Note: This post contains affiliate links. You may read my disclosure here.
Last Friday was National STEM Day. National STEM Day was founded on November 8th, because abbreviated it’s NOV8 (innovate). For STEM Day I teamed up with a few other Instagram accounts to share activities from each aspect of STEM. Of course, I was in charge of posting an engineering activity. The engineering activity I shared in my post was building.
I love building because it’s so simple, and so accessible to anyone (all you need is something to stack), but it’s so beneficial. Kids are having fun and don’t realize the life-long benefits they are gaining. When kids build they are learning. Here’s what I shared on my Instagram post last week:
I’m sharing an Engineering activity today! I wanted to share something that is simple and accessible for kids of all ages (from 1 to 99).https://www.instagram.com/engineering_emily/
It turns out that kind of activity is something my kids and I do every day at my house: building.
You can do this with so many different toys: wooden blocks, plastic blocks, Legos, Duplos, magnetic tiles, Lincoln Logs…any stackable toy you have at home.
You might be thinking to yourself, “yeah we do this everyday, what’s the big deal, where’s the STEM?”
There are many foundational engineering skills being developed when your kids are playing with these building toys.
•Your child is developing 3D spacial skills (think skills they will need in AUTOCAD class in engineering school) while visualizing and creating the buildings.
•They are learning about gravity – the blocks fall to the ground (rather than floating in space) when pushed or tipped over.
•For the structure to stand, the sum of the forces have to equal zero (Newton’s 2nd Law). This is something they will learn about in Statics class in engineering school.
So while this seems like (and truly is) fun and simple everyday play, I highly encourage this everyday play for my kids and all young children because they are developing a foundation that will help them understand their advanced engineering classes in a way that others may not.
I want my kids to think of STEM not as activities and classes they HAVE to do, but as activities and classes they LIKE to do.
For more details, see my STEAM Experiment blog post on tower building from a few years ago.
I wanted to share this with you on today’s post about LEGO Classic sets because LEGO sets fall under the building toy category and are great STEAM toys. Not only do they provide the engineering benefits I listed above, but they also help kids with math, because you have to count out the pieces and also count the size of the pieces needed, (for example you may need four 2×4 blocks). They help kids with learning to understand and follow instructions. They help kids with colors because they need to find blocks that match the colors in the instructions.
We got my son a LEGO Classic Bricks and Gears set for his preschool graduation and a LEGO Classic Large Creative Brick Box set for his birthday this year and they been the best LEGO sets we’ve ever bought.
My son is only 5 years old, but we’ve already bought and been gifted quite a few LEGO sets since he was about 3 years old.
Most LEGO sets we have are themed (For instance, we have Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Toy Story, and Cars sets), which the kids love because it has characters and scenes from their favorite movies. But…in my experience, we build it together once, he’ll play with it here and there for a few weeks, then it goes into a box under the bed, and rarely is played with or built again.
Don’t get me wrong – we love even the character themed LEGO sets. They are very fun and educational: the kids are learning to follow steps in the directions, how to count pieces, how to build and stack the pieces (fine motor-skills practice), how to visualize things spatially in 3D.
A difference I noticed with the LEGO Classic sets is he’s building, then taking apart, then building again, and again. Our large set came with 790 pieces (you can find LEGO Classic sets in various sizes from 100 pieces to 1000+ pieces). The pieces are in many shapes and colors and you have enough to build anything your heart desires.
The sets each came with instructions to build 5 or 6 different toys, plus a link to find directions on how to build more using the kit online. My son has already built all of the models in the instructions multiple times.
Since the Classic sets come with such a large variety of pieces, it also allows kids to free build more easily too. They can use their imagination to build anything they like! In the character themed kits, you are limited to building only that theme, and you don’t really get an option to free build like you can with the Classic sets.
Free building is so important to teach kids to think independently and outside the box. Let their imaginations and critical thinking skills come together to try to create something new. It is challenging, and can be frustrating for kids, but it’s also important to encourage them to try. Let them know it’s ok to fail. If it doesn’t come out like they planned or wanted it to, discuss what they can try to change next time and build it again!
I’ve enjoyed helping and watching my son build toy after toy with these set. He builds something, and then he will save it and play with it for a few days to a few weeks, then decide to break it apart and build something new.
He especially loves the brick and gears set because the toys you build can move and spin thanks to the gears! I was shocked when he built the puppy by himself and showed me it’s wagging ears. He was so proud of what he built and had fun playing with it too.
As you can probably tell by reading this post, I am a LEGO enthusiast. In fact, my family visited a LEGO Land Discovery Center when we were visiting San Antonio this summer. It was so much fun, maybe I’ll get around to sharing more about our experience there in an upcoming post too!
With the holiday season quickly approaching this is one STEAM toy I think you should consider adding to your shopping list. In my home, the Classic sets have gotten a lot more play time than our other LEGO sets and it offers more benefits.
You can find LEGO Classic sets in most stores, and on Amazon using my Affiliate links for the Large Brick Box or the Bricks and Gears. The links are to the exact same sets we have, but you can also scroll down to find similar LEGO Classic sets in various sizes.
Do you have any LEGO Classic sets at home? What is your child’s favorite LEGO set?