As a parent, Legos were my least favorite toys to step on barefoot. Did you know that a Lego can withstand over 4,000 Newtons of force? That’s why the Lego always wins when you step on it.
But that’s really the only drawback to Legos. (Well, that and the price of Legos these days—it’s nearly as painful to pay for them as to step on them.) The reason why Legos are so awesome is summed up in this description, from Wikipedia: “Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.” Lego is the ultimate imagination-toy.
Did you know that there are over 915 million ways to combine six basic 2×4 Lego bricks?
Growing up, my favorite set was a castle compilation of all-gray bricks, complete with hinges to make the requisite drawbridges and swinging doors to hidden passages. Legos usually come with a “construction plan”—and I’m sure mine did, though I don’t remember it… because the real fun is inventing your own stuff out of the possibility of all those pieces.
In retrospect, my castle set was pretty simplistic, in part because my Lego-play predated the licensing agreements that have brought us Lego Harry Potter, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, Lego Marvel comics…
Just listing them makes me want to sit down on the floor and play. My son’s earliest Lego sets were pirates—any guesses why? Yup, Mommy wanted to play with them. (Did you know that the name “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”?)
I spent a fair bit of time building Lego Star Wars ships with Christian in his pre-teen years. He used to like making “bets” with me (like who could run faster) with something at stake. If he won, he could pick out a ten-dollar Lego set next time we were at the store, and we’d build it together; if I won, he’d do something extra for me. (I won either way. I also won the footrace, by the way—and he consequently painted my toenails bright blue.)
Did you know Lego was the brainchild of a Danish carpenter? He started out making wooden toys during the Depression of the 1930s and moved on to creating plastic “automatic binding bricks.”
It had all the makings of a folly or a fairy tale: The widowed toymaker living in a house in the middle of town with his four boys, spending his money and time on a machine that might spit out these plastic bricks he had in mind. ~Popular Mechanic
It was his son who saw the potential of a system of play, driving development of a universal brick design. The workshop locked in on the final design in 1958. Think of that! In an age where our phones and games are outdated in a matter of months, rendered obsolete by upgraded versions, a brand-new 2017 Lego set would still be completely compatible with Lego bricks six decades old. (Now that’s backward compatibility!)
I was twelve years old when my dad’s work took us to Denmark, where we spent a full day at Legoland. Back then there was only one Legoland, and the place purely boggled my mind. It seemed like every historic and cultural landmark in the world was re-created there, large-scale and built from Legos—not to mention entire towns complete with streets and canals, cathedrals and castles. (Just to think that some grownup got to do Lego-building for a job! I know what I want to be when I grow up.)
Did you know that the Lego Group has manufactured more than four billion Lego bricks over the years?
Legos seem to have taken on a cultural life of their own, even aside from the building blocks themselves. Now there are Lego movies, more than 65 Lego video games, and all manner of other spin-offs. “Real” movies, photographs, and even ads are being re-enacted and re-staged in Lego form. (Did you know that “The Lego Movie”—with voice talents like Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, and Will Ferrell—grossed over half a billion dollars?)
I wrote a freelance article this week about a Lego re-creation of a controversial Pepsi ad. (In case you wondered why Legos are on my mind…) The Lego version is fun to watch, especially after viewing the original…. The maker recreated most elements fairly faithfully, but had a little fun with it as well. (Can you spot the cameos by Lego Luke Skywalker, Lego John Lennon, and Lego Marvel Comics characters? Oh, and a hot dog and a lobster?)
The ad was created by Huxley Berg Studios, which actually specializes in stop-motion-animation Lego videos. Yup, there’s another job I want when I grow up.
Did you know you can rent Legos? In the course of writing the article I discovered an online service called Netbricks, which functions pretty much like Netflix. Order your Lego set, play with it for as long as you want, send it back in exchange for another. (They even sterilize them and guarantee you’ll have all the pieces.) How cool is that?!
All of these spinoffs and offshoots of Lego-play just go to show how very strongly these little plastic bricks fire imaginations.
They’re a lot like my other favorite plaything: WORDS… Because the real fun is inventing your own stuff out of the possibility of all those pieces.