Monday, 17 March 2014


Over the years, my children have accumulated a sizeable collection of Lego between them, including a fantastic Lego City Train Set I reviewed as part of the Toyologist programme I was involved in. The Lego was very well played with but inevitably, as adult pursuits occupied more time and attention, the collection remained mostly in a jumble of bricks in a large plastic crate in the corner of a room waiting for the moment that my two little ones discovered the treasures within.

As my youngest daughter, Addy, reached an age where she could appreciate Lego, she remained disappointingly disinterested. Her construction ambition was limited to making patterns with the different colours. It was a different story with my son, Dylan. At three and a half years old, he was already showing a keen interest in how things work and making things. He was also becoming increasingly fascinated with the Lego adverts on the TV - in particular Lego Chima and Lego City police. He could recite entire adverts word perfect.

When I saw two Lego City mini sets reduced to half price on Morrisons, I popped them in with my weekly grocery shop to see how he got on with them.

How did he get on with them? He absolutely LOVED them.

It was wonderful to see the big sisters getting involved to construct the little toys from the instructions provided and equally wonderful to see how he played with them - fixing and modifying as well as acting out scenarios.

It was time to dust off the collection.

Although fascinated by the huge crate of interesting components, it was all too much. Too disorganised, too overwhelming. Something needed to be done to restore some order to the chaos and the first step was to tip it all out onto a table.

I'm sure most people agree that the lapping of waves, a child's laughter and the glug, glug, glug of the first glass of wine being poured from a bottle are beautiful sounds. I would like to add another beautiful sound  - the sound that Lego bricks make when you rummage around in them looking for a particular piece. I have to admit though, the sound of that quantity of Lego being tipped from the crate onto the table was rather loud. Dylan covered his ears until it was all over.

Seeing the Lego all layed out before me was nostalgic. Star Wars and Harry Potter mini figures littered amongst pieces of alien space craft and Aquazone Discovery Lab brought  memories flooding back.

My eldest daughter was quite a bossy child with a strong sense of propriety. She would have never tolerated any carelessness or misuse of toys with her younger siblings. For that reason, I was not surprised to find all the instructions for the various Lego kits intact and suspected that there would be very little in the way of missing components. The task ahead of me was to sort the mass of Lego into the different sets.

I wasn't sure how far I'd get with it but once I started, it became strangely compulsive. I was late for school pickups, housework was neglected, dinner failed to be made. The lure of the Lego was powerful.

My eldest daughter went out of her way to come round and help (much to the bemusement of her 'isn't this supposed to be for kids' boyfriend). We built, we reminisced, we laughed, we got ridiculously excited about finding elusive components that we needed.

On the subject of hunting down a particular piece, one thing I have become convinced of is that Lego pieces do not obey the normal laws of the physical world. You can search for a piece until you are sure that it must have long ago been a casualty of the vacuum cleaner, and then lo and behold, there it will be right in front of you. I would be willing to swear that it hadn't been there five minutes previously. They simply materialise... when your attention is elsewhere of course.

I did make several attempts to sort and categorise different pieces to make searching easier but when the little ones came home from school wanting to 'help', my systems would be quickly undone. Dylan would at least build things but Addy would just enjoy swirling the bricks about. Perhaps she shares my love of that very special sound or maybe it was malicious sabotage because she just couldn't understand our enthusiasm for all that was Lego.

The Lego mission was never going to be quick to complete but I wasn't expecting it to still be monopolising the conservatory (and my time) the best part of a week later.

I had to tear myself away from my obsession to go and collect my daughter, Taylor,  from University for the start of her long Easter break. Driving along the M6, I kept noticing the lorries, tankers, vans and cars and seeing them as Lego constructions. My mind would deconstruct them into the Lego components. It did make the journey less boring but I was beginning to think I needed to get this project finished and reconnect with my real life as quickly as possible. Luckily for me, Taylor has exactly the sort of logical brain and methodical way of working that would prove an invaluable asset to the task.

Between us, Taylor and I made sure that each of the different play sets was completed. Some were left out to be played with. All of the Harry Potter sets were put away until such a time that the little ones understand who Dobby is and why socks are important to him. I have just bought a new plastic storage box for the Star Wars Lego to be packed away until it can also be fully appreciated. There is a big plastic bucket full of bricks for Dylan to satisfy his freestyle building urges and I am delighted to report that Addy has found her own little Lego niche with pink blocks, windows, doors and flowers.

Something I have learned about Lego is that if you drop a model onto a tiled floor, it doesn't just explodes. We have had a few disasters but the sheer joy of Lego is that you can gather up the pieces and build it again.

One more thing I have learned is that you can never have too much Lego. My little ones have birthdays coming up and I am planning which sets I can buy them to enhance their overall Lego experience...

(... and I cannot wait for the Lego movie to be out on DVD!)

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