While there are toys that are only popular for a season or so before disappearing entirely, there are others, like LEGO® bricks, that hold their popularity for decades. Creative play with these constructive toys seems to be one childhood milestone that many generations have in common—but building with LEGO bricks is more than just entertaining play for children. Such toys can also be powerful education tools to teach children skills they can use both at school and in life.
When your children set out to make their next LEGO brick creation, think about how you can help them get the most from this learning opportunity in these three important areas:
Creativity may be the most obvious trait kids can learn from playing with LEGO bricks and accessories, but it’s no less important than other skills. Part of the appeal of these and similar building toys is the possibility that they can be used to create anything a child can imagine—and that many different creations can be built with the same basic bricks. Specific-build LEGO sets, with their detailed instructions and focus on creating one preset structure, work against this creative play (though they do advance other skills). With generic LEGO sets, and even with themed sets, parents can spark more imaginative play by encouraging free-form building. Open-ended play with building toys will allow children to explore and pretend, which in turn can advance their cognitive and socialization skills.
The more structured play that comes from following the directions of a specific LEGO set may not emphasize creativity, but playing with the LEGO sets can help children develop problem-solving skills. Coaching children through the trial and error of putting bricks together in order to construct a specific shape or object teaches them how to work through a problem to find the solution, or possibly multiple solutions. Building creations to specific instructions with others can also teach children collaborative problem-solving, which is a critical skill for their success in school and for their future careers. To successfully build a provided item, the child must understand what they are trying to create and figure out how the individual pieces fit together to create the whole.
Building Blocks for STEM Skills
LEGO brick building in any format, from basic blocks to the more complex robotic sets, also creates a foundation for increased understanding and success in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). Construction toys advance the development of spatial skills, a foundation for more advanced concepts in architecture and engineering. Structured building with LEGO sets also teaches sorting skills, a basic but valuable mathematics skill. Beyond early education, building toys that include robotics can be used to teach middle school students the basics of programming, which is an important skill in this very digital world. LEGO bricks and sets and other constructive play also teach three-dimensional thinking, which is a basic skill for physics.
Far more than just a fun toy, LEGO bricks and similar building blocks can be a powerful learning tool for all levels, from preschool all the way to college. Construction toys allow children to explore their own creativity, teach them how to solve problems both on their own and in groups, and create a foundational understanding of concepts they will use throughout their STEM education. Along with contributions to motor skill and social development, LEGO bricks as educational tools can provide your child with skills and knowledge that will help him or her succeed both in school and in life. By encouraging constructive play and providing targeted activities focusing on specific skills, you can improve the benefits that these toys have for him or her.
Read more articles on learning with LEGO sets on Learning Liftoff.