LEGO is still the coolest toy for kids (and kids at heart)

For years now I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that I find it hard to resist the urge to walk through the so-called ‘kids’ section of your average K-Mart, Target or Big W to check out the toys. Toys have always been of interest to me and even though I’m no longer an adolescent, I still find them to be fascinating recreational devices. Doubtlessly we’ve all heard, at some point or another, the lamentations of various older friends or family members with the rather cliché, “Back in my day we didn’t have such things!”

It doesn't get much cooler than this

(Image: Norbert Schnitzler)

It makes me feel quite old to have to repress similar urges when I walk through the toys section of a department store only to discover a plethora of electronic playthings that I never had access to “back in my day”. And while many toys from my childhood have seen a resurgence in one revamped form or another, one particular toy has remained a consistent thing in an industry that seems to believe that the more lights and sounds something has, the better it will sell. I speak, of course, about LEGO.

I lost countless hours to LEGO, both during my younger years and in a not-so-long-ago return to the fantastic toy. So it may come as no surprise than when I saw this article on the PopSci front page, I was reminded of how much I still love, and miss, my LEGO. But more than this, it was a reminder that despite the fact I got over playing with GI Joes, train sets and other assorted action figures, I had encountered a toy that I don’t ever see going out of fashion.

LEGO has been available since 1949, and 61 years on still takes up precious real estate in your average toy store/section. Having personally played with LEGO from the 80s and interacted with it more recently in the 21st century, it hasn’t changed a lot; but nor does it need to change. In the video game world, the concept of ‘replayability’ is touted as a major selling point for any game, with publishers and developers spending oodles of time, money and effort ensuring that their game is front of mind well beyond the initial play through. As far as toys go, LEGO has the ultimate replayability.

LEGO: It's not just for kids

(Image: Norbert Schnitzler)

The ‘initial play through’ was following the instructions that came with the set to construct what was shown on the front of the box. But that was only half the fun. The subsequent deconstruction of the set and reconstruction into something entirely different provided countless hours of entertainment. I remember creating various Star Wars vehicles (and taking photographs of them) years before the sci-fi franchise was licensed for official LEGO sets. That is why I don’t see myself ever throwing out my LEGO, and will hopefully one day pass them on to future generations (although, this may prove to be a somewhat begrudging act).

So what do you all think? Do you see LEGO ever going the way of the Dodo? Do you think LEGO will eventually ‘sell out’ like so many other popular toy items and reinvent itself in an entirely new way? Most importantly, do you believe that there is another line of toys that surpasses the educational + coolness equation? Let me know in the comments section below.


6 Responses to “LEGO is still the coolest toy for kids (and kids at heart)”
  1. Shonky Adonis says:

    I too lost many a childhood hour to the power of Lego. My parents discovered quickly that if they were at odds as to what present to get me for a birthday or christmas then Lego was usually the best way to go.

    I have noticed a change, however, in recent years that more line-specific (ie a specific box of lego in a line of similar sets with a unique item/building/vehicle etc in it) have come up with unique pieces that, to me, seem a little lazy. Instead of creating everyting from scratch using only similar pieces and a wealth of imagination alot of them have pieces that do all the imagining for you. For instance in a Star Wars set as you noted there are wings (with cannons already attached, an almost unforgiveable crime in Lego) that you do not need to build at all, rather just clip on the side. I’ve noticed this trend in several other boxes I’ve spied in stores. To me that’s getting somewhat uncreative.

    I do understand that they do need to let their product alter and grow, however. And on the whole I agree that they have an amazing product that really doesnt need to change. At least not for many, many more years. I too will be transferring my Lego collection to any younglings I may spawn in the future. Assuming I find them worthy enough, that is.

  2. Muffin says:

    I played with Lego as a kid and loved it - though I’d like to add that I also played with Barbie, who also seems to have remained consistent throughout the years. Anyway, I’ll just say - what I remember of Lego was much simpler than what you buy now… I just had a bucket of little blocks, and would build little houses and whatnot each time I pulled it out to play. Possibly I missed the point of Lego entirely… but I guess that versatility is part of what makes it so good.

    Now I see all these Star Wars and Indiana Jones Lego sets… which is all very well and good, but I feel like its kinda taking all the imagination out of Lego. Of course, I haven’t played with a Lego set for a very long time, so I may be wrong, but it looks to me like kids don’t have to be creative or inventive to play Lego these days. Yes? No?

  3. @ Shonky Adonis - I can relate to receiving an abundance of LEGO for birthday or Christmas presents. The greatest thing about having three brothers was that they got LEGO too, which meant we could swap and change, eventually adding our sets to the communal pile to create whatever we could imagine.

    Having collected some of the more recent Star Wars LEGO, this was when the prequel movies were being released, I must say that I didn’t notice too much in the way of custom pieces (particularly not the wings you referred to). That’s terrible if they’re doing that now! I hope your future younglings are deemed worthy enough to be able to receive LEGO - I can’t imagine a childhood without it.

    @ Muffin - It’s interesting that you bring up Barbie and its consistencies over the years. If you had to pit LEGO against Barbie, which would you feel is the more educational plaything? I’ve read articles on the important social skills that children are picking up from a young age in terms of fashion sense and what not, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Kids don’t HAVE to be terribly creative with LEGO, and can take pleasure out of constructing the set as the instructions dictate, but I’m quite sure that even these modern sets include pictures on the back of the instructions of other possible constructions. In more modern times, LEGO has offered additional creations that you can access by way of their website, and I’ve even found scans of much older LEGO sets that can be recreated if you have the pieces. In my more recent resurgence of LEGO collecting, I only built to the instructions… but I always did have the intention of making some painstaking yet ultimately (read: hopefully) rewarding LEGO film some day.

  4. Muffin says:

    Well, a lot of people are concerned about the bad ‘image’ that Barbie presents to young children - but to be honest, I never considered a toy to be my role model, and I certainly don’t think I suffer from any self-esteem issues because of dear old Barbie. I’m more concerned about modern dolls branded as ‘Bratz’ - which seem to teach children that it’s okay to be a little s**t and misspell.

    But yeah, it’s hard to compare Barbie and Lego - I honestly think they teach children totally different sets of skills. Lego seems to address creativity, and motor skills. I’d say Barbie has a more social aspect to it - it encourages children to look at the family unit, and social interactions between friends. As a girl, I got to benefit from both - I don’t really know if there’s an equivalent thing for young boys.

  5. Tony says:

    @ Shonky Adonis - On the contrary, the latest LEGO sets use custom pieces sparingly (with the exception of certain lines like Power Miners etc) but rather incorporate Technic, Bionicle, even Belleville pieces into standard kits, merely changing the colours.

    LEGO now recognises it has multiple markets. Sure, basic kits aimed at younger kids are simple, but when you have sets like the Fire Brigade with 2200+ pieces - and almost every single one of them a basic LEGO brick - you understand why the age rating on the front of the box is 16+!

    As to wings with cannons already attached… can you give the exact example? I’m finding hard to figure out which one you mean!

  6. @ Muffin - I think that there’s altogether too much time spent stressing over what is and isn’t right for our children, when so much of it goes over their heads! While I’m certainly not advocating excessive amounts of coarse language, bloody violence or uber-sexuality should be presented to children, it can be a bit worrying when the slightest subjective subtext in a toy/movie/TV show can make alarm bells go off.

    LEGO, although arguably targetted predominantly at boys, is still (in my eyes) a very gender-neutral toy. I even remember a rather ‘pink’ line of LEGO called ‘Paradisa’ (or some such name) when I was growing up… I won a LEGO competition by turning Paradisa LEGO into an attack helicopter: HA! The equivalent toy when I was growing up was action figures… it taught us that launching a spring-firing missile was an acceptable form of conflict resolution.

    @ Tony - Welcome to the blog and thanks for your thoughts. My experience with LEGO has been that they use custom pieces sparingly, although there were certain kits that seemed to include custom pieces for the sake of it (meaning that a single custom piece could have been replaced with multiple existing pieces). My last LEGO purchase was the (then) largest LEGO set - the Star Destroyer! I never got around to completing the beast, and it did have some shoddy design flaws in my opinion (the angled pieces at the bottom of the Star Destroyer were only held in position by three magnets on each side). Regardless, it sounds like you know your LEGO.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!