Last Christmas, my parents gave me an ultimatum that we all have to face at some point — get your childhood stuff out of our house (or we will). Among the old trophies, class projects, and ancient electronics were the toys that had survived past my childhood. Somehow, the 13-year-old me knew that I would someday have boys that would love these toys as much as I did. We pulled out the Matchbox cars and accompanying roads, bridges, and garages, and I enjoyed seeing both my boys give them new life. We pulled out a few games too. Perfection is a hit merely for the eagerly anticipated pop, but it turns out that Hüsker Dü, a game my sister and I played for hours, is just a matching game, and a pretty boring one at that.
The biggest find in the treasure trove was a bin containing thousands and thousands of LEGOs. Over the years, I had collected firehouses and fire trucks, police stations and police cars, and every construction vehicle that I could find. My sister and I used these sets to create whole towns where Matchbox cars would dominate the streets, and Barbie would have a conversation with a small yellow man with a red construction hat about the names of their future children. As I looked through the box, I remember thinking that there are very few toys that are pretty much the same today as they were 30+ years ago when I started my collection.
Fast forward to last Thursday when I had the privilege of attending a private party to tell parents about what was going on with LEGO in 2011. It turns out LEGO is huge! It is now the third-largest toy manufacturer in the United States (behind Mattel and Hasbro). LEGO City sets are still their biggest sellers, but LEGO continues to create new worlds including Harry Potter, Cars, and the one I liked the most, Ninjago, a world where two brothers (good and evil) fight to reign supreme over the ancient ninja art of Spinjitsu. Every world extends online with videos, games, designer Q&As, and a community of people sharing ideas.
Though the worlds LEGO creates are pretty amazing, I was especially excited to hear the LEGO representatives talk about their focus on the importance of open play. When I was young, my parents (like most) didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the floor playing with us. My sister and I created our own worlds with LEGOs and we would build on them day after day. These days, many parents are on the floor, often deciding the “right” way for their children to use toys, and few of us give our kids the chance to create and imagine. The LEGO representatives talked about the “Click” that a child feels when they’ve built their version of an airplane or a dinosaur, and all of us know exactly what they’re talking about.
Overall, I really enjoyed catching up with LEGO, and I look forward to both entering the Ninjago world with my sons and also giving them the freedom to imagine their own worlds without judgment from me. Thanks to LEGO for having me!