Arthur Grant, Co-Founder of Muddy Smiles, examines how those loveable LEGOs we played with as kids helped inspire our love for cars. Grant, a self-described tech-geek and father of three, launched Muddy Smiles with his wife, Natalie, to help parents take part in the simple joys of childhood with their family.
If you’re a gearhead who takes pride in detailing, modding, and upgrading their ride, chances are good that your interest developed early. So many of us found our love for cars in childhood while playing with our favorite toys, piecing together LEGOs to create racers, and modifying sets for speed and aesthetics.
Making the journey from LEGO blocks to engine blocks is fairly common, in part because construction play during childhood encourages the development of skills that later transition well to hands-on hobbies and jobs. The skills boost kids reap from playing with LEGOs and other blocks are also great for their academic and social lives, so there’s plenty of good reasons to keep the tradition alive for your own kids – you’ll probably find yourself sitting down to help and having just as much fun as you did back then.
Thursday, January 28th, marks National LEGO Day, the 62nd anniversary of the patent for LEGO blocks being filed by creator Ole Kirk Christiansen and his son Godtfred. In the decades since their inception, the colorful plastic blocks have become a near-ubiquitous part of childhood, even finding use in therapeutic applications for children.
To celebrate, here are five ways your childhood LEGO play may have made you more adept with cars:
#1: LEGO Play & Spatial Reasoning
Being able to judge how much space something will take up and envision objects as moved or rotated from their current position requires spatial reasoning. While some people have natural spatial intelligence, many require hands-on activity to quite literally grasp the concept. Construction play, including LEGO play, is associated with increased spatial reasoning.
#2: Improves Fine Motor Skills
As you use tools, screws, drill bits, and other small objects in your hands, you’re relying on fine motor skills. These skills develop in childhood through hands-on activities like playing with LEGO blocks, which require kids to grasp, place, hold, and move small objects. Fine motor skills also provide more coordination and precision while writing and drawing.
#3: Inspires Creative Thought
If you sit around daydreaming about your car’s next performance or styling upgrade, you’re putting your natural creative thinking skills to work. Using LEGO blocks and other objects in construction play during childhood encourages you to think creatively, make a plan, see it through, and use imaginative solutions, just as you do when you’re upgrading your vehicle.
#4: Engineering Concepts & Moving Parts
Understanding simple mechanics is foundational in understanding more complex machines. The hands-on application of fundamental physics and engineering concepts can play a significant role. In one study performed by the National Science Foundation, fifth graders showed a significant increase in their understanding of engineering concepts when taught using simple LEGO-based machines.
One of the latest LEGO kits on the market, the Technic McLaren Senna GTR, has a V8 engine with moving parts and dihedral doors that open, just like the real Senna GTR. For school-age kids, these LEGO kits are a great way to inspire them both mechanically and creatively.
#5: Encourages Goal Setting
When you’re modifying a car on a budget, you might choose to upgrade one component at a time, all the while maintaining a plan of what to do or buy next; these are your personal goals for your vehicle’s function and appearance. Likewise, when children engage in LEGO play, they intuitively set and attempt to fulfill goals. This teaches perseverance and gives kids valuable experience in cause and effect.
LEGO Play Infographic
Many studies have specifically looked at the positive effects of playing with LEGO blocks. Here are 17 direct and related studies that make an excellent case for incorporating construction play in the home, school, and therapeutic settings.