LEGO® - Therapy in Disguise
We are currently deep into a LEGO® challenge that will keep the kids busy for weeks to come! The Out Loud team has brainstormed 20 LEGO® challenges and are uploading them each day at 8am to our Facebook page. Click here to visit Facebook.
LEGO® has been around for as long as most of us can remember. The LEGO® Group started in Denmark in 1932, though the traditional style Lego blocks as we know them today were developed in 1958. LEGO® is a family company that has been passed down through the generations of the founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen. LEGO® is a mix of the two words in the Danish phrase "leg godt" meaning to 'play well'.
In many countries around the world, LEGO® is a staple toy for children. It has become a staple therapy tool also with many developmental therapists using LEGO® to target social skills, expressive language, comprehension, concept development, problem solving, visual spatial awareness and speech sound development. The creative play, social interaction and unlimited building options give therapists lots of opportunities to build in goals (pun intended!).
At Out Loud, we use the principles of LEGO® Therapy in sessions and have a LEGO® group as part of our group cycle. An American psychologist - Dan LeGoff - found that children with social difficulties (such as autism) were more likely to interact with peers when engaged in a LEGO® task. Without the kids even realising it, playing with LEGO® offers so many ways to learn.
Here are some of the skills you'll find in an average LEGO® play session:
Colours - match colours ("I've got a red block, can you find another red block"), find colours ("can you please get me a blue block") and identify colours ("what colour is my tower?")
Using two hands together to manipulate the blocks, as well as reaching across the body to get more blocks or pass something are important skills to develop for young children. Since you can't build LEGO® with one hand, playing LEGO® is a great way to encourage the coordination of two hands together.
Building vocabulary - discuss features of the LEGO® (smooth, hard), the actions (fall down, put it up, put it here, it's stuck), social language (my turn, I'll do it)
Following & giving instructions - asking for pieces, discussing the build, making suggestions and giving feedback, there's so much language in a shared LEGO® build.
Cooperation and team work - as you work together to build something, we need to use our language skills to negotiate, explain, discuss and compromise. This can be hard, but as LeGoff found, these skills are sometimes easier for children to learn through LEGO®.
Develop fine motor skills - LEGO® is great for keeping fingers busy and learning to manipulate little pieces. Encourage your child to pull apart, put together and manipulate their own blocks, even if it's a little frustrating for them. Of course, no one should ever use their teeth to separate LEGO® blocks. Have you tried a Brick Separator? It makes prying those blocks apart much easier!
Following patterns - building from an instruction booklet or copying something you have built involves lots of skills such as block size, orientation and location. Your eyes and brain need to over quite hard to convert a 2D picture in the instruction manual to a 3D LEGO® build!
Numbers - LEGO® creations are usually made of many blocks of different sizes. Talk about numbers as you count the dots on the top of the bricks or count out the number of blocks you need for your project.
When the building gets complex, children will need to use higher level brain functions such as problem solving, reasoning, planning, evaluation & correction, sequencing and organisational skills. Set your child a challenge and see how they go putting these skills into action!
For older children, you can extend their language by assigning roles for their LEGO® play. One child is the engineer - and it's their job to plan out how the LEGO® will be put together. Another child is the builder - and it's their job to do the physical building. The engineer isn't able to touch the LEGO®, they can only give instructions. The builder isn't allowed to decide how where the LEGO® goes, they need to listen to the instructions. Not only is this a great game for teamwork and cooperation, but it also extends expressive language & comprehension skills. If you have more children playing, you can also have a supplier who gives all the bricks to the builder (following the instructions of the engineer) and a LEGO® supervisor who makes sure everyone is following the rules and doing their job.
As much fun as putting together LEGO® sets can be, free play with LEGO® is amazing, so don't forget to tip out all those bricks, blocks and accessories and let the imagination run wild! Make sure to clean up all the LEGO® pieces afterwards so no one gets caught out stepping on spiky leftovers!
To join in with our LEGO® challenge, visit our Facebook page. We'd love to see your creations! Here's some of the amazing projects we've had shared already this week.
The Out Loud team