Note: David Sim is the dad and blogger behind the parenting blog, “Princess Dana Diaries.” LEGO Singapore provided the toys he discusses in this story.
We know parents are often on the lookout for the latest outdoor activities or events to occupy and engage their children. In Singapore, we are certainly not short of outdoor playgrounds, pools and parks. But what if, for valid reasons, we have to stay at home and turning on the screen or other forms of passive electronic entertainment to babysit is not the desired option?
Recently, we were precisely in this situation. We had some free time last Sunday between two family events and decided to come home, to escape from the heat and the manic crowds. Upon reaching home, the daughter immediately raced to the shelf, reached for her latest box of LEGO Friends and urged me to build something with her. I obliged, thinking that it would be a simple (and easy) activity—perfect to ‘kill’ some time before our next appointment.
Our quiet play of LEGO turned out to be such a fulfilling 2.5-hour long session of parent-child bonding which I actually desired more of. Here are some precious insights I gleaned from it:
1. Teamwork: We learnt to work as a team. We took turns to read the instructions, looked for the right parts and fix them. There were some areas that she worked on independently, while I worked on the rest. There were also areas that required us to work together to complete. In spending time building LEGO with her Daddy, the daughter picked up the crucial skill of turn taking, active listening, and offering constructive feedback—the basics of teamwork.
2. Respect: I discovered her abilities, talents and learn to work at her pace. The activity had no risk but yet there were times I had wanted to just takeover and complete the entire model for her due to my impatience. Parents expect their children to respect in total submission, but sometimes we forget to return the same due respect. I was pleasantly surprised how her love for LEGO has honed her spatial observation and lateral thinking skills so I let her lead and I follow.
3. Humility: There were occasions where I had to humble myself and acknowledge that my six year old was right in interpreting the diagrams. Especially since she had done similar ones before and was familiar with the characters’ names and sequence of fixing. In a way, I am modeling for her that it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the beauty of creative play, we can think out of the box, modify the sets according to our interpretations and still have a good time.
4. Perseverance: Like most children’s activities, there were different levels of difficulties in the set of LEGO Friends. I saw how the daughter persevered when she encountered challenging tasks, and in so doing, developed greater attention to details. Children experience a tremendous sense of satisfaction from completing the tasks well.
5. Thinking skills: Parents are the child’s first and best teachers. Rather than outsourcing it completely to schools and enrichment vendors, parents can take the first opportunity to teach our kids useful life skills like organizing, sequencing, compare and contrast to list a few—all by playing LEGO with them.
6. Letting go: This was a biggie for me. There were several instances during the LEGO building activity where she indicated that she wanted to finish certain parts on her own and I was hesitant to let her. Partly because I knew it would be a wrong move (but of no risk), simply impatient or actually, I was not ready to let her go. I wanted her to need me as a Daddy, to guide her through whatever she’s involved in. As parents, our job is to prepare our children for a life without us but in fact, we are not prepared for a life without them.
7. Staying focused: Few of us have the luxury of spending an hour or two, entirely dedicated and focused on our children and family. Legitimate reasons like work, social, or religious commitments, or more often than not, just checking updates from the smartphone rob us of that sacred quality time. We are taught to focus on our work and give our best. Perhaps we also need to learn to focus on our families because they deserve our best.
Who would have known that a simple afternoon of indoor LEGO play could provide such an intimate and meaningful bonding experience. No wonder LEGO is synonymous with quality playtime: the bold colours attract children of all ages to it like bees to honey; its brick design allows for endless creative exploration.
With the LEGO Friends’ series, the LEGO experience is brought to an entirely different level—not only do you build the sets together, you and your children can embark on creative story telling by manipulating the figures, animals, vehicles and props around. Each box of LEGO Friends comes with the Lego bricks already pre-packed, clearly labeled and referenced by the colourful step-by-step manual. I was also impressed to find extra parts supplied for some of the accessories which are more easily misplaced.
Outdoor explorations are enjoyable but sometimes all we need is to stay inside to experience the intrinsic joys which simple uninterrupted activities bring. The next time you’re tempted to head out, stay inside.