Today I’m going to be making a deep point about lego. Well, to be more accurate-Megablocks.
As a side point, I wonder how many more kinds of lego are going to be patented. It’s actually shocking that in a world where no one has invented a truly leak-proof nappy, or a vest with poppers that fits a child older than 2, or a device which gets your kids up and dressed in the morning, (preferably activated by parents snoring) that we have about 18 dozen forms of connect-able block.
Anyway. My son has recently started enjoying mega blocks. He excitedly brings me the bag to unzip, and empties them out onto the carpet. He rifles through the assorted sizes and colours, hand picking the ones he wants, and is now truly adept at putting them together and pulling them apart. The last few weeks he is even building complex constructions and skyscrapers galore. It’s amazing.
However (and this may be a shock to some). My son has neither an engineering nor an architecture degree. And at the ripe old age of 1 and three quarters, he has very little concept of foundation or structure. So lego and its peers are very much a supervised activity, with parental help as and when.
Which brings me to my point. How much help is too much help?
I have 3 options. (In lego at least.)
- I help him build his tower, replacing pieces in his hands when I can see he is making a poor choice, trying to explain why, making the whole thing pretty much a formal learning game. In other words, let’s call option one, Sucking all the Fun Out of Life.
- I secretly rebuild the tower as we go, waiting until he turns to get another piece before rearranging the four pronger from on top of the one pronger etc, and remaking the foundations until I don’t have to hold it secretly between my own hands to get it to stay upright. Let’s give this one the ever catchy Lying to our Kids title.
- I let him make his own mistakes, letting the tower fall to the ground every time he places another brick, and hope he starts to work it out for himself instead of the far more likely options of him getting very angry and/or giving up. Let’s give this the optimistic heading of Embrace the Tantrum.
I doubt I need to explain the metaphor. There is so much that my son is on the cusp of understanding and doing himself. Every day he is trying to learn new things. But he is a baby. And the combination of easily frustrated and not very good at stuff is not exactly a match made in heaven. To avoid the seventeen episodes a day which range from mild whining to full blown tantrum-ing (I know sweetheart, it’s because the square doesn’t fit in the triangle hole.. Overreaction much?) I either have to do something for him, basically taking away his independence and causing a different whining episode, or make it look like he’s in control, when really he isn’t. (In which case-how is he ever going to learn?)
Like so much of parenting, it’s a balancing act. A lot of over-forced happy sounding “Oh dear!”‘s and “Let’s build it again!” and trying not to get frustrated audibly or noticeably with my own adult shortcomings, thus setting a bad example for how to deal with failure.
But part of me is waxing nostalgic over the days when play time was a simple trying to chew the head off a plastic dinosaur.