At first glance, today’s child’s play seems so different from when I was a kid. The toys and games themselves have changed dramatically. Compared to modern day offerings of technological gizmos, the toys of a bygone era (like LEGO®) seem almost primitive. Nowadays, I rarely see action figures or dolls, but I do see a lot of iPads and iPhones. Has technology changed the way we play?
Although innovation might seem to be altering human behaviour at lightning speed, if we sit down and really examine the toys our children are playing with, we’ll discover that although the tools for play have changed, the principles behind the play remain the same. For example, if we look at the worldwide phenomenon of Minecraft, we see that underpinning this game is creativity (i.e., children design their own virtual world) and community (i.e., children share their creations with other invited members of the online community).
Creativity and Community in Play
The truth is that creativity and community are universal elements of child’s play. Although the medium for expressing these two elements has taken a definite technological turn, there is comfort in knowing that we, as humans, are still motivated by the same things.
LEGO® intuitively understands that creativity and community are the bedrock of good play. It’s perhaps for this reason that LEGO® has not only survived, but actually thrived in this brave new world of technology, where its toy counterparts have experienced disinterest and an increasingly declining importance in the market.
Creativity is the fuel to the human engine of play. For any toy to sustain hours of play, it has to have the ability to harness a child’s imagination. LEGO® is wildly successful in doing this. In giving children tools to build their own toy – as opposed to providing them with a ready-made toy – LEGO® empowers children to become the authors of their own play. They not only decide what to play; they also decide how to play it, and what tools to use.
Community is another universal element of good play. While it’s true that sometimes children prefer to play by themselves (and they can do this with both LEGO® and technology), there comes the inevitable moment when children will want to play with someone else. The most interesting type of play often involves a sharing of ideas. Here, too, LEGO® excels at providing opportunities for shared play. Children who choose to build their own individual LEGO® models will often consult one another’s opinion or advice. Moreover, children often decide to build models together, working in tandem to produce an end-product that reflects the shared vision of the group. Then, once the model is completely constructed, children will move on to the second phase of acting out the game with the toys they just built. The multi-layered process of play involves not only a high degree of imagination, it requires attention to detail, concentration, patience, and teamwork – all necessary skills that children will use in later life.
At the end of the day, we can attribute LEGO®’s longevity to its intuitive understanding of the human spirit, and its ability to create a toy that fulfills our need for creativity and interaction. While it’s clear that technology has become a mainstay in our children’s world of play, it’s also obvious that humans are not willing to abandon the tactile forms of play with which my generation grew up. LEGO®’s popularity is a testament to the fact that human creativity and sociability are innate and unchangeable human traits, and even though the world moves so quickly around us, it’s nice to know that some things stay the same!
Until next time, leg godt – play well!