Main themes: Playing, education, children, social identity, Danish products and innovation

By Anne Katrine and Mathilde (Bjerringbro High school)


All over the world, children play with different toys. In some places they make the toys themselves but in the western world, parents in general simply buy the toys. Toys play a big role in the development of children’s minds and coordination. Therefore, in Denmark toys are often used in kindergarten and during the first few years of school. LEGO is an example of a kind of toy that can be used in institutions as well as played with at home.

In Denmark we tend to believe that we are very innovative, and most Danes would probably say that it is one of the most characteristic traits of Denmark. A lot of big companies have their roots in our country, and there is a lot of focus on developing new products and ideas.  “Danish Design” has become popular and stylish. One of the Danish concepts, LEGO, has become a very well known trademark in Denmark, and in other parts of the world, too. LEGO is a little plastic toy brick, but the special thing about it is that the LEGO bricks can be put together, which means that you can build different things with them. When LEGO was invented, nothing like it had been seen before, and in that way it was truly innovative in the toys department. In the beginning, LEGO was not very expensive as it is made of a relatively cheap material, but as the level of demand increased and LEGO became popular, the price, of course, increased as well. This means that today, even a very little box of LEGO can be pricey in comparison with other kinds of toys. The two sets of LEGO that you find in the collection are very small, but they both cost 80 DKK, which is quite a lot for such a small amount of toys. Therefore, it can be a costly affair to collect a lot of LEGO in order to be able to build more and bigger things.

LEGO can be passed on. For example, a young girl told us that in her family, the used LEGO goes to the family with the youngest children. In that way, a big family can collect a huge box of LEGO, and they are able to collect LEGO from different periods of time.

The webpage says about LEGO: “Colorful and easy to use, LEGO bricks have withstood the test of time because of their unlimited, open-ended possibilities.” There is not just one way of playing with LEGOs. LEGO inspires your fantasy, to build and create new things. You do not have to use the directions, which come with the box of LEGO, you can build whatever you want.  We have seen many children trying to build what they saw in the pictures, but some also build their own version of what they saw. For example, a little girl used bricks from different sets to create a castle from her own fantasy. There are no limits in one’s construction of LEGO.

‘LEGO’ is a contraction of the two words “leg godt”, which means ‘play well’. True to its name, LEGO combine to very important factors, firstly fun and secondly education. Younger children can play for hours with the colored pieces and practice their fine-motor development. As notes, “looking for just the right piece strengthens sorting skills”, and we have seen how LEGO is used in lessons in the first year of school - for example in math classes.

LEGO is a toy, and it is created with children in mind. Nevertheless, a lot of adults also find it entertaining to build things with LEGO, and the company even produces assembly kits that are way too complicated for young children, in order to please the older children and the adult fans. The assembly kits usually have an indication on the box of the age group that the set is intended for. This makes it easier for parents and others to pick up a set of LEGO that will appeal to a certain child. Everyone can play with LEGO, except for the very youngest children, but the LEGO company has made something called DUPLO for them, where the pieces are bigger, and thereby more suited for small children.

When observing children playing with LEGO in their earliest years at school, during the so-called ‘breaks for play’, it became clear that LEGO does not only affect the development of individual children, but it can also strengthen communication between the children. It was obvious that they were developing their identities as they were playing. The children each accepted a role in the play, and sometimes a child would go play for her-/himself, if the way the others played did not suit him/her. Then, at another point in the play, she/he would perhaps join in again. Sometimes, the children would play in groups by gender, and they would play very differently. The girls would play quietly, playing with the ‘girly’ LEGOs, for example the princess sets, building houses, or playing families. The boys, on the other hand, would play violently and with loud voices and big movements, running around with LEGO cars, planes and so forth. That being said, the groups could also consist of both genders, as the girls were sometimes playing wildly as well, and the boys playing quietly - but in general the other scenario was the case during our observation of the children.

LEGO gives the children the opportunity to develop their minds and their coordination. By playing with LEGO, children can explore how their mind and hands work together, they can build their fantasies. Toys in general are probably just entertainment for the children, but nowadays, some toys are created to benefit the children’s learning and help them recognize the outside world better and faster.