Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five Plot-Driven LEGO Sets for the Storyteller at Heart

lego sets for storytellers

Many people think of LEGO as a way to enhance design, construction and engineering skills, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also an endless opportunity for honing the craft of storytelling! Children love coming up with scenarios that complement the worlds they’re building, turning LEGO figurines into fully-formed characters and acting out detailed interactions and stories. While all LEGO sets are conducive to this, many of them were actually designed with specific storylines in mind. These sets introduce complex and imaginative places, characters and action sequences so that children will have a rich base to use as a starting point for their own stories. Below are a few of our favorite LEGO sets that feature strong, imaginative storylines.

1. LEGO Bionicle

LEGO Bionicle follows the story of Toa, a hero in search of a mysterious set of masks known as the Masks of Power. In this epic quest, Toa must traverse a wide array of terrains and fight colorful characters on the island of Otoko, in hopes of keeping the legendary masks from falling into the hands of evil Makuta. Fight the Skull Spider or help Tahu, Master of Fire, hop onto his lava surfboard. Each set offers an array of creative dual weapons and fosters an intuitive building experience as children engage in the part-science fiction, part-fantasy world of Toa. The action never stops with this exciting, innovative playset!

2. LEGO DUPLO

Featuring large blocks geared to the very youngest builders and creators, many LEGO DUPLO sets also provide natural storylines for little ones to follow. We especially love Peter Pan’s Visit and The Joker Challenge, both of which feature multiple characters to allow children to play out relationships. The characters are also iconic and familiar, giving the child a good foundation from which to create his or her own stories and scenarios.

3. LEGO Friends

The LEGO Friends line features five best friends living in Heartlake City, each one with a unique personality and set of interests. This set is geared toward the child who prefers very character-driven play, rather than action-driven. The child will be able to enter each character’s world and build scenarios ranging from nature to rock shows. This is a great line for children who enjoy playing with dolls, as the storylines here will allow them to continue to foster empathy and role-playing while also allowing them to build and create!

4. LEGO Legends of Chima

LEGO Legends of Chima helps children imagine the fantastical, complex floating island of Chima and the magical, human-like creatures who belong to the island. Each Legends of Chima set features a different unusual creature and storyline, allowing the imagination to run wild as the characters interact. Whether it’s the stark power of Maula’s Ice Mammoth Stomper or the intricacy of Tiger’s Mobile Command, these sets are action-packed and offer an endless array of character interactions, battles, and scenarios.

5. LEGO Ultra Agents

For a true “Good Versus Evil” crime-fighting experience, it’s hard to beat LEGO Ultra Agents. This set is centered on Astor City, currently in the throes of an evil supervillain. Fortunately for the city, there’s a whole cadre of crime-fighting Ultra Agents to the rescue! Each Ultra Agent set will allow children to embark on a new storyline with a different agent, all while constructing futuristic machinery and even solving puzzles. To supplement the story, there’s a downloadable Ultra Agents app that prompts children to solve more difficult challenges while adding even more detail to the plot. Far beyond a traditional action toy, this LEGO set will challenge the mind!

Did we miss any great story-driven LEGO sets? Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Encourage STEM Education for Girls with LEGO

legos and stem learning for girls

We’re thrilled to see the wonderful array of toys popping up that facilitate Science, Technology, Education and Math – STEM – education. Sometimes also called STEAM education (the extra A is for “Art”), STEM is a critical cornerstone in the success of young learners everywhere. Not only can it encourage extremely complex, high-level thinking; it can also level the playing field for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Underrepresented students who participate in STEM learning programs can go on to have rewarding careers fueled by an in-demand skill set.

Unfortunately, there are still barriers involved when it comes to engaging girls in STEM learning. From a very young age, girls are inundated with messages about which toys they should be playing with and which activities should interest them. By the time first grade rolls around, most students have already been shaped by the message that boys are more natural fits for math and science. From there, the gap grows wider; as more girls become ambivalent about STEM activities, the disproportionate number of boys excelling in the subject reinforces the stereotype.

How do these assumptions start so early, before school even starts? A large part of it has to do with the toys children play with. Most of the math, science and engineering toys are marketed to boys, while dolls and playhouses are marketed to girls. That means even if a young girl might enjoy playing with construction or engineering toys, she will shy away from them because they feature male figurines. Many of these toys also show boys on the box or in commercials playing with the toy, leading girls to assume the toys aren’t for them.

Fortunately, you can help girls discover their love of STEM learning with LEGO toys. While every single LEGO set is appropriate for both boys or girls, we have a few in particular that are more likely to provide a friendly introduction to STEM for girls who have mainly been exposed dolls and pink playthings through commercials and the toy store shelves. Below are just a few of our LEGO sets that do not contain male action figures or anything else that might make a girl think she shouldn’t be interested in the toy.

  • LEGO DUPLO sets (early learners): Comprised of larger, simple blocks for the tiniest of hands, most LEGO DUPLO sets are equally appealing to both boys and girls. We especially love the Neverland Pirates set, featuring both a boy and a girl pirate, and the Doc McStuffins character, featuring Rosie the Ambulance and a backyard animal clinic.

  • LEGO Elves sets: The brightly imaginative Elves line is heavily story-driven, with a young girl, Emily Jones, at the center of the narrative. Most of the elves in the storyline are female, and the lavish, fantastical settings appeal to young girls without being overly “girly.” If your daughter loves reading and telling stories, this is an especially great line for her. Check out the Mysterious Castle set for three female figurines, a jewel-toned castle, a lava kitchen, a magic owl, and more!

  • LEGO Creator sets: LEGO Creator sets are less character-driven than other LEGO lines, which means even some of the most stereotypically “boyish” offerings do not alienate females by featuring male figurines. Instead, girls can simply focus on their creation, be it a sea plane, an off-road car, or a beach hut. And with colors like green, orange, white, and yellow, most of the Creator sets also manage to avoid colors that are heavily associated with one particular gender.

  • LEGO Friends sets: If your little girl just loves dolls and all things traditionally “girly,” that’s okay too! The LEGO Friends set will allow her to be true to her tastes while still opening up mind to the world of construction and engineering through active play. Centered on five female characters, LEGO Friends embody a range of personalities and feature strong storylines. We especially love the LEGO Friends Dolphin Cruiser.

  • LEGO Mixels: These creative, quirky characters can be male or female. Any Mixel set can be combined with another for an endless array of designing and creative play.

  • LEGO Ideas sets: These unique LEGO sets contain some of the brand’s most beautiful offerings, and for good reason: the design ideas are all submitted and voted on by the LEGO community! Because these sets are community-driven, they often feature themes and creations that are a little more out-of-box and less gender-specific than other offerings. Check out the stunning Birds set for a construction toy that will double as a work of art in any child’s bedroom.

  • LEGO Architecture sets: If your daughter is creatively inclined, these architecture sets are the perfect way for her explore beautiful architectural designs while learning some fun historical trivia. They will help her move beyond drawing (another great skill!) as she watches her creations come alive in 3D form, learning elements of construction and engineering in the process. She can also go off the beaten path and alter the design if she chooses.

What are your girls’ favorite LEGO sets to play with? Share in the comments below!