child out there who doesn’t respond favourably to Lego?
Lego has also been cited as an effective way for adults to practise mindfulness. The builder becomes absorbed in the moment and enjoys the unselfconscious joy of building from the imagination with brightly coloured bricks. Lego as a tool for calming the mind, another positive diversion from the original notion of good play!
“Patience dear patience…”
Lego is not an instant reward activity. The freestyle builder must use creative ability to visualise what the bricks they have in front of them could become, and the possibilities are only limited by the imagination, what a great problem to have (for the patient mind)!
An extreme extension of this freestyle creativity has to be the life-size Batmobile (pictured) that Chevrolet unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January this year. The car used 341,877 bricks and took the team 1,833 hours to build. The car is 17 feet long and feet high. Despite not being functional as an automobile, it does have WiFi!
Above: The Team Chevrolet life-size Batmobile
Yet another stroke of scandinavian genius!
Lego is yet another smart voguish Scandinavian export, up there with the contemporary Hygge movement, Wallander and IKEA. Those plastic bricks really have developed and moved with the times with the introduction of Lego Technic, Dimensions and the adoption of film franchises such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters and Harry Potter into the model kit portfolio. The modern Star Wars kits are sometimes as coveted by parents as children! As a dad and Star Wars fan I am delighted to see my 5-year-old son getting as excited by his Star Wars Lego as I was by my Star Wars bubble-gum cards back in the day. His obsession is definitely better for your health!
I really hope that Lego continues to thrive and inspire generations of children to enjoy free-form play. The world will be a better place for having more problem solvers, creative thinkers and simply people who love to build!
Worthing Lego Club will be open on Thursday 23rd February over West Sussex half term at St Paul’s Café, Worthing, 4-5pm. A new Lego Club opens at Heene Community Centre on Saturday 4th March to deliver sessions from 10-11 and 11.30-12.30. Up to date info is always available on the Lego Club Facebook Page.
You can always turn up to Lego Club or buy tickets days or weeks in advance.
(Mr Lego Club)