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by Kay Chance
flower with red berries
For the Love of LEGO

ave you ever looked back and simply wanted to facepalm yourself? I use that emoji A LOT. And this one is for the love of LEGO. face palm emoji

Both of my boys tended toward a bit of obsession when it came to their favorite toys. My oldest wanted to play with anything history-related. We picked up more figurines at historical sites than what is probably normal.

For my youngest it was two things: wooden trains when he was little, and then LEGO—an obsession he continues with at age twenty-four. Yes, for Christmas this past year he got a LEGO version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, his favorite painting.

If he had his preference, he would have picked building with LEGO over… well, just about anything “school” related. So why didn’t I incorporate more LEGO into his education? Duh.

Let me save you from having to hit yourself in your future face.

“We have the opportunity to watch our children and see how they were designed to learn and then to act on the knowledge as we create a learning environment that is personalized to their individual needs and interests.”

The Value of Play and Time
We really don’t give play enough credit for its educational value. Somewhere along the way, we just began to assume that “real” learning involved worksheets and textbooks and systematic teaching.
But consider what kids are doing as they play with building toys like LEGO:
  • Developing creativity. Whether it’s the design or, in my kids’ case, the story behind the design, creativity is the cornerstone of play-based learning.
  • Problem-solving. What will they do when they don’t have that “perfect piece” in their personal collection?
  • Reading and following directions. My son actually loved making sets that came with the instructions. And as a homeschooling mom, that’s hard to say no to!
  • Learning the art of compromise. When building with a sibling or friend, it’s inevitable that there will be disagreements about what to make, how to make it, or who gets to do what. Through playing with others our kids have to learn to take turns and figure out how to compromise!

All these benefits and more come, and you don’t have to do a single thing—except give them the time to play, imagine, and build. And actually that’s the best place to start, especially with your youngest learners. We as a culture have moved to structuring our kids’ play time more and more. Organized sports start as early as age three. Preschools are everywhere with center time, craft time, nap time… you get the idea.

Let’s just give our youngest learners “time” instead. Time at home to play, to create, to just be.

Growing with LEGO

As our children get older though, you may want to dive even further into the idea of using what your kids enjoy to learn about writing, math, science, and more. Here are a few ideas to get you started. (By the way, if you are a print subscriber, you’ll be getting a bundle of LEGO Learning in our new resource library.)

Give your kids LEGO challenges. Challenges can be fun, especially with multiple children. What is a challenge? It might look like this:

  • Build the tallest tower you can.
  • Design an amusement park ride.
  • Create a new invention.

Your children may have their own ideas as well, so be sure to brainstorm some ideas together.

flowers with red berries

“Consider what kids are doing as they play with building toys like LEGO: developing creativity, problem-solving, reading and following directions, and learning the art of compromise.”

Experiment with bricks. Experiments begin with a question and a guess about the answer to that question. Children can ask their questions, make a guess (hypothesis), and then design an experiment to discover the answer. Like the challenges, your kids will have all kinds of questions you probably would never think of.

Use LEGO bricks and minifigures as a part of hands-on projects. It’s amazing how much use you can get out of a shallow plastic tub filled with kinetic sand. Our sons often used LEGO bricks and minifigures to create historical scenes in it.

They also put together a long timeline from construction paper and set figures and LEGO creations along it to represent different people and events in history.

Create a story world. It may be based on a time period or on a completely imaginary place. Children can write character descriptions for several of the minifigures. Then they can make a graphic novel, write a play, or author a short story that fits within the story world.

Use the bricks to build sentences. Use different colored LEGO bricks to represent different parts of speech. Write out simple sentences and have students place the colored bricks in the order of the sentence. Older students can create their own systems.

This can be done in reverse as well. You can place the bricks down and have your children write sentences that match.

Incorporate LEGO bricks as math manipulatives. From creating patterns based on color and size to practicing addition and subtraction using the bricks, there are many ways to make math more hands-on using what you probably already have: so many bricks! You can even make homemade Cuisenaire rods.

Play games with LEGO. Games are so important for teaching soft skills such as how to win and lose graciously, how to interact with others, and more. Charades, Pictionary, and other games can be played with a “brick twist.” Instead of acting or drawing… kids can build. Or they can use bricks to actually create a game board like Checkers.

Interest-Led Learning
Interest-led learning can be incredibly effective, so for your LEGO-lovers let them dig deep into their passion beyond the building aspect if they want. Study the history of LEGO and find out how they are made. Expand that to other toys and how they’ve impacted the history of play. Children can enjoy craft projects and even LEGO-inspired cooking as well. The possibilities are truly endless.

Click the links below in our digital edition to get started!

LEGO History
The LEGO Story (Video)
10 Lego Crafts and Activities
LEGO Themed Food

I didn’t plan to follow the theme of this issue, stepping into faith. And yet I ended up doing exactly that. We have the opportunity to watch our children and see how they were designed to learn and then to act on the knowledge as we create a learning environment that is personalized to their individual needs and interests. It’s an act of faith in many ways.

You probably were educated very differently and may have some fears about approaching education in such a different way. But have faith: God has created your children to learn. Be sensitive to their ages, developmental levels, interests, and needs. As we love to say around here: You’ve got this. He’s got you!

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Kay Chance

ay Chance homeschooled her children for fifteen years. While teaching them, she discovered a passion for writing and developing curriculum resources. She loves sharing natural learning methods and creative lesson ideas with other homeschooling parents. Kay is the co-executive editor of Homeschooling Today magazine and the author of the older extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series. She makes her home in Texas with her husband Brian.