Note: Elizabeth Wu is a mother of three and blogger behind the parenting blog, “The Musings of Motherkao.” LEGO Singapore provided the toys she discusses in this story.
I have a LEGO-obsessed firstborn.
My five-year-old has loved LEGO since the days of playing with the Quadro and Duplo. He loves the smaller bricks even more now with the endless possibilities of building and rebuilding, creating and recreating.
Every morning when he wakes, he heads to his LEGO tub, pulls some bricks out along with a troop of minifigures and enters a realm of imagination that is nothing but fascinating. He makes up stories, invents characters and builds systems and machines. We've indeed indulged him with a little too much of a good thing by buying him close to a hundred minifig blind packs, which also means we get frequent entertainment featuring hilarious characters and story lines—like robots in Viking garb on surfboards, strange men in helmets wearing animal costumes, and rock stars on ice skates wearing wigs, riding dragons and flying planes.
Too funny for words, it often is.
Recently, Ben got to take home a Legends of Chima set from LEGO, which got him really excited. He saw what he’s gotten—which seemed like a complex flying animal—and figured he might need lots of help to make sense of the instructions and piecing parts together, so he got his father (who loves LEGO too and was the one who started his sons on it) to promise to help and guide during construction.
Despite being really thrilled, the boy waited very patiently for weeks for his busy father to carve time out to build the given set with him. Fatherkao promised to build the Eris Fire Eagle Flyer with him as part of their 'Special Time' together, and because he promised, Ben patiently waited.
So what did he do while waiting? He admired the box daily (which he proudly displayed on his desk and declared 'Hands Off It's Mine' to his siblings) and went on to create supporting storylines as part of his daily LEGO routine based on that one image he has from the box through imaginative play with his loose set of bricks and lots of role-playing with his siblings.
Ben actually knew nothing about Legends of Chima and the various warring animal tribes. He saw a wolf, a bear and an eagle from the picture on the box and went on to make up stories of conflict and peace featuring the eternal, universal theme of good versus evil. It was quite entertaining to hear stories weaved around animals, with Wolf being the baddie on some days but the good guy on one or two occasions, and Eagle always as the hero that would save others from their distress.
Last night, he finally pieced the Eris Fire Eagle Flyer with his father, following the instructions page by page (with close guidance from the adult, of course), interlocking and stacking brick by brick.
Here's looking at the construction from start to finish, from Ben's eyes:
Post-construction, I was so glad my son didn't declare he needed the parts glued together or displayed as a trophy. He was protective of it, yes he was, but that was because he was preparing to spend a whole lot of time "imagining everything" in Chima all by himself.
And so it began: the grunting, talking and 'boy noises' with that Eagle Flyer. He even roped his little brother in for the action.
Can you hear them? It's Beeesh... Chebaaaabooom... Weeeee.... Oooooohhh.... Baaaaahh... in case you can't figure it out.
I'm pretty sure I am not the only mom whose children have created an entire universe of LEGO play, making up stories, creating characters and building machines along the way. A lot of imagining goes into inventing that LEGOverse where nothing is stagnant, and even more dexterity and hand-eye coordination goes into bringing everything in that universe to life.
What I always knew was that a box of LEGO bricks would take my children into the realm of informal learning through play, and by that I've always only thought it to be developing their creativity and fine motor skills. What I didn't realise (but eventually did after watching father and son build something together) was that beyond informal learning through play, a set of LEGO bricks could also promote role modelling and bonding, instill patience and encourage focus. It also taught my son to visualise and gave him a huge sense of achievement to be making something so massive from nothing.
And then invite him to play and imagine some more.