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LEGO blocks creativity LEGO blocks creativity
by Asa Butcher
2006-10-21 11:03:20
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One of my favourite toys as a child was LEGO and, if I am honest, it is still my favourite toy as an adult. It was for this reason that I made sure that my daughter received her first Duplo set on her first birthday, despite the box suggesting a minimum age limit of three. It was while shopping for a simple box of building blocks that I began to notice the change in LEGO.

I was a child of the '80s and was lucky to have parents who realised the excellence of LEGO, so my younger brother and I were furnished with a big box of random bricks in our toy cupboard. The assortment was impressive and had plenty of the highly valued red 2x4 blocks that would be hoarded and used sparingly.

After each birthday and Christmas, the variety of the bricks began to increase because LEGO had begun to sell building sets that would allow you to follow a set of instructions and build a fire station or police headquarters. It was fun to build and then destroy these buildings a few times, but it didn't take long for the instructions to become lost and the bricks to be mixed in with the others.

These new bricks meant new and larger creations for the Butcher boys to build with and meant our parents could painfully discover these new and larger blocks hidden within the carpet late at night. LEGO continued to produce new building sets and expanded into the theme of space with a selection of moon stations, lunar vehicles and space fighters. However, the best part was that our LEGO box now had some cool electric blue transparent blocks, red lights and flexible tubing from which we could make our own spaceship designs.

I think it was in the early-90s that Technics was released and LEGO began using pneumatics, cogs, motors and spindles in their building kits. The instruction manuals became thicker and more complicated, perhaps preparing me for my first IKEA unit construction, but it damaged my relationship with LEGO. Until then I had always thought the bricks should be shaped according to my imagination, yet here were pieces of Technics LEGO that had to be assembled in this way to work.

During our teenage years, we had better interests than to build a metropolis from bricks or construct a spaceship from all the flat-sheet LEGO, so eventually our parents sold the box of LEGO, which is one of my greatest regrets, and the ability to play with that box had gone forever. But that was until I had my daughter or so I thought.

As I mentioned earlier, I was shopping for a simple box of building blocks but all the toyshops seemed to sell were Farm-themed Duplo or Circus-themed Duplo, Bob the Builder Duplo and Thomas the Tank Engine Duplo. Where was the basic box of assorted bricks? Where was the freedom to build your own creations rather than be influenced by the picture on the box?

My attention wandered from the Duplo to the whole range of LEGO on offer and I was amazed by the range of building sets now available, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Ferrari, BIONICLE, Batman, Vikings and countless others, while the individual bricks could be purchased by the kilo. I was reassured a little by this, but part of me was left cold by the specialised LEGO sets on the shelves and the creativity potential that has been eroded away.

We did have success in finding an assortment box of Duplo and my daughter already loves knocking down and destroying Daddy's creations, so there is happiness all round the house. Recently, my wife also revealed that when she was a child she had a huge box of LEGO and it should still be in the store at her parent's house…now she is wondering why I am always asking when we are next visiting!

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eva2006-10-22 02:06:47
I loved LEGO too!
And I agree totally with you that much of the creative challenge has been lost because of these "fixed" sets.
I think it's such a shame. I don't know if it's just me "getting old", but I think this is the case with a lot of toys today. They are just too sophisticated for my liking. I used to play with stones, rocks, tree branches, etc. and have"imaginary friends" hehe. Ah, the good innocent life of those days...

Asa2006-10-22 12:24:14
Stones, rocks and tree branches! Wow, you were lucky. We couldn't afford those luxurious toys ;)

Alan2006-10-22 14:34:16

eva2006-10-22 15:18:13
Oh the stories I could tell you Asa.. ;)
I always wanted a horse growing up, but since my parents refused, I found a long wooden stick and pretended that was my horse. It had a name and everything, even reins, and I used to get up early in the mornings to "feed" it and at one point I even got a whole stable of "horses". I used to go "horseback riding" for hours on end in the woods.. I was a happy cowgirl.
Then my male cousins found my sticks and broke them all into little pieces.
Ah, the scars are still there...

Asa2006-10-22 17:32:40
My neighbour was saying that his little boy has about ten imaginary friends, except that they are always asleep!

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