If you don’t have a stash of LEGOS somewhere, you’re in the minority. It’s been estimated that seven boxes of LEGOS are sold every second around the world. Wow! I guess if nothing else, the statistics tells us that LEGOS have a pretty high fun factor! The great news is that LEGOS are not just fun. Whether your child knows it or not, while she’s playing with those bricks she is developing some very important life skills for the future.
I am especially fond of LEGOS because they are a great experiential teaching tool for students with ADHD, who seem to be better learners when their education has both entertainment and a reward built into it. It’s a well-documented fact that medication is just one of the ways to help kids with ADHD thrive. In order for the child to truly learn how to make ADHD work for them, other modes of “treatment” must also be present – things like behavioral modification, counseling, and special accommodations. We know that symptoms of ADHD are better controlled when treatment combines all of the above.
LEGO “therapy” falls under behavior modification in my book.
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently, playing LEGOS with my six & four year old daughters and I’ve been able to pinpoint seven qualities/skills that can be strengthened by spending time building with LEGO bricks. Here they are:
1. Initiative – LEGOS are hands-on. From opening the box, to reading directions, to putting together the final product, all these steps require the person to make the decision to initiate, to engage and to keep going.
2. Following directions – Following directions is a great challenge for those who have ADHD. The ADHD, “racecar” brains want to fast forward through all the steps, and jump ahead to the end to enjoy the reward, but rushing means missing steps and making mistakes. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that following directions actually gets the person to the finish line faster than does guess work and rushing.
3. Perseverance – Due to the issues of distractibility and impulsivity, ADHDers have a hard time completing a task, especially if it’s a lengthy one. While it takes years to get better at completing tasks, I believe that it is a skill that that can be learned and should be practiced. Completing a LEGO project is an easy, fun way to start building this skill in kids. Especially as LEGO kits can vary in size and complexity from just a couple of dozen pieces to several thousand.
4. Imagination – Once a LEGO has been built and enjoyed for a time in its original shape, the inevitable next step is destruction, followed by reinvention, this time without instructions or directions, but simply out of one’s imagination. This is where those with ADHD shine the most. Because of the way the ADHD brain is wired, it has the ability to come up with the most wonderful, amazing creations. Using LEGO bricks to build creations simply from one’s imagination is an excellent way to foster it.
5. Problem solving – There are literally hundreds of different LEGO pieces available to the “builder”. There are the basic bricks yes, but also, wheels, doors, hinges, planks, buttons, and all kinds of thingamadgigies. The bigger your collection, the more choices you have to make about how to best build that next vehicle, spaceship or castle. This is where the powers of problem solving come into play. From figuring out how to create a symmetrical structure to attaching jet wings and making your dream machine be able to both fly and float, your child will be challenged to both identify the problem and solve it.
6. Patience – Along with perseverance, learning patience is crucial for a person with ADHD and very difficult. For most of us, patience is a life-long lesson, but LEGO construction can give your child a running start. The nature of LEGO construction is that whatever your child is building it can only be done one brick at a time. And that’s how life is in general – everything from getting through school to getting a black belt in Martial Arts follows this same, step-by-step concept. Keeping cool when that LEGO keeps falling apart helps prepare a person, in some small way, to have the same discipline in real life.
7. Teamwork – LEGO construction is not usually seen as a “team sport”, but in fact it can be! First LEGO league is a robotics competition (using LEGO Mindstorms robot kits) for kids ages 9 to 16. There are 19,000+ teams in over 55 countries that participate in local and national events. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Needless to say, my kids are a bit young for that, but we do work on the bigger sets together and it’s very much a collaborative effort. Team work is a crucial skill for any person to know, and kids with ADHD, who tend to struggle with building relationships can especially benefit from controlled activities where they have to work side by side with another person.
Last but not least, LEGOS are a great way to spend time together as a family. I know that it can be challenging to find activities that are both educational, fun and will keep your ADHD child interested for more than five minutes, but LEGO is definitely worth a look.