For the Love of the Brick
If you know me well, you know that I love Legos. My whole family does. We intended to introduce these toys as the perfect media for the artist and the engineer budding in our children and they have grabbed onto it tightly. It has been a toy that gives them great delight as well as fosters autonomy. I remember Jonathan making pretend cameras and inventions out of Duplos. We couldn't wait to take our children to Legoland. We build with them as well - doing joint family project builds and assisting and encouraging. That's why I was so thrilled when this intelligent and creative family decided to do a lifestyle photography session that was simple: They would build with Legos as a family. Read on to hear more about this amazing session!
Mister Rogers speaks of the idea of an ideal toy in one of his books. He says,
"If you were an inventor and wanted to invent the perfect toy, what would you want it to be able to do? If I were that inventor, at the top of my list would be the toy's ability to help children learn about themselves and their world. It would have to be enjoyable to use, of course. That means it would have to appeal to children with a wide range of tastes - something all children could like. In the same vein, the toy should be able to be used by children of widely different ages. That means it would have to have a lot of flexibility so that it could be used in different ways at different times in a child's life.
I'd want my perfect toy to be able to tell stories, show pictures, and make music. I'd like it to be able to build things, too. I'd design the toy so that one child could play with it alone, or a child and an adult could play with it together, or two--or several--children could play with it at the same time. It would have to be easy to share.
Since we're free to think up anything for the perfect toy to do, let's say that it can be used with any other toy a child may have, and that it can make those other toys more interesting -- rattles, blocks, dolls, trucks, cards, board games...whatever.
On the practical side, I wouldn't want my perfect toy to depend on a power source. No electricity, no batteries, not even a windup key to get lost. It would have to be unbreakable. It would have to be small enough to carry around easily (but there'd have to be no risk of small children swallowing it by mistake). And it would have to be inexpensive enough so that anyone could afford it...and afford to replace it if it got broken or lost. But while we're at it, let's say that somehow it couldn't get broken and it couldn't get lost.
Well, anyone who could invent a toy like that would certainly seem to have a bright future in the marketplace. Just imagine! Just imagine...and of course there's our perfect toy: the imagination."
Mister Rogers' How Families Grow by Fred Rogers and Barry Head
Isn't that just beautiful and thrilling to read? (I remember reading that very passage to my students about 5 years ago. They were thrilled too as we began a project on making a contemporary baby block as an art project.) Now, I think Lego toys don't measure up to all of those lovely concepts on a toy that Fred Rogers listed, but it does tick off quite a few and certainly gives life to the last and most important, the imagination.
Mister Rogers and The Best Toy is the One You Make
Brick By Brick:
Here are a few more family moments from our session together! I really enjoy how you get a "slice-of-life" view of how focused children are while they build, how joyful they are when they discover, and how proud they are when they succeed. Here, you can see all of those emotions in these lovely children. What wonderful memories!
In college, I had a friend who remembered how his building experiences with Legos was distinctly different from those of his brother. Both boys loved building with Legos and would get lost in the play. But, his brother built with structural integrity as a key focus to building. My friend, Adam, remembers color-coordinating his bricks to build things that had clear aesthetic appeal. His brother grew up to be an engineer. Adam grew up to be an artist and art teacher. Isn't that an important connection on personality, versatility of the toy, and life experiences? Wow!
Check out some of the things these girls built and think on what they might grow up to be!
The Toys: They Are A-Changing:
As I prepared and edited photos for this family, I started to do a bit of reading. Did you know about the Lego Ad from the 1980s? It is most frequently a little girl in clothing indicative of the 1980s: loose fitted overalls and a long-sleeved shirt. Her hair is pulled back in two neat braids but she has a look like she is free to play. Her Legos are multi-colored and mostly basic 2x4 bricks. She has a proud look on her face. This ad speaks to parents today who remember the sensations of all of those visual culture items - how clothes was just clothes - not specifically girlish or boyish - and Legos were just Legos - not figures with more modeled bodies and colors that were supposed to be appreciated more by one gender. You can see the autonomy and the freedom of her expression and it is all, indeed, beautiful - just like the ad says.
This article talks about the changes many toys have undergone in terms of visual culture since that time and refers to this ad as being required reading today for anyone making or selling toys. This is also an interesting article on Legos being the perfect toy but with some history of the Lego business finances and reasons for product transformation.
All of that sort of brings me to this - not only to the beauties of Lego Bricks but also to the beauty of Lifestyle sessions.
I get bookings regularly for family sessions - and those are beautiful sessions and can capture memories that will last a lifetime. I will always enjoy those sessions, but I think when we all look back on our lives with the time when our children were small, we will wish we had more images like this - the way life really was - the beauty and laughter, pride, joy, determination, and love that filled each day. Cheers to this family for really getting what memories are made of!