The building blocks of good life skills are small and plastic and hurt to step on.
My sons are obsessed with LEGOs. They live, dream and breathe legos much of the time. My almost-14-year-old is especially obsessed. He declared years ago that he will be a LEGO designer when he grows up. Today he has been trying to work out how to create a backpack for a certain Batman minifigure (apparently there is such a backpack in a videogame, but not in any LEGO sets you can buy). He said something to me that he has said before. He said “It would totally work if I just had this one piece, but it doesn’t exist!” Each time he says this I use it as an opportunity to point out that all of life is like that. We could do so much if only things existed…that don’t exist. We could do so much if only things were different than they are…but they are not different from how they are. I try to remind him that thinking about what you could do if things were different is a complete waste of time and a sure way to cause yourself suffering. I encourage him instead to think about how he might change things, or do something different instead of lamenting what is.
After we talked about that I decided to see what else my sons are learning from playing LEGOs so I asked them “What have you learned from LEGOs about life?” this is what they said.
- You need a sturdy base to build on.
- Build from the ground up, or from the inside out. You can’t start from the outside.
- Build to last.
- Sometimes even when you build to last, things fall apart. Sometimes you can fix or rebuild them.
- “I could build it if I had more pieces!” gives way to “look at what you have and figure out how to build from that.”
- Be creative.
- Sometimes you start to build one thing and it turns out to be something else.
- Plan ahead. Or don’t.
- Look at what others have done. Be inspired. Build your own thing.
- There is always a way to substitute.
- The bricks/pieces will only do what they will do.
- Sometimes you need to take breaks.
- Think small, build big; think simple then build onto it.
All of this, and there seems to be quite a bit of evidence that playing with LEGO is good for kids in other ways too, including making them better at math, science, creativity, and fine motor skills.