Guest Post – 9 important skills your children learn from LEGO
Children and adults alike love playing with LEGOs. But there’s more about it than just fitting colourful bricks and snazzy designs together. Our friends over at NinjaBrick describe 9 important skills your children can learn from playing with LEGOs.
Who doesn’t love LEGO? They’re colourful, varied, and just plain awesome. But there’s a lot more about LEGOs than just an entertaining afternoon, and in this article, Ninja Brick explore all the ways your children (and even your adults) will benefit from their LEGO time.
- Fine motor skills
As a child grows, they need to learn things that adults may think simple. One such thing is the wonderful ability to manipulate things with their hands. Sounds easy? Think again. For a child, that’s a complex skill and one that LEGOs help.
Picking up small pieces, turning them around and fitting them together takes effort, and that’s exactly what LEGO play does. As your children pick up the small pieces and fit them together, they exercise the muscles in their hands and their coordination.
Later, these skills will reflect on other things, such as the ability to write. Preschoolers and very young children benefit from this more than older children, but older children and people with motor skills issues will benefit as well.
- Engineering & Math Skills
It’s a fact there’s a fair amount of engineering skills involved in building up with LEGOs. Children (and adults) will quickly learn that certain shapes and constructions are more structurally sound than others, and how to arrange things in such a way that they don’t tip or fall other.
While this doesn’t mean little Timmy will go on to be an engineer, it’ll still provide life-long skills. LEGO play certainly encourages children to think in a three-dimensional world, with different materials and shapes. It also helps children learn basic geometry, and how pieces of different sizes and shapes fit (or don’t) together.
The intuitive learning will help them later with math. A careful parent might want to use power functions to teach basic physics as well, such as work with levers and gears, even without the numbers and formulas!
This is true even for children with cognitive disabilities. A study by the University of Alberta shows that children with severe cognitive disability performed best when presented with a LEGO robot (“roverbot”), even in unstructured play. This helped researchers assess their true cognitive skills better than standard testing.
A bucket of assorted LEGO pieces is a world full of possibilities. Unlike a more traditional puzzle, there are no firm rules on what can or can’t be done. While sets encourage following instructions to a goal, this doesn’t mean the child can’t exercise her creativity in making their visions come true.
This is wonderful because it allows the child to learn how to think and pursue goals in different ways. Whether using pieces of a certain colour for a certain desired effect or using different types of pieces to accomplish a goal, this freedom of choice will certainly encourage creative solutions to accomplish a vision, a skill to be carried throughout their life.
This isn’t limited to building, either. The minifigures and other elements that often accompany LEGO sets also encourage the child to create full stories and scenarios, which is, of course, great for their imagination!
Failure is also a part of learning, and everyone who’s played with LEGOs knows this sometimes happens. Whether it’s a build breaking apart by accident, or a project that didn’t work out so well, sometimes things go wrong.
For many young children, failure is a frustration. But LEGO play encourages them to try again, something different and better. Because LEGOs are so engaging, children feel encouraged to do it again, or change things around.
This helps them learn that failure isn’t the end of the world and that they can always build again — whether it’s something else, or the same thing in a different way.
- Teamwork & Social Skills
LEGO doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Many sets are better enjoyed in a family — and here, it’s good to share tasks, learn about teamwork and how to divide a problem to solve it. In a school setting, many children will learn to band together to build something great, which is a wonderful encouragement for teamwork.
This is also useful for autistic children. Studies show that LEGO encourages social interaction in high-functioning autistic children. This is also a benefit to disabled children, who learn through a common ground how to socialize and interact and even solve their daily life problems together.
- Thinking outside the box
Many sets come with instructions. A smart parent can use this as a teaching moment.
Instructions-reading will help with literacy, but also show a child how instructions can help you accomplish a goal faster — and how and when we can deviate from them while keeping the same, or similar, results. Even better is encouraging children to recreate results their own way — without instructions.
Researchers found that college-age students who built LEGOs without instructions performed best in creative solutions tests such as the paperclip test (finding different ways to use a paperclip) than students who used instructions.
Sometimes, the instructions may suggest something and you can see a better solution. It’s something to think about, that they are not absolute guidelines! This sort of divergent thinking also helps when it comes to deciding what to build and how to build, and the many different ways one can learn to build the same thing.
- Spatial skills
Spatial skills are the ability to see and rotate a shape with your mind’s eyes. This includes accurately judging distances as well as projecting a full form from a given image. Children who play with LEGO develop this skill a lot easier. As they play and build, they develop the skill to see the full image in their heads. This grows especially after building something by following a blueprint or image model.
Working with blocks such as LEGOs help children identify and divide problems into many parts, which them come together to form full, realized pictures. While there is no absolute evidence whether the improvement comes from play or whether children with such skills are more attracted to that sort of play, there is some evidence that such play helps the child develop said skills and improve them in both speed and accuracy.
This also works with adults: many actual engineers use LEGOs and similar building blocks to proof ideas before a project goes out into the real world.
This might seem unrelated, but the sense of accomplishment after building something can greatly improve your child’s confidence. This relates to how accomplishing goals give us a positive feedback, which in turn encourages us to pursue further goals. Original creation or planned set, the confidence earned from accomplishing that goal persists.
- Focus and Patience
Building something often takes time, and the more complex the build, the more patience and time it takes. This is why LEGO is a great way to improve the focus and patience of your children. As they plan and focus on an outcome, they’re learning about effort and how to be patient to accomplish their goals.
These are just some of the benefits — it all depends on the children and adults involved, and the creativity involved as well. Whether it’s in early robotics classes or simply a relaxed tradition in family, building with LEGOs is a worthy and educational pursuit for many.