Learning to play alongside your kids

Jennifer offers tips on how to play with Lego with your kids — even if you don’t really like it.

Jen and Isaac with their Lego masterpieces.
Like all Grade One boys, Isaac is obsessed with Lego. From the time he wakes up to until the time he goes to sleep, that’s all he does. In fact, he sleeps with the little figures from his Ninjago set, which is his current favourite. I’ve said before about the creative things he builds, but I’ll say it again — his imagination is amazing. On the other hand, shortly after I stopped playing with Lego as a kid, my imagination took a nosedive. I try really hard to build alongside him, but I get stumped. I build really great houses and walls but nothing else, so I find myself trying to avoid Lego with my son because I just don’t have fun.
I know I’m not alone in not being good at Lego — a few of my girlfriends have said the same thing. We’ve brainstormed ways to try and get more involved with Lego play and I want to share four ideas which have worked for me.
The Lego Instruction App
Is there such a thing as builder’s block? Faced with a bin of bricks, I’m stumped as to what to create with them. But guess what? There’s an app for that! Created by Lego fans, there are hundreds of step-by-step Lego instructions.
Search missions
Quite often my son has an idea in his mind of what he’d like to build and, of course, there’s always that one elusive piece that is missing. With three huge bins of bricks, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack — but I’ve discovered that’s what I’m really good at when trying to play Lego with my children.
Duplo Build Alongs
The Duplo Build Alongs have been a lifesaver. With the recent rainy days we’ve built each of the play projects. What is great is that they are simple enough that my toddler daughter can make them as well.
Read instead of build
Like I mentioned earlier, Isaac’s new favourites are the Ninjago playsets. There are a series of books that go along with his favourite ninja characters, so when I need a break from building dragons and dojos then we can read together. And the days that the Lego Club magazine comes in the mail is an exciting day in our house.
Putting my dislike of Lego aside has helped me bond with my son. Recently, Isaac has been coming home from school stressed out and a little sad. Despite being chatty, he’s not much of a talker when it comes to what is on his mind, and I’ve been struggling to get to the bottom of what is bothering him since straight-out questions don’t work with this kid. What has worked is sitting beside him, looking for the perfect brick to help him finish the masterpiece he’s working on, and letting him take the lead on when he wants to talk about what’s on his mind. Simply asking him how his day was opened a floodgate of telling me about his anxiety around spelling test time and his frustration about noisy lunchtime when all he wants to do is eat his lunch. When his hands were busy building, his brain seemed to relax enough to tell me what was making him sad. I guess Lego isn’t so bad afterall.
What is your favourite activity to do with your children?
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