It is my sincere belief that Legos are the greatest toy ever invented. In my office I have a 2′ by 4′ Lego table that can house virtually any building or creation that the kids who visit me can design. Legos are great because kids can build anything from simple shapes to a 3,802-piece Lego Death Star–or simply put together whatever their hands lead them to construct.
Legos are a particularly great tool for children with ADHD and attentional problems because Legos can hold their attention for hours on end, helping to build the vital thinking skills that can allow them to focus better at school and during other non-play activities. Many children with ADHD seem to prefer using Legos in a more self-directed way, without following any directions and just letting their imaginations lead their designs. While this approach may require attention in a less structured manner, it’s still a great way for kids with ADHD to have fun while learning how to pay attention for extended periods of time.
In addition, Legos (like many other types of blocks and construction toys) can be a useful tool for practicing thinking skills such as Focus, Flexibility, and Planning. Lego play facilitates a need to adapt to the blocks you have, at some point plan out what you want to make, and have a willingness to persist on the task to completion. In order to make Lego play more productive, it is useful to have the child set some sort of goal. This could be as simple as building a house, vehicle, or spaceship of their own design. Another strategy is to find some type of plans that use Legos as part of a larger project.
I found a really fun idea for using Legos to make a ray gun in the book “The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun” by Ken Demead. What is cool about this project (and many others in the book) is that builders need to be creative, use thinking skills such as flexibility and planning, and still get to design what their ray gun looks like. This project requires that you add an LED and some wire to make the final product and that you really think about what you are doing.
Creative play projects like these are terrific opportunities to employ and improve a variety of critical thinking skills. While our mission at LearningWorks for Kids is around using digital tools to practice and master thinking skills, our primary message is actually more about how children’s play (both digital and non-digital) is a powerful tool in developing thinking skills. To find more play activities that are lots of fun and also provide an opportunity to improve thinking skills, check out are Wired magazines Geekdad and Geekmom and Melissa Taylor’s Imagination Soup.