Written By:Mandy Gandhi, PT, DPT
Owner, BrickSmarts, LLC
We all know that playing with LEGO bricks unlocks your little one’s imagination and creativity, but did you know that those little blocks can also help build language skills, social skills, and fine motor skills? LEGO can be an amazing learning tool for parents, teachers, and therapists.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), speech and language skills develop best in an environment that is rich with sounds, sights, and constant exposure to verbal input. Playing with LEGO creates the perfect situation to stimulate your little one’s development, while they plan and describe an intergalactic battle, or trip to the LEGO Friends shopping mall. The great thing about LEGO blocks and mini figures is that the possibilities are endless.
Here are some ideas and tips that are easy to incorporate into your play time.
LEGO For Learning: Tips and Tricks For Skill Building With LEGO
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Ask open ended questions about your little one’s creation. Examples Include: What did you build? What does it do? Where would you find something like this? How did you build it?
Asking open ended questions (as opposed to yes/no questions) helps to facilitate creativity and imagination. Leaving a question open ended allows your master builder to think and formulate a detailed response. It also helps to avoid single word simple “yes/no” answers.
FIRE UP THE IMAGINATION
Create an imaginary story or situation. For Example: Loose LEGO or individual building sets can be used to build a scene for your story. Act out the story using mini figures. Create a dialogue between the mini figures that goes along with your story.
This activity not only unlocks creativity but promotes social skills and language development. You can do this with children of any age. Consider using LEGO Duplo for younger children.
Acting out stories involving animal sounds and vehicle sounds are perfect for getting little builders to begin building their foundation of language. For example, use LEGO Duplo to construct a “barn” and then take turns with your child pretending that individual blocks are a variety of animals. Ask, “What sound does the ______ make?” as you have her put the “animal” in the “barn.” Or, if your child has some small animals around (LEGO has some) you could use those instead of individual blocks.
Fine motor skills are very important to a child’s development. As children grow they need many opportunities to build the small muscles of their hands, fingers, and wrists. Building with LEGO also helps with hand eye coordination.
Again consider using Duplo bricks for younger children. As children develop they need lots of opportunities to practice transferring objects from one hand to another and using both hands together. These skills are important for kids as they grow, and translate to proficiency in hand writing, using utensils, buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, basically anything we do with our hands.
Snapping together and taking apart LEGO bricks, for example, is a great way to challenge and stimulate those muscles. Encourage your little one to build a tower and then break it apart block by block.
Also, clean up time can be an opportunity for him to show off his fine motor skills. Have your kiddo pick up the individual pieces and place them in a bin. Or if using large blocks make a game out of aiming and throwing the blocks at a target.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Use LEGO mini figures to role play and talk about emotions. Here’s a great example. You can recreate an environment like a school or playground using LEGO bricks and then model behaviors using the mini figures. Use a variety of LEGO heads to help your child identify and talk about their mood or emotions.
Tanya’s Final Thoughts
I bet you can now see that LEGO is for learning! But the learning can happen in such an implicit was that children are still playing, not even aware of the skills they are learning. Because the educational value that can come from LEGO playgroups are popping up all over the Country. There are even LEGO groups specially designed to help children with Autism and other special needs!
I know LEGO can get messy and really hurts when you step on a piece, but try and look past this and encourage your child’s interest in LEGO!
LEGO Related Reading
Mandy is the creator and owner of an online marketplace called BrickSmarts, where she sells refurbished LEGO sets. Her business idea started out of desperation to find a solution to her sons’ LEGO obsession! After stumbling over LEGO in every room of her house, she decided enough was enough, and began selling them online. She also talks about all things LEGO on her personal blog. In addition to running a successful business, Mandy Gandhi is a physiotherapist, wife and busy mom of two spunky, silly little boys.