Those little interlocking blocks
Would you believe there is even a theme park for Legos? I have not personally visited there but
I have read about it. The largest Lego models I have seen were in a toy store in New York City. The large
dinosaur was very impressive. I clicked pictures here and there to document the size of the models.
Legos came on the scene in the late 1950s. The small kits that were sold were just collections of the various sizes of blocks. In the early 70s our son got a set of Legos that he thoroughly enjoyed. We still have them in their original box. His son played with them when he was old enough to handle the small pieces. They also went to the fair to be shared with friends.
Our son wanted wheels to go with his set but we were not able to find them. He settled for another style of plastic blocks that had wheels so he could build things that moved.
The set our son had, came, complete with diagrams of various buildings and other things to build. We tried them all but decided that just building on our own was the most fun.
It was good for the children to be able to follow the patterns, but it was also beneficial for the children to build on their own. Playing with Legos was a creative experience.
The thing I liked best about Legos is the imagination that they fostered. They could be something new each time we took them out.
When I taught kindergarten I bought a large set of Legos for my classroom. That was my best investment. The children played with them all of the time. I also bought a bench with three tubs to put them in. That made clean-up so easy. The children just deposited their things in the tubs and they were cleaned up. Sometimes if they were lucky the thing would still be there the net time they came to play.
When the grandchildren came along I invested in a large set of Legos to have here. I found a set that had people as well as wheels to make the things that move. At a yard sale I found a building platform for them to use. There was room to store the blocks on the sides. Many buildings sprang up on the building site. Often there was something that was carefully tucked into the side to keep for another day.
I found out that Godtfred Christiansen filed for patents in Denmark, Great Britain, and the U. S. for Legos. It was known as a stud-and-tube system of building blocks. The Lego Co. took its name from the Danish “leg godt” meaning “play well”. In 1967 the Lego group launched the Duplo brick, a larger brick for smaller children. The grandchildren had some of those, too. In fact, I think there may still be some in the box in front of my couch. Lego just kept on expanding their line of toys coming up with something called Mindstorms, bricks programmed to carry out various activities, in 1997.
How many of you grandparents have purchased a set of Legos for the grandchildren? Now they come in many varieties. I remember purchasing one pirate set. It was a little bit disappointing as the directions were not so easy to follow. I think the parents ended up helping the child build it. Maybe he was not old enough for the set I purchased. I am just not sure about that.
I have been researching some of the older toys. I picked up an interest in this when I traveled to Hungary – the home of the Rubik’s cube. Our guide told us they have an annual convention. Our children had Rubik’s cubes. My daughter got quite good at solving it. My source said it was invented in 1975 by Professor Erno Rubik although it was not marketed in the U. S. until 1979.
Of other interest is the idea of Silly Putty. It was patented by Rob Roy McGregor and Earl Warwick who both worked at Corning Glass. The patent they applied for was for “treating dimethyl silicone polymer with boric oxide”. The result was called Silly Putty. It was exhibited at the 1950 International Toy Fair.
I wonder about the toys of today and how they will fair in history. Electronics is moving so fast that by the time you purchase something it is obsolete. I am not sure how history will keep up with that pace. Unless something sells a tremendous amount I think it will just be a blip on the screen.
To keep things in perspective, look at all of the old toys that are still around. There are still Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Barbie Dolls, marbles, jacks, board games as well as Rubik’s Cube and Silly Putty. Not everything old is bad.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org