Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Says Legos Aren't for Girls?

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.  I laugh in the face of that.  Behold my first Lego creation, the Technic Rally Truck:

 Plus or minus a few pieces.

For those of you who have yet to notice, I'm a girl.  And though it is a terrible stereotype, I've got to reinforce it by saying I think legos and girls don't innately go together.  Sure, there are those few out there who would defiantly say, "I'm a girl, and I love Legos.  Always have."  But I feel pretty strongly that those people are few in number.  Legos and Boys.  That's how it is.

But why is that?  Are Legos one of those nature v nurture arguments?  Do boys seem more inclined to Lego play because they are conditioned to be so or because they're just born that way?  And do girls show a lack of interest because they've never been encouraged to understand them or is it really due to brain differences?  This has got me wondering.

When I was a kid, we didn't have much money.   I remember wanting and wanting a Barbie doll for years.  When I finally got one, at age eleven, I gazed at it, in all it's Barbie-beauty, wondering what to do with it.  I hadn't had much exposure to doll playing, and when finally given the chance, I didn't know what to do.  I remember feeling disappointed, wanting to play in the way I had seen the girls do for so many years.  But somehow, I hadn't developed that play skill set.

It's not really a sad story, though.  I had fun playing marbles with my brother and beating the boys at tetherball.  My point is, I didn't have exposure to Barbie doll playing, so when I had the chance, I wasn't all that interested.

I think the same could be said for Legos.

When I became mom to one, two, and then three boys, I realized that there were areas that I was going to need to become very familiar with.  Star Wars was one.  Camping another.  And Legos.  When P got his first bucket at around 5, I had no idea how I was going to play along with him.  I mean, I knew the universal "let's build a house" routine; other than that, they were just a bunch of bricks.  But to him, these pieces provided unlimited creative options.  It was fascinating to me, to see him come up with each new creation.  But me, I just wasn't wired that way.

As he has grown older, and more boys have come along, we've grown more sophisticated with our Lego architecting.  With the help of the many kits out there, we've taken a turn at nearly every line Lego has to offer, from the basic starter kits to the more elaborate sets which take thousands of pieces.  (Note:  when I say "we", obviously I mean "hubby and the boys").

And now, after many years of slowly easing myself into it, I finally created something I can call my own.  M received this kit for his birthday, and after attempting it himself, getting frustrated, and throwing it at the wall, he allowed me to have a go at it.

I totally get the desire to throw it at the wall.  Take a look at a typical instruction step:

45 tedious, torturous steps and 2 hours later, I had completed it!  I would've finished it sooner, but the diagrams were, at times, less than intuitive.

This accomplishment is years in coming; after being exposed to these creations for almost ten years, it is finally clicking for me.  To be honest, I used the kit and instructions; so I can't say that I'm fully Lego-actualized.  It's a work in progress.  But here's what completing this kit has done for me:  it has helped me open my mind to thinking like a kid who sees each piece for what it can do, not just for what it appears to be, sitting there in the bucket.  Exposing myself to all the different ways each piece can come together to create something fantastic is rewiring my mind to work a different way.  It's like taking a tour of a museum to expand your horizon and become inspired.  It's a form of creativity, but not in the conventional "let's paint a picture" sense.

So does this form of play give boys a leg up on their future?  Well, it certainly encourages sustained focus and attention to detail.  But have you ever seen a class full of boys try to sit still and stay focused?  The girls clearly have the advantage in that area.  While Legos help level the playing field in those areas, I wouldn't consider that a leg up on their future.

But then there's the theory that this unique form of creativity primes the mind for success in the areas of math and science.  Here's an loosely related article I found on the subject:

The Mathematics of Lego (source: Wired Science)

It's a bit of a snoozefest, but what I take from it is that playing with legos (particularly the sets) reinforces some profound math laws without us even knowing it.  And we all know that our subconscious picks up on stuff all the time, saving it for when we really need it.  Like during math class.

In summary, I'd like to wrap up with this:  Legos are (at least in part) a learned interest, girls should be encouraged to understand and enjoy them, and anyone who can complete a kit without uttering a profanity should feel very proud of themselves.

1 comment:

Rebeccah said...

Love this post! I am totally LEGO challenged and my son is a wizard. My daughter has zero interest whatsoever.

Recently, I was made to understand how truly feeble my building skills were when he told me, "Don't worry about it Mommy, I can wait til Daddy gets home." as I was trying to help him build a new set.

It is an interesting observation about nature v nurture though; I think we did/do pretty well letting the kids direct themselves while playing but my daughter is a total artsy/craftsy/music/books/social director and my son is dirt/legos/destruction/bugs, all on their own. Well, mostly.