Google's homepage today and the Wikipedia entry alerted me to the fact that today is the 50th anniversary of the patent for the LEGO brick. And LEGOs play a large role in our household right now. Last year my older son, Josiah, got into building LEGO Star Wars kits, and we now have an armada of LEGO Star Wars vehicles in the playroom, from A-wing to X-wing. We just got several more new kits over the weekend, and we spent hours assembling them and staging little scenarios with them.
I have to say that I'm a bigger LEGO fan now than I ever was as a kid because I now look at them through the lens of being a parent. I'm thrilled to watch Josiah exercise his creativity and build things both by following instructions as well as imagining things on his own. He'll invent new spaceships and figure out how to use the right bricks to have movable wings and docking bays and whatnot. He gets a kick out of mixing and matching LEGO character pieces; he'll take a Luke or Han head and put it on a stormtrooper body and act out the scenes from Episode IV, or he'll give Leia a lightsaber and turn her into Darth Leia, Dark Jedi. I think it's significant that he plays more creatively by building his own scenes with LEGOs than he does with pre-fabricated toys and action figures.
My only ambivalence about LEGOs is that they've gotten us into this habit of consumerism by continually adding new releases. Both the Star Wars brand and the LEGO brand are tremendously strong on their own; combined, they're nearly irresistible, at least for this 6-year-old and his thirtysomething dad. Look, a new Rebel Scout Speeder! A new Imperial Dropship! But we're glad to have a constructive, developmentally engaging way to play together. Josiah has more Christmas money than he knows what to do with, and there are worse ways for him to spend it.
So happy anniversary, LEGO. Thanks for expanding our imaginations.