Legos. Yes, sometimes I might curse them under my breath when I step on an errant piece. But otherwise, they are the stuff of dreams in our house. I don't think I played with Legos very much when I was little, but my brother definitely did. He has donated his old Legos to us for now, and when my boys were itty bitty, I guess I thought about this amorphous category of toys (Legos) similarly to how I think of blocks - you use them to build things.
We were first given mega blocks, and then duplos. Seth started to play with them in much the way I imagined: to build towers. When he was four, he got his first Lego kit - a rocket ship. I remember thinking, "oh, we will just play with the pieces, but there's no way he's going to be able to follow directions." Imagine my surprise after an afternoon spent with Seth, when he followed the directions in the booklet without a ton of assistance from me. More amazingly, he didn't get frustrated while building.
Fast forward three and a half years and Legos have become quite the institution in our house. Evan, and then later the girls, went through the mega blocks/duplo tower building stage. But in the last year, Evan has caught up to Seth in leaps and bounds. The boys still like to free build with the loose blocks we have, but they love Lego kits. With a passion! When they get a kit, first thing they do is pore over the box from all angles. They try to figure out exactly what this kit is going to do. Then they come up with a plan - either they alternate a certain number of steps, or they alternate bags. They possess this curious reserve of diplomacy skills and cooperation when building Lego kits together that is not otherwise observed. It is awesome.
I know there are lots of articles written about how great Legos are for so many different academic skills, and I believe it! Heck, my husband teaches a whole section on Lego programming in his computer science classes. High schools have Lego robotics teams, and on and on. The boys build the kits, and then they construct elaborate play scenes with them. It doesn't really bother me that some of these are "battle" scenes; I think such pretend play is a normal part of children's development, as long as it is tempered with lots of others categories of pretend play.
But what to do with all the Legos? Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I have a fondness for organization. Ahem. So naturally, I've tried to bring some semblance of order to our Lego collection. Trays, shelving, boxes, bins. Just enough so we know where the different sets are and can carry them up and down the stairs easily. Nothing to stifle creativity. I promise.
The boys have started to set up all their different Legos into villages and battle scenes. It's really quite endearing. At times, we might sigh a little bit as we long jump over Batman's lair, but really, so creative!
Duplos are still in the mix, too, especially with Nora and Maya.
And the girls, oh how they want to be old enough to build Lego kits! They are surprisingly gentle with their brothers' sets, wanting to be part of the action. They are learning from watching, and the boys have put together a couple sets for them that they get to play with. It will be even more fun as they are able to build with the kits - I'm imagining lots of fun mornings and afternoons to come with all four kids gathered around their Legos.
It's a privilege to watch our children's interests and skills grow and develop. Legos seem to be encouraging engineering skills, imagination, and cooperation (well worth the occasional eye-twitching from me after a particularly frustrating day of Lego block retrieval). If you're looking for any of our kids on a particular day, it's a good bet at least one of them will have a Lego in hand. And we're more than okay with that.