A liberal sprinkling of LEGO
Lazy son left it lying like a knobbly carpet trap
At 3am he calls out with a nightmare
Going to comfort him, I yowch at every step.
But LEGO is just a toy, right? What does LEGO have to do with Literacy?
I think some toys contribute a great deal to children's literacy skills. I riffed on this theme in Use Puppets to Encourage Literacy and Using Toys as a Springboard to Literacy. Let's look at what LEGO might contribute to your child's literacy and learning.
Do a search on Amazon and you will see a range of books inspired by LEGO. Your local library will likely have titles in the nonfiction section. Keeping LEGO instructions inside plastic loose-leaf folders is a great way to preserve them AND encourage their use as reading for enjoyment.
As well as the actual functional reading and following directions if your kids use instructions booklets before they build, they are organizing, planning, concentrating, and persevering. Sometimes they will be communicating with a friend or parent about their structures. Often they will critically or creatively solve problems. Creative and critical thinking are important not just in literacy, but numeracy, science and also other areas.
Some LEGO/DUPLO bricks had the letters of the alphabet on them, so kids could use them to make words and play word games. I thoroughly recommend these as an addition to your literacy tool bag. They will "stick" to a base board, but you can use them without. If you can't find them, make your own by sticking card letters or writing on plain DUPLO bricks.
Older kids might be ready to move on to some of the fantastic robotic and science materials LEGO puts out. Whatever they build, at whatever age, there is an amazing amount of thinking going on.
If you want a closer tie to literacy, consider relating LEGO bricks to a book you've shared: what sort of house would Witchy Woe live in? what kind of vehicle would Fred Sked drive? If your child loves LEGO but isn't so enthused about reading yet, consider building on his interest. Look for those LEGO library books and instruction booklets, and delve into the wealth of material online, so he can read about LEGO and maybe communicate with other enthusiasts. There's lots of reading available at the LEGO website, too.
If your child is a LEGO fan like me, here are some ideas to extend his/her interest.
Be inspired on Youtube. Mine these videos for ideas that might generate more building, or encourage kids to create their own stories or movies with LEGO.
The Highwayman (classic song sung by Willie Nelson and friends, re-enacted in LEGO)
Finally a Lego Pirate Movie
(vid made from LEGO game clips)
Star Wars Final Fight in Lego
(This is actually quite amateurish, but we are all amateurs when we start. I think it's good for kids to see what other kids can accomplish. Watch for interesting spelling in opening titles!)
Click, A LEGO Short Film
THE SIMPSONS intro lego style (made by a 13-year-old)
Kung Fu Fighting Music Video in Lego
Grease - Summer Nights Lego Stop Motion Animation
(The creativity and patience involved in making these stop-motion movies from LEGO characters is amazing!)
LEGO Universe - a sneak peek from Mashable.
A massively-multiplayer rendition of the world of LEGO comes to the PC, in which you can adventure through multiple worlds and build your own environments with friends and family.
Be inspired on Flickr. There are great pictures of LEGO models.
Check out the LEGO steam punk pool
Be inspired on other sites.
Build with digital LEGO bricks on your own computer. This is a download.
Family Building Activities - free pdf with lots of fun games to do with LEGO
Here's LEGO at the Zoo
Here is a computer built of LEGO. If terms like "polynomials" and "31 digits of accuracy" terrify you the way they do me, skip this page.
Check out Nathan Sawaya's The Art of the Brick. What a way to combine LEGO and art!
If your kids are really into LEGO, be sure to check out the LEGO website with them. There are games to play and constructions to view. These might give them some ideas for their own creations.
LEGO Make and Create World Builder Game
LEGO Make and Create Junkbot Game
One favourite LEGO activity of mine for stimulating mental activity is Creative Builder. Some might say this takes all the fun out of manipulating actual physical bricks, but I think it's a useful extra activity and a great way to help your kids move to a more abstract way of thinking. Sometimes we just don't have access to our bricks anyway. After you pick a player, you choose to free build, plan build or speed build. Plan build presents kids with a design to copy, which they do by drag and dropping digital bricks onto an outline. Speed build times them building the same models. Free build they can create their own.
There are professional quality movies and cartoon movies at the LEGO Star Wars website.
You'll also find ideas for using LEGO to teach Maths and Science.
Here are educational activities from LEGO's own website You can search for free activities according to age and other categories using their search engine.
Phew! If you're not LEGOed out, link to LEGO and Literacy (2) where I describe some specific ideas for kids' own writing based around LEGO.
© Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com