Saturday, May 27, 2006

My Brain

My brain is made of Legos. Getting the Lego brain to fit into my round skull was a little tricky with all those squared-off edges and pointy corners, but eventually I squeezed it in there...

Okay, maybe not. But I did learn a lot from playing with them over the years. Among other things, I learned problem solving, creative thinking, how to follow instructions, how not to follow instructions, patience, organizational skills, and pain tolerance. (Have you ever stepped on one of those things in bare feet?)

What great fun it was as a child to open up a new Lego kit, and pour all the pieces on the floor. I would marvel at some of the odd shapes and wonder what they could be used for. Then I'd get out the instruction book and go through it step-by-step, until suddenly I saw before me a wondrous castle (or maybe a pirate ship or a race car).

But, alas, as any parent can tell you, the glory days of this kingdom wouldn't last long. Once the castle had been fully explored and overtaken by an army of little plastic Lego people, that initial new toy thrill would start to fade.

That's when the fun would start. Instead of falling into disrepair and growing moss like any self-respecting ransacked castle, (or getting tossed in the back of the closet like a toy that's lost it's charm), this enchanted little castle would be magically transformed into a space ship. It might even be a space ship with a dungeon and turrets. Or wheels, or trees growing out of it. Whatever pieces happened to be handy and looked interesting could suddenly be given new life, boldly going where no plastic had gone before.

As a child, I used to build three-dimensional words out of bricks to cheer on my favorite sports teams. Then I moved on to whole stadiums where great sports dynasties would play. (I grew up near Cleveland, so those were the only sports dynasties I ever knew.) I remember building an F14 by carefully scrutinizing pictures from a Top Gun movie poster. I built dragsters that I would "test" by driving them into walls or down the basement steps. After I had discovered the weak points, I would redesign them to make them more durable, and pit them against each other. And upon our return from Walt Disney World, I remember looking on in awe as my step-brother demonstrated his working monorail built using the Lego motor and quite a few bricks.

We used to take a big 50x50 flat base and build these sort of plastic hedge mazes for marbles to roll through. They started out fairly basic, but it wasn't long before we were using ramps for the marble to roll up and drop off, to restrict the marble to rolling only one direction down a corridor, or making covered sections of the maze (with "skylights" to keep it from being totally impossible), or putting a second tier on the maze and using a little fork lift piece as the elevator.

I always loved digging out the strangest or most interesting pieces and then finding ways to use them for things other than the original intent. Fork lifts became elevators, wheels became propellers, wings became boat anchors and legs became landing gear. I had an inventory of the coolest Legos stored in my head, and could recite color and quantity as necessary. As a result, I would sometimes spend an hour or more looking through hundreds, nay thousands of Legos, looking for a particular piece that I just knew was in there somewhere.

But it's not just me. Ask around and you're likely to find someone close to you who'd be happy to reminisce about their own Lego creations. Although I didn't realize it until much later, I learned so many things playing with Legos. You can have your educational toys. I'll take my Legos. All those skills I unwittingly developed sitting on the basement floor are skills I use every day, even now.

Eventually we all outgrow our toys and we become grown-ups. In theory, anyway...

I would elaborate on this, but I have to go find two more flat, grey 2x3 pieces so I can finally finish building that Lego Brain.


At 5/27/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

Indispensable homeschooling tool, Lego. There should be special educational funding for it. Right now my boyo is making jousting tournaments with his, because he watched "A Knight's Tale" last weekend. Your kids are only 3, right? Are they (or either of them) into it yet?

At 5/27/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger e4 said...

My son loves them. He hasn't gotten to the point where he can build things himself, but he'll ask me to make something for him and then he'll play with it for hours. He refers to them as the "little tiny blocks."

We've got the big ones too, but they're hard to make anything recongizable with. Both kids love to tear apart anything we build with those though...

At 5/27/2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so right there with you. Countless hours I tell you, countless.
My personal pinacle as a young person was getting the auto chassis expert builder kit where I could join my two loves, legos and cars! Said set is still assembled in a box of my childhood stuff. Too many memories in that toy to ever get rid of. Have you been to the giant lego park out in Cali? OK, I've geeked out enough here.

Thanks for the trip down memory road, E!


At 5/27/2006 11:02 PM, Blogger Beo said...

Blockheads Unite! Our similarities are getting wierd-or perhaps it is just proper. I have over 40 gallons of legos in storage waiting for the kids to get past choking hazzard age-but I was literally still playing with them in college in my dorm room running week long sagas acros the floor complete with storylines and main characters.

At 5/28/2006 5:49 AM, Blogger Morgan said...

I married -W and I can tell you he sure does love his legos!

Rose needs to work with them more for spatial relationship work.


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