What started as a plastic toy (well, wood toy, but that’s a long history lesson) is now a studded, plastic key to creativity. LEGO bricks are loved by all ages, and can play a pivotal role in a child’s upbringing and development. While the bricks are intended to help develop motor skills, creativity, and spatial reasoning, there is no doubt the life lessons of LEGO bricks extend far beyond the plastic studs.
1. You have to break down the good to build up the great
People often strive for good. Good is comfortable, good is obtainable, and good is better than bad. The only problem is those who want more than good often have to start making sacrifices. Sure, this lesson is best learned by people who are trying to thrive in their careers, or get into the best physical shape of their lives. This lesson is also clear at an early age with LEGO builders. Sometimes you have to take a LEGO set you really like and take it apart in order to build something even better. Did I want to destroy my LEGO Star Wars Episode 1 Gungan ship? Not really. But I wanted the awesome window pieces from the set to create a beautiful LEGO tower for my city more.
2. Every set has a valuable piece
Some LEGO sets seem like more money or time than they’re worth. However, regardless of the set, each set contains a piece (or more) that is unique to it specifically, or at least very uncommon. This idea is valuable to life experiences, I believe, because even the most mundane life moments can have a valuable piece to it that makes it worthwhile. Sometimes it takes a lot of shuffling through a lot of commonality to find it, but just about anything has something unique and memorable to it that is worthwhile.
3. Haste makes holes
This lesson shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as we have all learned through relationships, hobbies, careers ,and personal achievements that haste is not worth the mistakes it causes. Some people learn it earlier than others, and almost every kid knows the feeling. In the excitement of building a new set, it is easy to miss a step or a piece and cause the entire design to fall down around itself. While each LEGO set comes with a few spare pieces, it’s frustrating to complete what appears to be a masterpiece (at least in a kid’s eyes) just to find a gaping hole in a wall due to a piece that was missed on step 42.
4. Creativity doesn’t have an age limit
As I get older (and have more money to buy LEGO bricks), I’m realizing that I didn’t lose my ability to come up with fun constructs out of my imagination. I know 7-year-olds who can build a LEGO track and run laps around anything I think of, but that doesn’t mean I’m unable to shuffle through a box of squares to create a spaceship, a house or a house/spaceship. I just have to not be offended by the age suggestion on the boxes. It may not be appropriate for me to skip work to play out a LEGO adventure on my living room floor, but I have no problem daydreaming about building the ultimate LEGO city someday.
5. Size doesn’t matter
It’s easy to get caught up in the big stuff, but sometimes it is the small details that matter most. As a kid, my favorite pieces were often the flat, 1x1 bricks that were impossible to separate from each other. They add detail and depth that the big pieces simply cannot, and are just as important as the big flashy ones. The same goes for most projects and ideas; tiny details are key to success.
6. Life has more than one theme
It’s easy to fall into stereotypes and expectations. For example, I’m a 31-year old adult male who still buys LEGO sets — what a nerd! I must also play World of Warcraft and memorize Lord of the Rings! While nothing is wrong with anyone who can select “I do all the above” here, it’s important for people to know they can extend beyond their stereotype, or in LEGO terms, their theme. Like with any life hobby, activity or adventure, mix-and-matching can bring on a limitless number of new, exciting possibilities.
7. It feels good to build
In a world running out of resources and space, it can be difficult to find a medium to create something that isn’t done on a computer. Materials are expensive and having places to keep non-essential life items are a luxury many can’t afford, but a few LEGO bricks and a shoebox can be all a person needs to get the satisfaction of building something out of nothing. Thanks to LEGO bricks, I learned that after a long stressful day, sometimes there is nothing better than sitting down and building something out of my own two hands.
8. Don’t always follow the instructions
I am going to be honest here; I was one of those kids who never deviated from the instructions. Sure, I’d build a LEGO set and destroy it a thousand times, but I always built it back to how the set was designed. My philosophy was freestyle buckets were for creativity; sets were for instructions. As I got older, I realized (much like theme mixing) that half the fun was going wild and not staying within the lines. Sure, you can get a great final product by doing what the instructions say, but sometimes it’s OK to branch out.
9. Nothing is permanent
Teaching a kid about loss is a tough life lesson that is sometimes best learned through a hungry dog running straight through a LEGO city that took all week to build. Everything we create, care about, and even try to protect will eventually break down, and I learned this lesson in Kindergarten when I tripped over my LEGO house I brought for show and tell and destroyed my glorious design with my face in front of all of my peers.
10. LEGO builds relationships
Find someone who hates LEGO bricks. Chances are, unless that person stepped on one in the middle of the night recently, you won’t. LEGO bricks are fun for all ages, and bring people together to play, design, build and laugh together. Building sets is just distracting enough to take away nervous energy and get the creative juices flowing, which means whenever I have an issue with someone, instead of throwing around angry comments we will later regret, we bring out the whiskey and LEGO bricks and hash out our problems while sharing in some creativity. And no one can hate solving a problem and having a pirate ship with laser cannons and plane wings as a trophy to show for it.
Author’s Note: This article is a revised piece from my old (now decommissioned) blog, FunnyFollowsForm. It was originally published in 2013.