When I was a child, I was handed some Lego cases that my father used to play with as a kid. The satisfaction and fulfillment I felt after having built a little house or a three-wheeled car would come as an indescribable thrill. I used to put that little Lego house in one corner of my room and then place it in another, whenever I wanted. I changed the architecture manually, replacing a flat roof with a slanting one, experimenting with designs. Having the 3D piece in front of my eyes and the feeling that I created it with my hands, I think, cannot be compared to playing a 3D video game.
Today’s child can never experience that tactile feel, as all they can touch is one flat screen. All these changes have impacted demand altogether and the Legos produced and sold today are in the form of small sets, containing limited pieces. One set is used for constructing only one specific article, such as a figure or a vehicle. A user manual is provided and the child merely follows the stated A-Z instructions. She just needs to put the bricks in a manner and order prescribed in it. To put it simply, she can no longer imaginatively play with Lego the way one could earlier.
In fact, I woke up every day with newer ideas in my head that only demanded placing the same pieces differently. I did it on my own and it helped my abilities grow. This can be understood with regard to psychologists stating that the relation of the ‘mind and body’ is crucial when it comes to one’s mental development. A child playing with bricks in this way is both mentally and physically involved in the task, enhancing her intellectual abilities with the increase in focus and concentration.
It is really unfortunate to realise that children today lack the ability to concentrate, as they are spoon-fed from the start, leading to them never trying to ‘experiment’ and wanting everything ready-made. It would not be wrong to say that we are in an age of one-minute online tutorials. Again, I have no objection with that, but think for a moment if you can imagine life and build a thought beyond these tutorials. Can you spend hours trying to be imaginative with a lot of tiny bricks?
Keeping the psychological development aspect in view, the University of Cambridge hired a Lego professor earlier this year, to examine the importance of play in early education. The institute has introduced a degree specialisation in Lego-learning at post-graduate level, under the domain of educational psychology. They also aim to ensure that skills like problem-solving, team work and self-control also come as an added bonus when play-based teaching methods are incorporated into the curriculum.
Anyone with preferably research experience or keen interest in studying the effect of Lego in the psychological development of a child, can apply for the post. The salary package promised is the same as all the other professors at Cambridge, and so is the worth associated with this new discipline!
Many consider it to be a clichéd statement that technology stifles your creativity, but still, there is no doubt about it as today’s child cannot think beyond the touch screen. I do not intend to say that they should be kept away from it in this digital age, but the upbringing should ensure a balance where chances of the dumbing down of their imaginative abilities can be minimised.