My daughter is 6 and she has recently become a huge Lego fan. It has really moved on since I was a child, and you can buy pretty much anything out of Lego now! Being somewhat challenged in terms of spatial awareness, I could never work out the instructions of my brother’s Lego (and anyway, he loved making up his own models and so the instructions were usually discarded pretty quickly!) Now, I am quite enjoying it myself.
It is a fantastic toy – it builds imagination, perseverance, spatial and visual skills, problem-solving… There are also loads of opportunities to develop language with Lego. Here are a few ideas.
- Colours. This is perhaps the most obvious thing that springs to mind. There are fantastic opportunities to sort pieces by colour and name colours. At an early level, it may be good to just choose two or three colours and focus on red, blue and yellow (or even “red” and “not red”). However, there are so many colours of Lego now that you can also use this as a vocabulary expansion activity with older ones. The Lego dog we made the other day had 4 different shades of brown bricks. You could work on more complicated colour vocabulary (tan, chocolate brown and beige for example).
- Concepts. There are lots of other concepts you could use Lego to teach. Shape names, long, tall, short, transparent, rough, smooth, curved – there are plenty of appropriate Lego pieces or simple structures you can build to work on all of these.
- Play skills. Some children struggle to develop symbolic and imaginative play. These skills are important for language. Children who are not keen with teddies and dollies will sometimes have a go with Lego. I am particularly thinking of slightly older children who never really developed these skills. Use the Lego models and get the people to do different things – copy what your child does and see if they will copy you too.
- Description skills. Lego models make a great barrier game for slightly older children (7+). One person has the instruction booklet and gives instructions to the other of where to put the pieces. The Lego Creator sets are particularly good for this as you get 3 sets of instructions of different things to build with the same bricks. Here is one set I bought for this purpose, but there are lots of others that would work equally well. I am also planning to make a simpler description game with minifigures – the child will have to describe the pieces they want to make the figure of their choice. (I’ll just need to find a way of smuggling some minifigures out of the house without my daughter noticing!)
- Asking for clarification. The instructions in a description game are bound to be unclear at times. This gives a great opportunity to practise what to do if you are not sure of what to do. What will help? Do you need the instruction repeated or do you need to ask a specific question? (eg does this piece go behind that one? Is this the piece you meant?) Plenty of useful classroom skills here.
- Social skills and groupwork. The sort of game I have described above has been expanded and developed into a specific therapy for small groups called, appropriately enough, Lego therapy. I am not going to go into this in great detail here, but check out this book, this website and this video for a taster of Lego therapy.
- Problem solving. Even if you are not specifically doing Lego therapy, you can still work on problem solving skills and groupwork with Lego. Give the children a problem to solve and get them to work together to solve it. For example, the pirates need to get across to the island – build them a boat. I found this fantastic website which has 250 Lego challenge cards that you can download for free.
- Syllables. Duplo works well for this just because they are bigger and easier to see. See how many Duplo bricks you need for each word – one for each syllable. You could always write the syllables on as well to make it more visual (with a wipe-off pen of course!)
- Conversation skills. In a small group conversation, get the children to take a Lego brick each time they contribute to the conversation. At the end see who has the most/least – you can use this to open up a discussion about letting other people talk too if needed! You could use a similar strategy to work on topic maintenance – the kids can only take a brick if they added to the topic.
- Emotions. This isn’t something I would have immediately thought to target with Lego. But I found this great free game that uses Lego faces to work on emotions.
There are so many things you can do with Lego. I have only scratched the surface here. If you want even more ideas of how to use Lego in therapy, check out this book Building Blocks for Commuication