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Take LEGO sets apart to get full play value

Parents of young LEGO fans often talk about how much space LEGO sets take up in their homes, and it's certainly true that storing a LEGO collection can be a big job. Many kids, however, are missing the whole point of LEGO by building their sets once and then keeping them put together, as if LEGO sets were the same as a model airplane or car kit. Rather than devoting an ever expanding section of the house to sets that merely gather dust, parents need to encourage children to take LEGO creations apart and use the pieces to build their original structures again and again.

With LEGO pieces, children can build whatever they can imagine.
Photo by Jennifer Garlen

Why do parents and kids leave LEGO sets put together? Children might do it because they are proud of their ability to follow the instructions and build a complicated model, and parents might see deconstruction as somehow devaluing the worth of an expensive set. "I paid $250 for that model, and now you want to break it apart?" a parent might ask in bewilderment. Many children might well see the sets as ends unto themselves, and parents might not even realize that their children are missing a major component of the LEGO play experience.

However, there are plenty of good reasons to change your thinking about LEGO if you are one of those families with shelves full of Star Wars ships and Chima vehicles. Here are five arguments urging you to take those LEGO sets apart and start building from scratch.

1) That's the whole point of LEGO.

Ever since the toy was first introduced, LEGO has been all about a system of creative play. While themed sets have come to dominate the toy department shelves in recent years, loose brick still lies at the heart of the LEGO concept. LEGO designers have worked hard for decades to create simple interlocking parts that can be combined in literally millions of different ways. A forty year old can dig out his childhood collection of bricks and have them work perfectly with the brand new parts his kids are getting. LEGO pieces are not parts designed to go in one spot on one specific model. They can be used in different ways for different projects, and therein lies their brilliance.

2) You'll get more bang for your buck.

Everyone knows that LEGO is expensive (especially if you are foolish enough to buy it at Toys R Us, where a 30% mark up is an appallingly common practice), but replay value on the sets is huge if your kids don't view finished models as sacred cows, never to be tampered with or even played with once completed. Think of the money invested in LEGO as play value spread over years of a child's life. Each new set expands the building opportunities of the old ones. Breaking the old sets apart means that the pieces can be used in twenty different projects, giving a child far more hours of amusement and mentally stimulating play. That $50 set could provide decades of play value, and the parts will never become obsolete. Your grandchildren could get just as much enjoyment out of your son's LEGO collection as your son has; that's something you won't be able to say about those Xbox games or the shiny new phone that will be out of date before your kid's next growth spurt.

3) Storing is much easier with loose bricks.

Those sets can take up a lot of real estate in the play room, but a couple of good storage containers can hold a huge amount of loose LEGO brick, especially if the collection is well organized. Stored LEGO parts don't gather dust, don't get stepped on when they fall off of a model, and don't go crashing onto the floor when the cat feels adventurous. Sets are not trophies celebrating Timmy's ability to follow directions; they're several hundred pieces of opportunity to do something entirely new. Get them broken down and into bins, where the kids can see the parts for their true potential. It will also save you a lot of time dusting and trying to put up new shelves to hold all of those X-wings and police squad cars.

4) You want to stimulate your kid's brain, right?

Yes, it's super that kids can follow the directions and build that Death Star all by themselves, but the act of building a pre-determined model only encourages one kind of thinking, and LEGO can do so much more. Loose brick inspires open-ended, creative play, the kind that American children get far too little of in their modern, over-tested and over-scheduled lives. Loose bricks inspire thinking outside the box, building something different, and experimenting with ideas that might or might not bear fruit. It's the difference between being a good cog in the machine and being the guy who invents the machine. LEGO even has a name for original creations: "MOC" stands for "My Own Creation." Adult LEGO hobbyists know that MOCs are where the real fun happens, and they prize creativity, humor, and ingenuity in original LEGO designs.

5) Loose bricks are gender neutral.

Since the debut of the LEGO Friends line, a lot of people have gotten into a twist about the gendered nature of modern LEGO sets, but the fact is that those loose bricks can be whatever your kids want, no matter what the official set might look like. Think those LEGO sets are only for your son? Take the official kit out of the equation and hand your daughter a big pile of parts. She can make a motorcycle or a mommy, a superhero scene or a tea party. Your son can make whatever he wants, too. Parents - and kids - can be narrow-minded about who the toys are for and what they can do when they only look at the official set shown on the box. Adult hobbyists look at sets to see what good parts might be in them; they often don't build the official kit at all. Once you mix those Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Friends, and Disney Princess sets up as piles of bricks, you and your kids can all see beyond the blue or pink box to appreciate the limitless potential of those glorious pieces.

Learn more about LEGO by watching the video at the top of this article, or visit the official LEGO website to see the latest products and news.

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