It seems like just yesterday that I was visiting the Morris Public Library, watching small children frenetically paw through boxes filled with wildly colored little bricks, mini-figures and what resembled palm trees and wee wheels. Soon there were recognizable works of art emerging, such as a red heart atop a tall red pyramid, and fabrications that required explanation, especially from the two young boys working in tandem. “It’s an ice-breaker submarine with gun turrets.” Oh. “And Batman with super arms and a blue shiny helmet.” Yes, I can see that.
I never played with Legos myself, but something was familiar about this activity. I messaged my brother “Did you play with Legos when you were a kid?” The immediate reply, “Nope, Lincoln Logs” confirmed my half-formed memory. He filled in the details about the ease of building small log cabins since the notches were already there on the ”logs” made from real wood. Plastic wasn’t very prevalent in children’s toys back then. I asked if that hobby had any influence on him building his first house, a rustic A-frame, at age 25. The answer was “Yes, it was one of the reasons I went with the large roof rafters, the look of logs.”
That’s an enlightening peek into how childhood playtimes inform grown-up behaviors. I never played with Barbies, or really, any dolls. To this day, I can’t apply lipstick straight or attempt putting on mascara without smearing or poking my eyeball. But being a tomboy taught me how to climb a tree, and take a hit playing tackle football with my boy cousins without bawling, even when I chipped a tooth, so it’s a good trade-off, I think.
Actually, Lincoln Logs came first, in 1916. And K’nex is the newest of the “build your own” toy systems, perfecting the ability to construct an entire amusement park. Neither of them seem to have achieved the lasting popularity of Legos, though. Having babysat for kids with both sets in their toy boxes, and out of their toy boxes, I can attest that Legos hurt more when you step on them barefoot.
The original LEGOLAND is in Denmark, but when I visited a pen pal there many years ago, we went to Tivoli Gardens instead, since it offered an antique roller coaster, live entertainment and vintage charm. I’m sure my grandchildren would have preferred LEGOLAND, which now offers sleepovers in a Ninjago cabin made with, what else but shurikens, crystals and Master Wu’s hat. Of course, the kids I watched at the library that time, didn’t have to travel to Denmark to get the LEGOLAND experience since Lego Batman was then in theaters. Then they can go home and try their hand at building a wildly colorful Batmobile, that can ride a roller coaster.
I’m hoping that all the libraries can safely open soon and the next Lego Challenge can be hosted in the Morris Community Hall. If I remember correctly, a LOT of Legos were available, a theme was provided, and kids could either pair up or design their masterpiece solo.
And I want to be there to cover the story.