Imagine giving your child a toy fire station for their birthday. The picture on the box is spectacular. There’s hoses, reels, pretend fire and even a cute little bed for the on-call fire officer to nap on while waiting for the emergency bell to sound.
Now imagine when they open the box they discover the toy is broken into many tiny pieces.
If it was any other toy this would be extremely disappointing but this is’t just any other toy. It’s the new Fire range from LEGO DUPLO and I have only now discovered, on my phone, 48 photos of my son’s latest creation. He has showcased it from a few different angles and has taken quite a lot of blurry close-ups of some of the key features. It is his own augmented version of the LEGO DUPLO Fire Station. And, as if the 48 photos weren’t evidence enough, I can tell by his beaming smile and the way he sticks out his chest when he points out the smaller details that he is very proud of his accomplishment.
And so he should be. It has three levels, a rooftop terrace, a bridge, a bedroom, luggage compartments and a carefully reinforced set of stairs. I’m pretty sure one of the steps is a cake.
I’m pretty proud of him too actually. And I’m happy that the time spent playing LEGO – even though it was 30 minutes after his bedtime and he used up the last bit of available space on my phone – isn’t time wasted.
We all know that playing with DUPLO bricks helps kids develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, three-dimensional thinking and planning. We also know that it is sturdy, safe and engaging (meaning they can play for ages while we enjoy a much-needed break!).
But perhaps one of the most important benefits of DUPLO is how it opens up a world of imagination for our children. That big box doesn’t contain a toy broken into tiny pieces, it contains the potential to be anything your child wants it to be. It stimulates their imagination and takes them on a little personal development journey that builds empathy and self-esteem.
Imaginative play allows your child to take on the role of someone else. This is the first steps to developing a sense of empathy. Like when my son is role-playing with the DUPLO Fire Officer who is trying to have a nap and my daughter is the DUPLO Fire Dog barking in his face and jumping on him. I wonder how long it will take him to transfer this into real life and realise I don’t like being woken at 6am so he can tell me he wants to buy a walking stick he has seen advertised on TV.
Building and playing with LEGO DUPLO bricks has obvious effects on my children’s self-esteem (as evidenced by all the photos my proud son took on my smartphone). Just the fact that they can follow instructions, build the sets and then create endless other creations is enough to pump up their self-worth. But there are other ways that imaginative play can help boost a child’s self-esteem. When children are playing they are figuring out the world and their place in it. They have complete control over their imaginary world and the freedom to confidently assert that authority. Like when my son creates very strict rules about his Fire Station – such as only the fire officer with the moustache can use the hose and the one with the lipstick works the ladder. And dogs can drive boats, but not trucks. Of course.
This blog post is sponsored by LEGO® DUPLO®