In 2015, Lego was nominated by Forbes as the most powerful brand in the world. It’s been called the Apple of toys. Is Lego really the ultimate toy? I’d be hard pressed to think of another toy that boasts the longevity, durability, flexibility, broad appeal and educational value that Lego brings to the table. Maybe I’m biased; architects love construction toys. But the open-ended possibility that accompanies a box of these colourful bricks is impressive, and the kids can be at it (pretty quietly!) for ages. Lego didn’t really get a chance to take off in our household until Little Miss was out of the habit of mouthing toys, but over the last couple of years, its been accumulating. Yes, admittedly, much of it has been of the Lego Friends variety (ie. Lego for girls), but ultimately, we still end up with a great big pile of generic bits to fuel the imagination.
Until recently, I hadn’t really looked beyond the basic Lego sets my kids usually play with. Most of their creations consisted of houses, shops and playgrounds which were used as role-playing props. But gradually, I’ve been discovering that Lego really offers a lot of scope to imagine, build, engineer and programme. There are some pretty sophisticated Lego kits out there! Although it seems that a lot of the interesting stuff is predominantly marketed towards boys, which might make it a bit harder to get into.
Nevertheless Miss Chu has been having a bit of a Legotastic June holiday this year. She has been expanding on her Scratch programming knowledge at a Lego WeDo camp, where kids build robotic Lego models using motors and sensors, which can then be programmed using Scratch.The class used Lego WeDo 1.0, which plugs into your computer via USB. (Version 2.0 offers Bluetooth connection, but I’ve heard that it’s not as reliable.) Miss Chu was not used to figuring out how to build Lego with moving parts! They were more fiddly to assemble than your everyday Lego creations and models were falling apart all over the place once the kids switched on the motors! But programmable moving parts definitely brings your Lego ideas to a new level.
Then we all visited Legoland Malaysia and spent a couple of days immersed in Legomania at the hotel, theme park and water park! Amazingly, none of us had set foot into a Legoland before – and whilst I’m not a huge theme-park fan, we all had a great time and have made a fun holiday video of it for the blog!
Luckily, we managed a mid-week trip and didn’t have to jostle with the crowds or worry about queues. Lego-themed rides were interspersed with opportunities to build and create, or just marvel at the professionally-built creations. The girls loved it all.
So having had a brief play around with Lego WeDo and Mindstorms recently, I’ve got my sights set on expanding our Lego collection with programmable parts and the like. This stuff is all a bit frighteningly expensive, so I’m still researching the options and keeping an eye out on the new products in the pipeline like Lego Boost, which looks interesting. Apple has also recently announced that its learn-to-code platform Swift Playgrounds (which we have dabbled with) will now be compatible with Lego Mindstorms.
Having had the chance to play with different Lego from the stuff we have at home has definitely opened our eyes to the potential of having a wider range of components and the ability to power up our creations. This is definitely another great tool to help kids design and tinker, especially if we can move beyond our usual “static” Lego creations. There are a lot of inspirational Lego-builds online; my kids were impressed by these pretty amazing “Lego Great Ball Contraption” modules!
If you’ve not heard about it before, Lego as a company has a surprising history, and almost went bankrupt in 2003. The strategies put forward to turn the company around, and the investment in R+D to bring it to where it is today makes a fascinating read (or watch). Now Lego is riding a massive wave of success again and expanding aggressively in Asia with new shops popping up in every mall, Lego sculptures infiltrating our public spaces, and a major Lego exhibition opening here next month. They’ve also set up a very fancy new office in Singapore, just down the road from our place. Perhaps the kids can get a summer job there someday!