Little Builders

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 30, 2013.

Last October I took my boys to a birthday party, and the birthday boy received a Lego kit.  While we were there, my six-year-old sat next to the boy who built the car, helping him find the pieces. Later, when we got home, my six-year-old said, “You know, I think I could do that.” 

That was music to my ears. This is a boy who as a toddler was content to watch me build with blocks and rarely took the risk to build his own tower.  Later I figured it out it’s partly because he’s a visual learner and likes to watch several times before he feels comfortable doing something on his own.

At the time of the birthday party, we only had Duplo blocks at home, which are the big Legos, and no Lego kits. But we did have a BYGGA construction set from IKEA, which has tools, wooden blocks, shapes, and wheels that you can make a plane, helicopter or motorcycle out of. Like Legos, the instructions are numbered illustrations, so my son could follow them without having to read anything.

The BYGGA set is not as complicated or stable as Legos, but my son had never tried to use it without my help. After the party, he pulled it out and constructed a vehicle with minimal help from me.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what Santa brought my son for Christmas, huh? Yes, a really cool Lego kit that he could build a plane, boat or helicopter with.

I don’t know why adults think that children don’t have long attention spans. I would have given up as soon as I poured those hundreds of tiny Legos on the table. But my son spent two days building the airplane, and again, he needed minimal help from his dad or me.

Last week, my son decided to pull the airplane apart and build the helicopter. Again, he spent a full day and part of another on it, and my husband was starting to get frustrated with him because it looked like his neck and shoulders were hurting, but my six-year-old wanted to persevere.

The next morning, my three-year-old asked his brother to make him a plane out of the BYGGA set, so he could “fly” around the house too.  My six-year-old was glad to do it, and then they spent the morning “flying” together.

Even though the BYGGA and Lego kits are beyond my three-year-old’s ability right now, I have always thought of him as my “little builder.” He is clearly hands-on, fearless, and he goes right to it whenever he sees anything he can stack. He even stacked the after dinner coffee cups left on the tables at my in-laws anniversary celebration.

We have several sets of blocks, and my three-year-old will stack them up, or he’ll make walls. I gave him a set of small Legos for Christmas, and he likes to cover the base with one layer of colorful Legos.

I have a small bag of geometric shapes, and he’ll pull those out and make interesting patterns on the floor, or maybe he’ll make a flower – something he saw his brother do. He’s good at puzzles, sorting and making patterns. Once he took a set of cards and lined them up on the floor, three to a row.

I’m thrilled to be home with my children and watch their unique abilities unfold. I’m grateful that they have the time and materials to express themselves and develop skills through hands-on work.

***

For some more information about how to get your children started building, be sure to see these previous posts:

If you’d like to read some articles about the benefits of block building for children, go here:

What kinds of things do your children like to build?

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