Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Get the “Kids” (especially the girls) in Your Life LEGOs

Laura gets ready for LEGO’ing

Laura’s (mostly) free-build town, complete with motorized car, an original airplane (the black one was a kit), and a pond full of sharks (prefab animals but points for silliness)

Danielle’s 4 year old built this ship (a budding aerospace engineer?)

Nancy and her 8 year old constructed this rather abstract farm (that’s a brown cow in the field and a pig covered in black mud in the pen)

Obviously we’re too close to Christmas for you to do so for this year (unless you’re a world-class procrastinator), but we at Fuentek wanted to take this day to remind our blog readers that LEGOs® are the perfect gift for any child… or playful adult. There’s a wide variety in terms of cost and level of difficulty, and no matter their interest, LEGO can match it.

As a child, I loved playing with LEGOs. And I still do. I’m particularly fond of free-building (though when I was a kid, it was just plain old “building”) because of the creativity it allows, as compared to the kits with specified designs.

Of course, the predefined sets are a good introduction to the world of building with LEGOs, and budding engineers eventually cannibalize them to make their own designs. And the company is expanding its horizons by recognizing the wide range of children who want to play with LEGOs and the fact that some of them want to play with bricks beyond the standard colors. I for one wish they had a box of pink bricks when I was a kid.

Now, the LEGO Group has received some criticism for the products it targets to girls. And frankly, the Friends collection is not my favorite, despite the fact that it has Olivia’s Invention Workshop and the Heartlake Vet with Dr. Sophie. This product line has lots of specially formed parts that limit the imagination. (Then again, that is also true, albeit to a lesser extent, for a lot of the “boy” themed sets.) And Olivia desperately needs goggles and proper footwear. (Flip-flops in a lab?!)

No, I’m not thrilled with the dumbing down of LEGOs for the “girl” demographic. But one has to ask: Do these products get more girls who wouldn’t otherwise play with LEGOs interested in them and then expand their playing to free-build? I think so.

Not only that, consider this comment on Amazon for Olivia’s workshop:

I bought this toy for my 6-year old son who wants to be a scientist when he grows up. I know, it is a girl set, but Lego doesn’t offer any gender-neutral labs, so I figured this Lego science lab was better than no Lego science lab at all. My son agreed. I told him he could replace some of the pink pieces with other colored pieces from his collection but he never bothered, it didn’t matter that much to him.

So as I told my colleague several months back when she complained of the Friends sets: I’d like to see study results on how this product line impacts girls’ engagement in building with all LEGOs before I would get too indignant. A lot more of our outrage should be directed at the entire Barbie Hooker line. (Okay, maybe that isn’t what they call it, but they sure look that way.) Boycott buying LEGO Friends and they will abandon making them, because all that matters is sales. And I don’t think we want them to do that.

Of course, no discussion of LEGOs would be complete without mentioning FIRST®. Founded by Dean Kaman, FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Readers of our STEM posts know about Fuentek’s involvement with the North Carolina FIRST Robotics Competitions. The “brick connection” is: FIRST offers competitions that use LEGOs to get young children interested in robotics. Kids in grades 4 through 8 can participate in the FIRST LEGO League, while even younger kids can do the FIRST LEGO League Jr. designed for kindergarteners through third graders. Just look at those faces!

So admit it: Don’t you wish you had more LEGOs in your life? I know I do! After Santa brings me my Creator Kit box, I will have more uniform bricks and new colors to add to my old collection. I can’t wait!


Happy holidays from Fuentek!