Child Development – Lego Therapy Benefits

In 2018 the Lego Foundation commissioned a report looking at the state of play both in the UK and 8 other counties (China, Denmark, France, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico & USA).  This report received 12,972 responses from both Adults and Children and they were asked questions around 4 key areas:

  • The benefits of play for children, parents and family life.
  • Preferences and barriers to play
  • The importance of lifelong learning through play
  • The role of play in developing the skills children need for the future.

Incorporating, play into your lives it can not only be fun but also help to develop and grow social skills, help to refine emotions, Empathy, Humour, and Confidence and also help to build resilience and create relationships with family and friends.  The report suggests that ‘Play is the engine behind human development.  In the first 18 months of life, children learn how to control their bodies, coordination, communication and basic emotional responses.  Motor skills are learnt through long bouts of repetitive play, visualisation, and eye coordination, which can be accelerated through play.

When a child reaches 24 months they start to learn and develop their creativity, imagination which will carry on into adulthood.  When placed in group play sessions the children can develop their confidence and self-esteem, as well as learn and how to collaborate with others.

Dr Elena Hock, Senior Lecturer in Psychology in Education who took part in this report is quoted saying “Play is an integral aspect of how young children learn….Even in adulthood being playful or having a positive sense of humour is linked to better mental health”

Looking at neuroscience it’s showing us how play can help develop the DNA that triggers different stages of human growth and if a child fails to have enough playtime they could potentially miss out on some of these key development stages and could find it hard to develop these at a later stage.

Dr Zhen Wu, Tsinghua University, China is quoted as saying “constructive play is a great way for children to develop physical and cognitive skills, improve fine muscle movements.  They also gain experience testing their hypotheses about the world and learn how to solve problems with the ways and sequences of fitting pieces together.  Also will learn how to cooperate with others, take turns, play games, devise contests as well as resolve peer conflicts.

The Lego Foundation Report found the following results on how both parents and children recognise the importance of play.

  • 95% for problem-solving
  • 96% for working or collaborating with others
  • 96% for socialising with others
  • 94% for being able to question and make up their own minds
  • 95% for curiosity
  • 96% for communication
  • 96% for creativity
  • 93% for emotional intelligence / empathy
  • 95% for confidence
  • 94% for learning from mistakes

In this report, they found that 8 out of 10 parents believe that play helps their children to learn in any environment (Home, Nursery, School) and they feel that it’s one of the most beneficial education techniques for developing children’s skills.  This comes above reading books (7 out of 10), Classroom teaching (6 out of 10), Interacting with friends (7 out of 10) or surfing the internet (2 out of 10).  The report also asked what the children thought and 8 out of 10 agreed that they learn more through play than other teachings.

Not everyone can or will learn in the same way to situation especially when it comes to education.  I know this from first hand as I really struggled at school due to being Dyslexic and I learn much better from actually doing task rather than sitting in a classroom trying to listen and process the information the teacher is trying to deliver.  Due to people all learning in different ways there is an increasing sense that life skills and playful teaching should become part of the curriculum so that all learning styles are covered.  Traditionally education has the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), there is talk that this should now become STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics), with the addition of A = Arts this can bring in the play learning which can also include music, art, creativity which in turn help to develop life skills for children.  China & Saudi Arabia have made creativity a priority throughout their education system.

Play does not just have to be in an education setting, it can happen outside of this setting in the family home.  Playing with parents, siblings, relatives as well as friends can help to develop stronger bonds as well as being less stressed and healthier.  This does not only benefit the children it also has an effect on the adults as they too can become less stressed and happier and its a great way to connect with your children and have family time.  The report states that 9 out of 10 parents agree that family play time help to build stronger bonds and also keeps them involved with their children.  The children themselves agree that family play makes them feel valued and validated as well as helping to boost their self-esteem and confidence.

The Lego Foundation report highlighted that there is in fact a Play Gap.  With the current world we live in everything is wanted now and trying to juggle work, home & family life can be come difficult for some people and this means that a Play Gap has emerged. 4 out of 10 parents acknowledged that they do not spend enough time playing as a family, where as 1 out of 10 play for less than 2 hours per week.  Out of the countries that took part in this study the UK came out as the 4th (18%) highest countries children don’t have time in the day to play, with Saudi Arabia in first place (32%).  One of the barriers to play that was identified was that technology gets in the way, be that phones, iPad/Tablets, Playstation etc, as children are often spending too much time in their own little technology world and not interacting with the people around them.

Jessica Joelle Alexander (Parenting Expert) states that the more we over-schedule children’s lives, the less likely they are to be de-stress and process what they have experienced in their day.  Play is learning.  The key to great family play is allowing ourselves to be totally “in the moment”, without any expectations.

The way we play has changed for children with the introduction of technology.  Back in the day when technology was not readily available children use to play and interact with others, use their imagination.  Now 7 out of 10 parents believe that screen based play stops children from thinking for themselves.  However digital play will not go away and we must adapt and embrace this to form a more holistic play environment.

Lego Play comes under the Constructive Play banner, this is where the play involved making, doing, testing, exploring and working towards new goals.  The sense of progress and achievement as a child completes a challenge, and the high levels of creativity and problem solving needed to help foster intrinsic motivation, self-determination and a growth mindset.  In the report they asked parents what they thought about Lego as a construction toy, the results are:

  • 94% say its stimulates child’s imagination
  • 93% say it helps the child to be creative
  • 91% say it helps the child to learn and discover new things while playing
  • 91% say its a fun activity for the whole family
  • 87% say that lego helps them to be creative
  • 84% say it helps the child to develop life skills
  • 76% say that Lego appeal’s more to them than any other form of play.

The Lego Foundation report broke down their findings to each of the countries taking park and the results from the UK were:

  • 96% of the parents agree that play is important tool for child development
  • 96% of the parents agree that play should be used in schools as a form or learning
  • 78% of the parents agree that learning through play is the most effective educational technique
  • 84% of the parents agree that playful learning as children leads to a greater success in higher education and the workplace later in life
  • 83% of the children agree that playful teaching in schools helps them learn more and learn better.

From what I got out of the report commissioned by the Lego Foundation is that Play makes a better world.  We need to look at all areas that can help both children and adults learn and adapt to different situations and environments.  Employers these days are looking for candidates to stand out from each other and by developing and nurturing the children in their early years and throughout education with play learning this will help  them to develop their social and emotional intelligence, with critical thinking, problem solving, communication and creativity.  Go and find your inner child and enjoy creating and playing and see what you discover.