The title’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? But it really does sum up what I learned while hosting a spring break LEGO event. The program is pretty simple: bring in a big tub of miscellaneous LEGO pieces, put out some LEGO books as inspiration, and let kids have at it.
Of course, things are never quite as simple as that.
“What am I supposed to build?”
“Am I doing this right?”
“Is my building good enough?”
Or, from a concerned parent, “am I allowed to help my child with their building?”
It’s easy to assume that all children will instinctively know what to do when presented with an open-ended project, whether it involves LEGO pieces, beads, plasticine or crayons and paper.
The reality, though, is that children (and their parents!) can sometimes struggle with the idea of undertaking of project with no specified outcome, and for which there is no correct answer. The idea of just making something for fun, without worrying about whether it’s “good enough” can be quite an unsettling experience.
What worked best for my group, I found, was leading by example. I dove into the tub of LEGO, pulled out pieces of different sizes and colours, and started to stick them together. First I built a little house. Then I took it all apart and just put pieces together at random, mixing colours and sizes to create a little abstract art installation. I smiled. I had fun.
At first the children watched with some confusion, not quite sure what I was doing. Slowly, hesitantly, they ventured in to the tub of LEGO and started fishing out different pieces of their own, tentatively sticking them together on a LEGO board.
Eventually the flood gates of inspiration opened, and I saw some beautiful and highly creative sculptures come to life all around me. I did still get the occasional question about the quality of a creation, but that’s natural – not everyone is a naturally confident creator. Still, my dubious kids had become a group of eager architects, working in hushed silence on their masterpieces.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that you have to always be flexible when working with people, and be open to having your assumptions challenged and your expectations overturned. Be patient, and have fun. Your program might not run the way you expected, but with a smile and some understanding, you’ll get there in the end.