When my kids were little, they played with LEGO bricks all the time. I’ll be honest, I never had any interest in playing with them, but I did anyway because they asked me to. I’m not sure what happened, but over time, I found a love of LEGO hidden deep down inside. I came to see them not as simply a children’s toy, but as a path to creativity.
Now that my sons are older, they rarely play with LEGO bricks. My 17 year old has outgrown them in his own time and will play with them from time to time, but is mostly focused on other things in his life. He’s in a different season. My younger son has a lot of learning challenges and building with LEGO bricks has always been hard for him. He loves the sets we have in the house, but generally requires help in putting them together.
As their interest in LEGO dwindled, mine grew………and grew…………..and grew. It led me down a path I never, ever though I’d be going down.
In January of 2011 (while my kids were still interested in LEGO), I started the LEGO Club for Homeschoolers at CurrClick. The whole point was to try to provide an outlet for kids who didn’t have a local, “in-person” LEGO Club in their area. This included us since our LEGO Club had disbanded several months before. Most of all, I started this club to provide a creative outlet for my sons and the other kids who I knew would eventually follow and join the club.
At its peak, LEGO Club had 11,000 members worldwide and, though it’s since been discontinued, it’s legacy lives on in Brick Builder’s Academy. What’s even more strange is that I think I love building and playing with LEGO more now than I did when I first started this whole adventure.
Over time, I would receive requests from parents for pre-assembled kits that included all of the pieces needed for a particular month’s build. I realized very quickly that many of the families in LEGO actually had very small LEGO collections and didn’t have the pieces needed to do the build of the month. This came as a shock to me. LEGO Club was drawing families with all sorts, sizes and variety of LEGO collections. But all of the kids had one thing in common – they LOVED LEGO.
Outside the Brick was born and was immediately dedicated to helping kids look at LEGO as something more than just the builds that were shown in the instruction manual or on the outside of the box. Yes, each set builds something cool that kids like, but then the novelty wears off and the pieces are found all around the house and they get tossed into the general LEGO population. When my kids were little, I never really gave much thought to tossing a handful of LEGO bricks into their bin. As time passed, I realized that a set doesn’t really reach its potential until it becomes a part of the general brick population. In the set, any given brick has one job – it holds this other piece or it helps to form this part of the build. But once it’s among other LEGO bricks, its potential grows infinitely. That one brick can literally become anything.
I’ll admit that I never played with LEGO as a kid. I had My Little Pony figurines, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and Barbie (I think I just dated myself). So, why does a 40-something mom of two boys play with LEGO when her sons really don’t?
Well, there are a lot of reasons.
1) LEGO feeds my creativity
A lot of moms I know have creative outlets. It helps us maintain our sanity and gives us something to do that isn’t necessarily kid-related. Let’s face it, us moms can get really wrapped in our kids – so much so that we forget that we are people, too. Real people with wants and needs that have nothing to do with our kids. For a lot of people, one of those needs is a need to create. There’s knitting, crocheting, cooking, baking, scrapbooking, gardening, painting, sculpting and those things are great. I, myself, do a lot of those things, but I am personally drawn to LEGO as a creative outlet, as well.
2) LEGO keeps me in touch with my inner child
She’s in there. I know she is. She tends to get bogged down and lost in the day-to-day activities of running my businesses and household, working, homeschooling my kids and organizing our lives in general. Moms so rarely get to play. It’s ok when we have little kids, but once they get older, Moms who play tend to be seen as strange. That’s not right. I feel it’s important for everyone to play once in a while and Moms are some of the most deserving souls in need of playtime – and they tend to be the last ones to get it. It’s even better when our kids join us, but it’s ok if we’re just playing alone.
3) It adds to the pool of LEGO builds.
Do a quick Google image search of “LEGO” and you are in for a shock. Not a shock in that you will be buried in pictures of LEGO builds, it’s a shock because you won’t be. For as popular as LEGO is, there are not a lot of builds out there outside of the sets made and sold by LEGO. There are some, yes, and a lot of them are cool, but there aren’t as many as you would expect for a building system that has been out for so long and has so much popularity. There just aren’t a lot of ideas for unique builds that use LEGOs on the internet.
When I start the process of designing the build for any given build, I always start by searching for builds that are already out there. You know what? Most of the time, there aren’t any builds that are even similar to what I’m thinking about building for that class theme. Almost every time, I have to start from scratch. When I’m done, I always release my build “to the wild” in hopes of building the pool of build ideas out there.
4) While I love to build with kids, connecting with other AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) pushes my creativity further.
Not all, but a lot of AFOLs have been building with LEGO for years and years and years. Much longer than I have. When it comes to LEGO, there is always something new to learn – a new way to use an old piece, new techniques on how to put different pieces, a build that I would have never thought possible brought to live in LEGO. The AFOL community is one built on sharing and collaborating. While my focus is mainly on helping kids build with LEGO, the AFOL community often provides the fuel and inspiration so I have it to pass on.
5) I believe very strongly in the power of LEGO learning.
LEGO holds tremendous power and potential in learning. Kids can learn lots of things from LEGO – I’ve seen it and I live it. Difficult and complex topics can be broken down and built so that kids can get in there and explore the topic. They can see it from different angles, they can hold it in their hands, and they can take it apart (even if they need help putting it back together). As homeschool grows in popularity, there is always a need for ways to accommodate a child’s particular style of learning. For many kids, hands-on not only is fun, sometimes it’s the only way they can learn. I believe very strongly in the ability of LEGO bricks to bring learning alive for students and help them to learn things with the help of something they relate to.
It’s always interesting to see the look on someone’s face when I say I play with LEGO for a living. While it’s not the whole of my job, it is the part I love most. Come play LEGO with me!