Lego: More Than a Toy

Most folks grew up with some form of Legos in the house. In my day, Legos and Lincoln Logs pretty much ruled the construction toy types, along with those easily bendable girder and screw sets. Those sets probably are not around anymore because the tiny screws and bolts were always lost in the carpet. By today’s standard, they were horrible swallowing hazards.

Even my kids owned a ton of Lego that varied from Adventures in the Orient and early Bionicles to Star Wars and Harry Potter. We loved them.

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My first AFOL attempt of being original. A small park.

Over time, pieces went missing and pattern books disappeared, but the plastic storage box continued to fill with loose pieces. Once my kids grew out of them, I hesitated to get rid of the kits. After all, they represented a sizeable investment that surely my future grandchildren would want (right? maybe?), but they were also FUN.

As an adult, I watched the great sets formed in the Lego movie and though, “wow, that’s way cool.” However, I hesitated to jumping into them again for fear of what people would think. Several (uncool) family members would say something disparaging like, “you just never really grew up, did you?” or “going into your next childhood?”

After a while, I quit caring. You have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up. Anyone in the nerdarchy and geekdom worlds who loves anime, gaming, cosplay, or Legos understands this.

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Our first diorama. It is based off of the Creator City sets with a lot of extra details.

Not sure exactly when I embraced my AFOL side (adult fan of Lego) but I found a welcoming community when I did. In fact, I’m a piker compared to so many expert designers, architects, and clubs out there. Like them, I show up at the local Lego store and (for the most part) walk past all the sets to the back wall to fill up my drink-size plastic cups with indispensable and multicolored loose parts.

Now Legos are evolving into teaching tools, art expressions (example: Sean Kenney), and museum exhibits. I had the great pleasure of attending Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry’s Brick by Brick exhibit this weekend. The exhibit, written up in The Brick Journal, created a learning experience on architecture for old and young. Each Lego structure also included a great deal of information on the original building, space station, or roller coaster that it was based on. The emphasis was on beauty and function. Yet the AFOL would love it too as my husband and I stared at the glass enclosed structures, trying to figure out what specific piece Lego expert Adam Reed Tucker had used at a particular junction.

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Disney Castle as part of MSI’s Brick By Brick exhibit.

The adults enjoyed the exhibit more than the children, I think. Kids and adults had a chance to try their own hands at building against Lego board-covered walls or a race car in sections separated off for them. Towards the end of the exhibit, the museum had displayed several examples of buildings done by architectural firms and invited adults to dive into the taller bins of all-white bricks to try their hands at sophisticated construction as well.

Working with Legos is similar the train enthusiasts who love building dioramas (which I love to see as well). Going to events like this and the Lego-themed conventions helps bring like-minded individuals together. It also encourages the beginner, like me, to strive higher and see what can be accomplished with a little imagination and a lot of pieces. While there, I’m in awe of the displays’ beauty and complexity as well as the designers’ intelligence. My hands start to itch and I can’t wait to dive into my own collection. Not of lot of adult hobbies offer those same kinds of enthusiastic feelings.

In the end, many activities that we enjoyed as children are coming around again in grown-up forms, like Legos, toy trains, and even coloring books. The act of playing lets a person destress and it promotes a sense of control and accomplishment. Couldn’t you use a bit of that in your life?

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