Sunday, March 9, 2014

Chewbacca Goes to the Salon

Nothing too fancy, just a little off the top, please.
The other day one of Lysi's best friends came over to play. He's been coming over regularly since he was 18 months old (he's now 5), so knowing his way around, he pulled out a familiar drawer, and upon seeing a bunch of dolls, asked, "Hey, where are the blocks?"

Oh, yeah, sorry, the giant Mega Bloks, Tinkertoys, letter blocks, and generic wood building blocks got replaced with dolls because our two girls (ages 2 and 4) didn't play with them anymore.

"That's okay." He said, walking to a large storage cabinet in another part of the room, "I'll just play with Legos."

Yes, while all the other building toys have been tossed aside for stuffed animals and dollies, Lego has remained as the only building toy our girls still enjoy. But that's OK, because they really enjoy it.

I've already gone on here and here in praise of Lego's new sets which target girls, because at least for my girls, it is working. Here's what I mean:

Pet salon is busy. Not sure if Ariel is a customer or staff.
First of all, as a typically girlie girl, Lysi has something she can still do with her rough-and-tumble boy friend, and which they are both passionate about. When they were both two and three years old, almost any toy was fine for playing together. But now she's asking to play puppy and house, paint and dance ballet, while he wants to fight ninjas and make things explode. With Lego they can combine their interests and play together without either feeling as if they are totally giving in to the other.

In fact, this boy friend was so intrigued by the details in the Friends pets that he asked his parents for several for Christmas. The biggest bonus for me is perhaps getting to see things like Chewbacca going to the pet salon.

What 2 four-year-old girls made in 20 minutes.
Second, just as Jesus Diaz claims in his post Hey, Anti-Lego Feminists, "Lego for Girls" Actually Kicks Ass, Friends and Disney Princess sets can and will be broken up and made into new stuff by any typical kid, which is exactly the point and why Lego toys are so great for encouraging creativity, imagination, and early building of STEM skills. I thought about Diaz's post today when Lysi and another four-year-old girl built this awesomeness (according to them it is a fishing dock combined with a launching pad for a rocket ship - how sweet is that?)

Third, the Lego sets marketing to girls are not dumbed down in terms of their complexity or how much bang you get for your buck. In Why Lego Friends is not one of the worst toys of 2012 (and why Mega Bloks Barbie is), David Pickett reports on his comparison of construction complexity of various lines of Lego sets and Lego competitors. He writes:

If we assume that constructions sets with similar price points will result in completed models of equivalent size, then we can use the piece/dollar ratio of construction sets as a rough indication of the complexity** of one building kit relative to another. The higher the piece/dollar ratio, the more building is involved in a given set or group of sets. This is a way of quantifying the differences that are obvious to the naked eye in the above comparison of the Friends and Babrie sets. I charted these values for sets from nine different themes and found the average pc/$ ratio for each line of products. The product lines I used were LEGO Friends, Mega Bloks Barbie, LEGO City, Mega Bloks World of Warcraft, LEGO Ninjago, LEGO Paradisa, LEGO Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit, Mega Bloks Skylanders and Mega Bloks Halo. 
Much to my surprise, Friends came in second (Halo was highest) with a ratio of 9.8. 

Diaz argues that the heavily themed sets are a "back door" to hook kids on Lego and eventually interest them in other sets that are even more challenging and spark even more creativity:

Once the radioactive Lego brick bites them, they become hooked. The next time they will want one Lego set just because it seems cool or more complicated. The space shuttle. A Lego creator building. A Technic car. Both girls and boys would pick those and build whatever they want with them.

Two preschoolers concentrating for an hour and politely
taking turns following an instruction manual - just because
they wanted to build a scorpion. Lego must be magic.
When I first read that, I wanted to believe it, but I didn't know if it would be true for my kid. Now I'm watching it unfold just as Diaz described. As Lysi flips through her Lego magazine, she gasps and exclaims, "Whoa, cool! I want that!" at sets of robots, tow trucks, and airplanes. She's become such an impressive builder already, that she and her before-mentioned boy friend together built the scorpion from Lego's more challenging Creator line. It is a set geared for kids ages 7-12, and she and her friend intensely built it over an hour and 15 minutes, politely taking turns following the steps in the instruction manual.

As a parent, I must just say: Dude, that is so much cooler than watching her dress and undress fashion dolls for an hour. 


  1. Love it! I'm so thrilled that you are watching it unfold with Lysi and her friends, just as Diaz outlined. I loved them myself as a kid. They were the only toy that appealed to me and my tomboy little sister, and that we could and would actually play with together.

    I'm looking forward to Dot reaching the Lego stage. What did Lysi start with, and when?

  2. When Lysi turned 3 we bought her the blue box set, which she was initially thrilled with (because she knew of Legos because Will has a bunch of his own.) However, soon after she lost interest except when her boy friend was over, and she specifically asked us for pink Legos. Which was weird because she'd never seen the pink box set. She just intuitively knew it must exist I suppose because she's clued into today's toy marketing trends. So we got her the pink box set, and from there we started collecting the $3,99 Friends pets, and now she's spread out to being interested in lots of sets from the various lines, including City, Creator, the Lego Movie, as well as Friends and the Disney Princess line.

  3. The nice thing about her interests expanding to different lines is that it offers more choices in the $5-$20 range. This stuff can get expensive!

  4. Hi, I am a secular blogger who started a blogging carnival for atheist parenting. I just stumbled upon your blog and I think that your writing would really contribute to the overall project.
    Would you consider checking out the carnival and possibly sending something in for submission for an upcoming carnival? Don’t let the word “Atheist” in the title put you off...many of the people who submit blog posts for the carnival are humanists, freethinkers, agnostic, and a myriad of other imprecise and inadequate words of association. ;) Mainly I’m looking for posts about secular parenting, regardless of the label!
    Even if you choose to not participate in the carnival, I wanted to let you know that I am enjoying your blog! This post is adorable!


    CAP: Carnival for Atheist Parenting

    Feel free to delete this comment if you wish.