LEGO® Bricks are such a versatile toy. We all know that they make great
educational tools because kids love them so much they don’t realize they are learning while playing with them. Additionally, they make great tools for LEGO Therapy for fine, and gross motor development. They also can be used for vision training, speech training, and so much more. With these versatile toys, the simple LEGO Bricks are being used by therapists and moms alike to help neurodivergent children.
Both formal and informal Lego groups have been popping up all over the world – in fact, Lego therapy is now considered a successful type of play therapy. Several educational and medical studies in the UK and the USA found that facilitated group projects with Legos can help develop and reinforce play skills and social skills such as:
Verbal and non-verbal communication
Sharing and turn-taking
Building with Lego bricks is a multi-sensory, open-ended experience, so the building projects can be tailored to any person’s unique needs, such as blindness, deafness, mobility impairment, autism or ADHD. Lego therapy got started because therapists noticed that children and adults naturally gravitated toward Legos in a room full of toys. It’s a fun way to build upon existing interests and emerging skills – and the possibilities are endless!
LEGO, the popular, perfect, open ended, brain building, play for hours toy! At Brick League we have an ambition to empower all children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners and remove barriers while building confidence and self-esteem. While no two kids are the same, they all like to play. Inclusivity is vital and we should all seek to support every child. Our league is a primarily child-led inclusive learning-through-play approach where neurodivergent children and neurotypical children can engage and benefit from the same LEGO challenges side-by-side.
Neurodivergent children can often be misunderstood; they have the same need and desires as all other children; they want to be accepted and build meaningful friendships to reach their full potential and aspirations in life. Programs like Brick League give them a unique and playful learning opportunity to have positive social experiences, connect with others over a shared interest, improve emotional well-being and develop friendships. These programs can also help reduce adverse outcomes such as social isolation and mental health struggles while also helping to build stronger societal awareness and acceptance of neurodivergence.
Beyond the mentioned benefits mentioned earlier, one of the acknowledged benefits of LEGO play for neurodivergent children is the consistency in how LEGO bricks all fit into the same LEGO System in Play. This predictability can help children who may experience increased anxiety in social situations, e.g., if a child is expected to play with someone new. The many LEGO themes also help children practice their imaginative skills individually or in groups. The instructions for LEGO sets fit with the systematic way of thinking in some neurodivergent children, allowing play to be structured and predictable, even within a social setting. An infinite number of creations can be made; the possibilities are endless, so each time a challenge is begun, there is the desire to develop it and make it bigger and better. LEGO building toys are extraordinarily popular among neurodivergent children. Since they offer a simple, predictable, repeatable activity that can be accomplished alone without outside help. They are also part of a system of toys that look and work in similar ways.
LEGO also offers the added bonuses of the following for neurodivergent and neurotypical children alike:
Playing with Lego and other construction toys actually builds multiple physical skills.
Manipulating the pieces helps to develop hand-eye-coordination, training the eyes and hands to work together, as well as bilateral integration– where the two sides of the body (or two hands) learn to work together.
Problem solving– a skill which is often stated as being one of the most important to stand out in adult life – is built early on in life, through play.
While you can do exercises as an adult to try to improve this ability, the best way to encourage this skill in your kids is to immerse them in play that involves regularly solving problems for themselves.
What does Lego have to do with problem solving?
As children build, they are basically solving one problem after the next as they figure out how to make the pieces fit together, make the structure look like it did in their mind, and structure the parts for different functions. They are immersed in learning early technology and engineering skills.
One of the reasons why Lego is so good for the brain is that it builds concentration span. The more a child is immersed and “lost” in an activity, the more a child’s ability to focus develops. Unlike screen time which is a passive activity, any playtime where a child is actively involved in thinking will have a positive impact on their developing attention span.
Learning to plan is a skill that needs to be practised like any other. You will notice poor planning skills in how a child at school lays out their work. For example, they run out of space on the page, begin without a clear direction and change course later, or ask to start again.
Ever seen a child’s drawing of their family, where the last person is squashed into the corner? This shows a child’s developing ability to plan before beginning a task, as well as their spatial skills when planning out their page or their task. Lego is a great tool for practising having a plan in your mind and then carrying out the plan.
While learning with Lego can occur while playing independently, one of the most educational things about it is the social skills building. When children build something together they learn to share, consider others’ opinions, take turns, be patient, and give constructive feedback and criticism (“it might fall down if we do that; why don’t we try it this way”). They also experience the joy of working collaboratively with someone as well as the simple pleasure of spending time with friends.
Not only is playing with construction toys quite a therapeutic, stress-relieving activity, but it also encourages symbolic play (or pretend play).
When children engage in pretend play with others, they get to ‘act out life’, so to say, in a safe and healthy manner. They role-play, converse, pretend to be grown-ups and attempt to understand all the aspects of life through play.
Feeling determined to complete something builds a child’s perseverance, a great value to teach your child. An activity like building a structure has a start point and a desired goal. Few children would be satisfied to leave their construction halfway, which gives them the motivation to persevere.
Ready to boost your child’s intelligence with Lego?
It's beautiful for all children to have positive social experiences and make friends over a shared interest. It doesn't matter if you are neurodivergent or neurotypical; a shared love of LEGO is a great common ground to interact and play together. Furthermore, new research shows it might be imperative for neurodivergent young people to socialize with other neurodivergent young people. Meeting others with similar interests, similar challenges, and similar communicative styles can be fantastic for making friends and feeling a sense of belonging.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to provide medical or therapeutic advice, your doctor and therapist will prescribe your child’s therapy program. You should always follow all the precautions your doctor or therapists provides, as well as using just good old common sense.