When I was a kid me and my brother would play with Legos for hours and hours at a time. Some of my best memories involved building creations together. I am so excited to pass on the love to my kids, I love the creativity Lego encourages. I love to let me kinds have free reign and build without instructions (gasp!). I love to teach them how to build with instructions as well, but here are some of our favorite non-traditional ways to use our Legos for learning.
I received Lego sets from Lego for this post. All opinions are my own.
Sorting- Kids naturally sort items into categories. It is one of their earliest mathematical developments. I find it fascinating to give a child a group of items and ask them to sort them. For me it may e natural to group by color or size but kids always seem to think outside the box. Practice free sorting and guided sorting with your child and their Lego blocks. Ask them to sort by shape, size, color, or number of sides. My kids could sort for hours!
Counting- Use legos to practice counting. Show adding by grouping blocks by color. Ex- 3 green blocks + 5 Pink blocks= 8 blocks. You can show subtraction the same way. If your toddler is just starting out just show the simple growing pattern on adding one more block. Count all the stacks together.
Patterns- Build patterns out of your Legos. Build a simple ABAB pattern and talk about it with your child see if they can build one too. Once they have mastered that, move on to something a little more complicated. Try building incomplete patterns and have them finish where you left off. This will build critical thinking skills that your child needs for problem solving.
Challenges- Challenge your child to build something. A certain shape, a favorite animal, a car, whatever sounds fun. They might not be able to make the shape the really want to but it is the trying and thinking through it that makes it a valuable skill. For example my 3-year-old wanted to build a ball with his Legos. While technically this is possible, it is way over his level of building and thinking. But he tried and tried and concluded that he “Couldn’t build a ball because all the edges of Legos are square.” Pretty deep thinking, which is exactly why we play these games!
Comparing- Use Legos to compare objects. Is this stack bigger or smaller. How are they the same, how are they different? What could I add to make these shapes the same?
Your child won’t even realize they are learning as they play these games with you. Kids are naturally curious about math even though they don’t know that is what it is. They are constantly working through how things work around them and always asking, “Why?”. Do everything you can to let them explore why instead of just telling them, these problem solving skills are vital in their days ahead.
Even at such young ages, my kids love to play with their Legos because Lego has sets specifically designed to be at their level. My two-year old has the Sleeping Beauty’s Fairytale Duplo set. Designed for ages 1.5-5 these sets are safe for little ones, and easily put together. The chunky blocks are the perfect size for her little hands and she could not be happier with her Sleeping Beauty and “Mother” (Merryweather) characters. She is always pretending to read them stories and tuck them in. It is so fun to watch her play with this set over and over again, I know it will be enjoyed for years to come.
While my almost 4-year-old boy still loves to build with Duplos, since seeing The Lego Movie he has wanted some of the “real Legos” as he would say. I was so happy to find the new Lego Junior sets for him. Designed for ages 4-7 these sets are the perfect introduction between Duplos and traditional Legos. They are the smaller size of the regular Legos you see, but are Easy To Build. This means that instead of my son’s police station entrance being made of a wall made from 50 smaller bricks, one side of it is just a solid piece. This gets him used to the smaller sized blocks, but keeps him from being overwhelmed by the complexities of some sets. My little guy has the Police-The Big Escape set and he played with it so much. We took the time to build it together and not only is it fun to build and take apart but the role play with it is too much fun.
No matter what age you kids are there is a Lego set that is just perfect for them. Let them learn, explore, and play like we did when we were kids. It is worth the occasional foot injury, ha ha. After all, with Lego, everything is awesome.