Before me, stretched a plastic kingdom of verdant grasslands dotted with castles, forests, and warring armies. It was populated with a host of magical races, ranging from noble knights to hideous ogres to undead skeleton warriors. This was the most epic fantasy world that my then-ten-year-old mind could imagine – and I had built it into existence with Lego.
My collection of these colorful little bricks let me make the fantasy realm of my dreams become a reality. They supported my childish creativity, and in doing so, they also sparked my lifelong passions for writing and storytelling. That’s the magic of Lego: with millions of unique brick combinations, every piece of Lego is an opportunity for the imagination to run wild.
From Pixar’s iconic Toy Story films to Netflix’s hit The Toys That Made Us series, it’s been widely recognized that quality playtime can have an incredible impact on a child. However, the unfortunate thing about most toys is that they are inherently limited. No matter how expansive your imagination may be, there’s only so much you can do with a toy car or action figure at the end of the day. Lego, on the other hand, has no such limitations. It has always been dedicated to one simple mission: helping kids to play well by capturing the simple joy of creativity. After all, this very concept is embedded in the company’s name – it’s a portmanteau of Leg godt, a Danish phrase meaning nothing less than “play well.”
On store shelves, Lego masquerades as a fairly typical toy. Every set comes in a box containing an assortment of pieces and an instruction booklet to build a pre-designed set – pretty standard stuff. However, it is only when these instructions end that the true fun begins. Every Lego set can be taken apart and reassembled into something else entirely. A racecar can be rebuilt as a spaceship, and a modern fire station can become a castle in a fantasy kingdom. Every brick offers boundless possibilities, allowing even the craziest ideas to materialize through the right pieces.
In large part, this incredible power of the brick is derived from Lego’s adherence to “The System.” Ever since the mid-1950s, nearly every single piece of Lego has been designed according to the same standards of size and structure. This allows for something truly special: you can take one brick from a new set from 2019 and pair it with a piece made in 1959, and they will both click together perfectly. It ensures that over the company’s more than half a century of brick making, there’s a piece for every wild idea. In fact, according to Kristen Stadelhofer, a Lego Culture Mediator quoted in The Toys That Made Us, there are over 900,000,000 unique combinations of pieces for a single group of 2×4 bricks alone. Considering the thousands of other types of bricks produced over the last sixty years, there are effectively endless combinations, again providing plenty of chances for imagination to shine through.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about these little bricks isn’t the way they can interlock with each other, but how they can impact their users. As explained in an excellent article from MIT, Lego naturally fosters an engineering-focused mindset, as should be expected with any type of construction toy. However, it can also promote a parallel, but somewhat contrasting behavior. Lego’s emphasis upon unbridled creativity easily supports an artistic viewpoint, creating an appreciation for the visual arts, design, and in my case, writing and storytelling.
Let’s go back to that medieval kingdom from the introduction. Growing up, it was my proudest achievement. Consisting of untold thousands of pieces and taking up several massive gray base plates, it was a gloriously ambitious project that used almost the entirety of my collection at the time. But it wasn’t long before I realized something about my medieval land: it needed a story. A realm this expansive and beautiful needed a detailed history of its own, one full of specific events and colorful characters. There was only one option available to me: I had to write. Thus, I began to craft little stories and poems about my kingdom, which soon grew into full-length novels and epics. Before long, I became more interested in my writing than in my creation. I haven’t stopped writing since then.
In more ways than one, this article wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Lego. If my creations hadn’t inspired me to spend countless afternoons crafting their extensive stories, I likely wouldn’t have discovered my love of writing. Lego sparked my creativity more than any other toy had before it, and I know I’m not the only one to have had such an experience.
There are so many ways to play well. The best toys have the power to ignite the imagination, stimulate ingenuity, and foster lifelong passions. But not many toys offer the limitless opportunities that Lego does. With the endless potential contained within every single brick, Lego truly offers a playground for the imagination unlike anything else. Its creativity can inspire passions that last a lifetime, just as it has done for me. Lego gives imagination and personal expression free reign, and in my own experience, that’s the best possible kind of play.