I use Legos everyday…everyday in my practice as an OT. They are one of the most diverse toys to use in a clinical or educational setting. From Duplos to the more complex robotics, Lego grows with children across the developmental spectrum. We use Legos to not only develop fine motor skills but also to develop praxis or the ability to motor plan. Motor Planning is the bridge from ideation to execution. In a sense, motor planning is the how to of task completion. There is nothing that is quite as thrilling as seeing a box of Legos – and imagining the possibilities that lay inside. Let’s take a developmental journey through some of the products we use and how we use them:
For children needing to develop core stability, sitting balance, and the coordination of using both hands used together; we begin by simply clapping two Duplos together. This soon leads to pulling two Duplos apart, snapping them together, and stacking to make a tower. We always finish with a big TA DA! Duplos incorporate the use of language – spatial relationships, number sense, and gross/fine motor skills. We count them, match and sort them, and build! I saw a preview of some new Duplo Learning Sets at ISTE 2017 that was exhilarating.
The next developmental challenge is to actually follow directives and make something, or attempt to create an original playset. In the past, I have held maker’s groups at our local library with preschoolers and elementary students. It was the most amazing experience to have a child create a play set and tell the story of it to the group. Recently I purchased a builder’s set specifically for 4-7-year-olds. Standard Legos were used, however, there were not as many complicated groupings, and seems like a perfect intro into the world of making. The Lego’s line for girls has been inspiring and has moved past making pastel Legos in hopes of gaining a girl’s attention. They retain familiar play patterns for girls, once the building is complete, but the emphasis is on building those early math and engineering skills.
When my boys were young, the motorized Legos were first making their debut, and now there is a myriad of choices for kids to explore. What I like as a clinician is the scaffolding of old and new skills. This makes for better retention as there are already foundations and associations with that motor plan set. By changing things up a little bit, it helps ready kids to generalize or transfer the needed skills to new demands on performance.
In summary, Legos are fabulous tools for kids for facilitating the whole child – both physically and mentally. They are the tools that will prepare them for tomorrow and the years to come. I am grateful that I had them when my boys were growing up, and to be able to share them now with the kids I see at school and home.