Remember a few years back when Lego unleashed “girl legos” on the market – the “Friends” line that Lego released a few years ago to market their product specifically for girls? Do you remember how mad feminists like me were? It seemed like the company figured that all they had to do was change the colors of Legos bricks from brown and blue to pink and purple, package them in pink and purple boxes and BOOM – they had Legos…for girls.
I was never a Lego kid myself. I have always thought they are super cool, in theory, but I have never been able to put them into practice. And still, I was totally infuriated along with the rest of them.
This all changed when, a few months ago, I started playing Legos with my daughter.
“The Squirrel” had inherited a whole bunch of classic, aka “boy”, Legos from a friend of ours and was immediately drawn to them. Because I was never down with Legos myself, when she first asked me to play, I panicked.
“B-b-but, I c-c-can’t do Legos.”
Being the Go Girl! I am, I didn’t actually say this out loud, thank god. Instead, I faked it. I jumped in, and tried it anyway. I tried to build a boat or house or whatever. I just couldn’t figure out how to put the bricks together in such a way that made them look like the thing I was trying to build in my mind. I got bored and frustrated she and I didn’t play Legos for awhile.
Then, my daughter was gifted with one of those Legos kits where they give you the step-by-step instructions for how to build the thing that’s on the front of the box. But, those were even worse…for me…anyway. The pieces are so small that my daughter can’t manipulate them and I can’t see them to help her because I am in my 40’s and my eyes don’t work like that anymore. Plus, neither of us are any good at following directions. She can’t read and “doesn’t want to do anything anyone tells [me] to do.” Direct quote.
I can read but I am totally directionally challenged. Not because I am rebellious like “The Squirrel,” per se. It’s just that my brain doesn’t work like that. A.D.D., perhaps? I don’t know. All I know is that written, step-by-step instructions allude me. I can’t follow a recipe. I can’t put Ikea furniture together. If there is not someone in front of me – either live or on video – showing me how to do something, I just won’t get it. We know that there are multiple intelligences and I discovered years ago that I favor an interpersonal learning style. I learn best by hanging out with other people.
I don’t know my daughter well enough yet to know her exact learning style but I do know one thing from observing her play with Legos. Whatever she is building, it always has everything to do with people and those people’s relationships. She never builds boats or houses or whatever just for the sake of building them. She builds them so that her imaginary people can become families and have places to eat and sleep and fight with each other and say sorry and forgive each other and start again.
When she looks through her collection of classic Legos for the Lego people to put in these structures she is building, she only finds “boys” with mean faces and harsh uniforms. “Where are the girls?” she asks. “Please help me find a girl!”
So, I have to admit that I was quite grateful when she received her first set of “girl Legos.” (Yes, she does get a lot of gifts!). Finally, she had some girls she could add to her structures. I didn’t really mind that the bricks were mostly pink and purple because they added some color diversity to the mostly grey, blue, and brown that dominated her huge box of classic Legos. The “girl Legos” have not limited her options as a girl. Instead, they have honored her play style and have allowed her imagination to grow.
Now even I see the Lego bricks in a new way. I don’t get so intimidated about what I can or can’t build. Instead, the bricks become a vehicle for dramatic play and I can find my way in. I can engage longer with the toys and, ultimately, with my daughter.
All of this is not to say that Lego is completely off the hook. Their products include the “Heartlake Shopping Mall” and “Stephanie’s Beachhouse” but there is no soccer field or Oval Office kit to be seen. The girls pretty much all look the same – some a little browner than others perhaps. So, yes, I get “girl legos” but, we have a long way to go.