We've been legofied

12:52 PM

The Summer break is upon us, and with it comes the tricky task of keeping kids entertained enough without loosing your sanity as a parent. It is that time of the year during which Summer camps of all kind sprout in every neighbourhood, and yes we have signed her up for one: gymnastics. It is sadly just one hour a day, but keeps her off the TV in the morning and physically active enough.

With small children you still have hope of a nap occurring in the afternoon, with a almost 5 year old, who has sworn off the institution that means just that many more hours in the day to fill with activities. As you all know, I am not a TV fan and it's usage is strongly regulated in my home. I'd rather see Ishita use her mind to do something creative on her own than sit idle in front of the idiot box. During the school year it is quite easy, the TV is allowed in the morning when everybody is starting the day and busy with things like preparing food, showering and cleaning. It then goes off for the rest of the day and once she is back from school it is lunch time, go play in your room time while waiting for the maid, followed by playground time at 5pm. Outdoor time which last until 7-ish PM. Then it is shower time, dinner time and bedtime...easy.

Summer is of course a whole different ball game, and there is usually far more time spent home, outdoor being the only constant, as we still head out comes 5. The problem is that there is only that much painting and crafting you can do without getting bored, and things like dolls and books will only keep a child entertained for short time. And as a parent, there is only that much time a day you can spend dropping everything off to supervise an activity without lagging in your other household duties. Ishita being almost 5 and having rediscovered her old clippo blocks, I figured out she was hitting the Lego age bracket.

Ah Legos! People from my generation all grew up with at least a basic starter kit and spent hours and hours creating things, houses, laser guns, monster caves, swimming pools, imaginary animals...the possibilities were endless, the castle from one day turned into a boat the next. This was one of the toy I grew up with that still elicits strong happy memories, and I will not lie, I have been waiting for the day Ishita would be ready for her very first Legos. Sadly, they don't come cheap in India. According to my mom however, they weren't even really cheap in Switzerland when I was a kid. We just had far less toys options, and parents saw it as an investment in their child's development and creative skills honing. And, that is how it should be treated still...even more so in India where they really can put a hole in your pocket. I am myself all for less battery operated toys and electronic gizmos, and more deceptively simple toys like the good old Danish brick game.

We ended up going on a hunt for some this past Sunday, after Ishita brought back the matter of wanting building blocks on the table (after having been very frustrated with her old clippos in the course of last week due to them having a lot of limitations). I knew one toys store in our neighbourhood that at one point had some, so we headed there only to be told they didn't have the starter kit anymore, but all kind of theme boxed sets that allow you to build one specific thing. Nothing wrong with these, but not exactly the most conductive tools for creativity. We were sure to find the good old basics at Hamley's so we went out of our way to get there, only to be told that they ran out of stock on all basic bricks sets (clearly they are getting popular). Ishita's expectations of that shopping trip were high, she was exited at getting some building blocks. Clearly, leaving the store without anything was not going to be an option, especially after she saw their demo table and started building things. This is one of these many parents sticky situations that needed some smart thinking.

I had a few options. Option one was leaving the store and telling her to wait some more, but that was clearly not going to cut it. Option two was buying building blocks in another brand; equally costly, and not as versatile as Legos, not to mention would in all like hood not cut it with Ishita who was playing like crazy with the Legos at the demo table and having a blast. Option there was to find a smaller set box or two to buy immediately and try to locate the bigger, starter kit box online. I ended up choosing option three unglued Ishita from the demo table to pick a theme box she liked and would fit my budget considering my plan was still to buy something else. She obviously set her eye on a giant Lego house building kit that cost a bomb and sadly would not allow kids to build anything but the house pictured on the box. I refused and offered some alternative in the same range. We ended taking two smaller kits, one being a little bunny hutch and garden with a girl Lego figurine. The other being this one:
The same girl figurine with a bedroom set, which she picked because the girl had...a laptop and a big mirror!

We built the bedroom set on Sunday evening together and she was utterly fascinated by the whole process, then it was time for bed and I told her we could build the bunny house the next day. Which we did as soon as we came home from Gymnastics today.
She played with both sets for an hour straight afterward but forbade me to take a picture of the bunny house...because the bunny was sleeping (amazing how quickly Legos work their imaginative magic on kids).

I of course spent the rest of Sunday night trying to find that damn starter kit box online, only to find it sold out from Flipkart and available at 3 times the price on Amazon! No way!

A little more digging (ok a lot more), and I ended up finding another set on Amazon that contained more bricks and was priced at the same price as the out of stock Flipkart one.
Needless to say I ordered it, and am now waiting for it to be dispatched and delivered. Meanwhile Ishita is playing with her girly ones instead.

One thing that did end up striking me however, is how the humble Lego bricks envolved into being more of a collectors thing, with sets meant to build nothing but one specific item. No more free creativity! The starter kits seem much harder to come by than let's say the set to build a Starwars X-wing (which as an adult I find kind of cool). Houses can no longer be built from the basic kit, one is made to believe they have to buy the cottage building set, that has just enough pieces to build said cottage and leaves no room for imagination. The theme sets are if you ask me what end up being costly in the first place, and without even letting the children figure out things on their own.

Needless to say I am eagerly waiting for my online order. Order, which will keep Ishita busy during the hot hours of the day, and have the kid in me come out again.

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  1. Navya8:49 PM

    Hi, I have bought legos for my son at local fancy stores that store cheap balls and china-made toys... They are obviously not of great quality as the ones in the picture above but with legos I feel it's the quantity that matters... I used to have a huge set growing up and my brother and I played for years with them. What I make sure is that they are relatively the same size so I can keep adding to my son's lego collection as he grows older ... I buy them at roughly 200rs per small kit... I would advise you to take your hubby along so you wont get ripped off cuz of your white skin :D

    Oh I should mention that these cheap legos have lasted inspite of constant throwing of a reckless 1.5 year old toddler who doesn't understand the concept of building blocks!

  2. Ishita has some imitation duplos but they were frustrating as they never fit right and they were only in one size, limiting what you can build with them. With small cheap china thing I am also a bit worried about what paint and chemicals they used. With Legos, I know they have to meet the though EU safety norm. The Legos I bought are the small brick size meant for kids age 5 and above, because Ishita is going to outgrow the bigger bricks in no time.

  3. Just so I understand, so what if the paint / chemicals are not the standard, as long as the kids don't chew on them its ok right? I am asking out of curiosity here...

    I understand your concept of buying smaller bricks so she can play longer :) Good tip there!

  4. We have around a US trash bag full of duplos and luckily they still are good. We have a few smaller ones but they are expensive and get lost too easily so I haven't moved on yet.

  5. Well some paints are toxic and minute amount of it can leech through the skin, and in the case of lead based paint can cause a lot of health issues is inhaled or swallowed. It might not even seem like the toy is leaving any chemical on the hands or under the nails when they actually do. A few years ago Mattel and Fisher Price got victim of lead paint being used in their toy by a Chinese manufacturer, the good thing with branded toys is that they catch the problem quick and issue warnings and recall order when it happens, so that as a consumer, you can act on it. With cheaper china made toys it is not even possible to know. Just yesterday Ishita wanted to separate two Legos that were fitting a bit too tight and used her teeth to do so, she is nearly 5 so out of that compulsive need to chew all the toys stage, but still will suddenly put something in her mouth.

  6. Duplos and Legos are usually built to last, when my sister and I outgrew ours they were still good to be passed to friends and relatives with younger children to be played with. I think some of our duplos even made it to the playschool my mom was teaching at, if that says something about the quality.

  7. My six year old eats, sleeps, and breathes Legos, and I step on them everywhere! I like that he is busy with something hands-on, but, you're right that the child's creativity is missing from the process. He builds a great Lord of the Rings set with instructions, but what about that basic house? And the cost...crazy expensive!


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