Titter ye not
>And Lego today says that it spends a lot of time finding out exactly what it is that children want so it can give it to them.
Ooo, err, no, missus, Call Esther Rantzen
Imagination-fostering Lego is 80 years old this month and far from its roots as a creativity-inspiring construction toy for girls and boys. Way back in 1932, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish joiner and carpenter, found he wasn't making enough money from carpentry anymore and decided to try making and selling wooden toys instead …
Only a few days ago I was with a friend who is a mother of four who was commenting on the way that Lego was very boy oriented now. With the special kits mainly turned to very gung-ho pirates and Star Wars figures there wasn't as much screaming out to the girls. While her girls busily use the boys' kits, the very few generic or girl-oriented ones often nothing over alternate toys. Ironically the girls may end up being better builders as they turn to plasticine and found objects to build things rather than following the strongly-templated kits marketed to boys.
even when it works. I recall the good old days when Lego was just a big bucket of a few kinds of bricks and what I built was entirely up to me and my imagination - so after visiting an old harbour fort it was tunnels and gun emplacements for a month, then back to skyscrapers, etc. About all there was to covet was an even bigger bucket of bricks.
Which of course is an absolute clanger highlit in Marketing 101 - what, the customer goes away happy and stays away!? No, no, no! Subdivide & upsell, make sure that the product is sufficiently specialised that complimentary products are required. If all else fails, make it battery powered and/or easy to break!
My girls have yet to graduate beyond Duplo but so far they're playing merrily, building barns, fire stations, parking garages (with OSHA-condemmed access ramps, cars tumbling down 60 degree slopes), towers, in short whatever they can think of and/or badger parents into helping with. And we'll do our damndest to preserve this idyll; the time may well come when they want the dolls in the house but in the house that THEY designed and built!
Nonsense. Even 30 and 40 years ago Lego sets were still kits intended to build a particular thing like a space ship or police station. The only thing that has really changed over the years is that major movies are now being licensed by Lego and it's competitors.
The whole "bucket of bricks" versus a kit is as it has always been: up to the person.
Besides, Legos have always been too expensive for a "bucket of bricks" approach.
Even now your "bucket of bricks" is likely heavily augmented by competitors that can now finally make compatible bricks. Talk about the long reach of patents...
"Even 30 and 40 years ago Lego sets were still kits intended to build a particular thing like a space ship or police station."
I'd tend to agree but the difference is that the kits of 30-40 years ago were generally regular Lego blocks with instructions and the correct quantities to build a model, occasionally with some stickers, but they could be made in conjunction with just about everything else. Today's kits usually have a fair number of custom blocks and/or colours.
Interesting info, thanks!
I actually teethed on "Torro" brand blocks which were some small company's spin on the basic Lego block forms (with some amusing additions so not purely a knock-off). Since nobody in El Reg circles will ever have heard of Torro I elided the two, falsely it seems since a great big bag of Torro blocks was fairly affordable and as far as my long-suffering parents ever let me know they didn't do kits (but perhaps all the other kids were sniggering at the only boy on the block without the Torro 1:1 scale Millennium Falcon, with working space-crapper)
"What you need vs what you like" is an issue.
My first memories of lego were indeed the bucket of bricks variety. We built large rectangular space ships which dropped bombs. Then we were given some "space" lego for Christmas which had men in it. All of a sudden, the little doors which had stored the our previous "spacecraft" were no longer adequate. We used to have mini spaceships (two flat rectangles crossed like a T) but the advent of more realistic people spoilt that idea, so I understand what you mean. The more explicitness you provide, the less scope there is for imagination. Even if the kids think the prefab shapes are cool (and want them, and pester their parents for them), they impinge on the imagination, because what the kid makes has no hope of competing with what the big corporate can do. Cars suddenly needed to fit "people" instead of being the funkiest shape that would hold together.
as a child of the 80's lego (and then technix) was a huge part of my life. I recall having a mix of boys and girls as friends and the girls being just fine with lego. This predated most of the specialised packs of lego however, until technix you mostly just got boxes of pieces rather than more gender defined model packs. Lego was popular right up until we found more interesting ways to pass the time with each other (although given the chance I will still play with lego :-) ).
I would concur with those above, it is likely an inherrent gender bias in their products. The kits as so prefab these days they are likely to lose the boys interests as well.
I was born at the beginning of the 80s, and I grew up with Legos. Pirates, Castle, Space... the focus was less on the minifigs, and more on the bricks themselves. The minifigs used to be carbon copies; get a dozen Imperials from the Pirates theme, and you'd probably only have two or three different characters. The Blacktron minifigs from the Space theme were almost completely identical. And regardless, everyone was smiling; from the iconic Lego head to the mustachioed pirates, everyone was wearing a smile, whether they were sunbathing in a hammock, shooting the enemy, or being eaten by a shark. Even the glow-in-the-dark ghosts smiled. And that was fine; my imagination filled in the expressions.
These days, though, even the City folk have grins or grimaces. The focus has shifted from building sets to 'adventure sets' - copies of movies, or comic books, or card games. When I played Pirates, I didn't play Pirates of the Caribbean. When there was a Space war, it wasn't in the Star Wars universe. When I built a castle, it wasn't Hogwarts. I didn't copy; I created.
The same applies to gender bias; girls don't need pastels. When I played Legos with girls, they helped build the castle, and the queen ran its creation; when we played Pirates, there was a ship captained by Cutlass Sue. The girls didn't complain about the minifigs not having hair to braid; instead, they took over roles that women held anyway - doctors and nurses, soldiers and sailors, leaders and followers. Frankly, girls that would buy pink-and-pastels Legos will probably buy the latest fashion doll first, so I wouldn't put a lot of effort into making sets for them. Lego shouldn't worry about making sets for boys and sets for girls... it should worry about making sets that grab the imagination. Not copies of movies or comic books or card games, but their own creations. And if they want to copy something, try to classic books; I wouldn't mind a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Lego set, or War of the Worlds, or even Tarzan...
Buy the bigger packs, they have plenty of construction needed! I actually really like the packs, so does my son!
although I would say they do need more female mini-figures not so many men... SOME kits are designed for really young kids just getting into lego after duplo, and they do limit the construction, but other than that there is no difference than what I had in the 80's well actually there are more bits and their usually stronger!
Very true. These days the box has 4 blocks and some stickers. Lego for me was a huge cardboard box full of lego. It wasn't (until technix, and even then there was that continual quest to build a working helicopter) that you had a box that was supposed to be a car, you had a huge box that could be whatever you wanted it to be with no prompting. When the girls were there they helped shape the end result. So heman or liono's castle might have an annex for barbie or shera but the goal was never gifted to you.
I took my kids to a lego store and its full or prefab junk, I asked where the sets of blocks are and was led to the back of the store and showwn every freakin kit on the way before I got to some stupidly overpriced woefully small 'buckets'. It's like kids aren't allowed to think or imagine for themselves.
"These days the box has 4 blocks and some stickers" ... I'm afraid I disagree. Even the smallest sets you get free in the newspapers typically have 30+ parts. Lego nowadays is much more theme oriented ... some do tend towards the "only builds the model on the box" type e.g. star wars, but there are many more themes which actively encourage many different builds, e.g the "creator" theme is well worth a look.
Lego has now specifically targetted girls with the "Lego Friends" theme ... it has pastel colours and mainly female mini-figs. Whilst its a shame that it is perceived that girls will only go for pink stuff, this is been borne out by the research Lego put into this, and by the fact the Friends theme is *very* popular. And if it means my daughter gets into playing with Lego, I'll take that over "Bratz" any day ...
True, but with those 30 pieces you can build only 1 thing.
At least in the early days of technix, the box would have a bulldozer, but you coould built 2 or 3 other things with it (plus whatever else your imagination desired).
Duplo still has that charm, we've received lots of duplo from parents who thought their kids had outgrown it, and even now (with the kids well above the duplo target age group) every now and then there is a big duplo day, and you get Hogswart, the train station and a pirate castle all in the same room .
(ok, only a loving parent would recognize them as such)
"True, but with those 30 pieces you can build only 1 thing."
Which I acknowledged, but also pointed out there are other sets which actively encourage multiple builds eg. creator. The problem I think is one of perception. As the earlier poster noted, he had to go to the back of the store to find the non-specialist themes., but they *are* there, you just have to get past all the Ninjago and Bionicle nonsense to find them ... its not Lego's fault that the popularity of certain themes makes shops push them to the front.
And Lego was always relatively expensive, I remember the old Technic Car Chassis, it cost about £50 in 1980, which would be a lot of money now. But what a set!
Not entirely correct. The smaller sets like say 3219 (ignoring the minifig sets) come with 10-12 pieces which includes the prefab bits. Midsized technics kits (say 8069? the jcb) usually have around 600 pieces. Check out brickset.com as noted above, even lego agreed they went too far.
My lego used to come from bulk sets (not sure it was sold ay other way?) or jumble sales. I couldn't begin to imagine what it would cost these days to fill a huge box with lego.
> Unfortunately, too many of today's LEGO sets for boys also "minimize... actual construction"
To some extent yes ... remember when I came back to Lego when my sons started to get lego sets (and inherited the small suitcase of my old lego that my parents still had in their loft!) that I'd get part way through a build wondering how they were going to manage to link two bits together as they appeared to need to join at a "non-standard" angle, turn the instruction page and discover "oh, they made a special piece to do that". From memories of what I'd had to do as a child it just seemed a bit like cheating to me!
However, in the bigger sets there is a serious amount of building still left (though they do still seem a little to keen in my mind to throw in a bag of specials bits to handle all the difficult sections)
I played with LEGO a LOT as a child, but my elder sister wasn't interested. So I don't think it's a new phenomenon.
Now I'm a parent, I've got two real problems with LEGO. Firstly, it's REALLY expensive. Any model of any substance is £25 or more. It makes it very difficult to buy as a birthday present for someone else's child, because it's too expensive. The smaller sets are incidental "stocking filler" types, but are still too expensive to be bought as an incidental thing like a bribe for good behaviour. These two factors combine to largely eliminate the mass-aggregation of sets that I had as a boy.
Secondly (and this is something James May commented on when he built his LEGO house) too many of the pieces are single-use. In order to provide visual richness to the end product, the typical set has many parts that are suitable only for that set. This further dilutes the original aim of LEGO of it being "a new toy every day." Every set seems to be a model, an end-goal clearly in site. I remember getting sets that were basically big boxes full of bricks with a few ideas. Now you have multi-page build manuals, bagged component groups and a over-reliance on the construction being a process that must be followed exactly to achieve a pre-determined goal, rather than it being general principles of construction that allow the child to make what he (or she) has in their head.
"Secondly (and this is something James May commented on when he built his LEGO house) too many of the pieces are single-use."
My 6 year old would disagree - he likes the kits (got a space shuttle last year), but once the kit is built, it gets dismantled and the parts are used for all sorts of crazy contraptions that he conjures in his imagination. :)
He also love paper jets, water balloons & cardboard boxes :)
I came here to say the exact same thing. Too much of the kits seem proprietary at the moment. I’m an engineer now and attribute a lot of my developed skills to being grown from a child where I would play with all manner of construction kits (Lego, technic, K'nex, mechano) and build what was on the box followed by thinking about what from this model could I build on to something else! My favorite was a technic pneumatics lorry with electric motor that operated a crane.
Now with all the proprietary kits, I fail to see how you can have the same freedom to build whatever you want. However, perhaps it’s not as bad as I think if the people are saying their kids build all kinds of monster contraptions. That’s exactly what I did :)
For a bit of a chuckle and some reassurance in Lego, this is what someone here decided to build and show at our learning and Development centre. Unfortunately, I wasn't directly involved in it, as much as Id have liked to have been!
I buy Lego for my children (and me too, I must admit) now in kiloware. I get on ebay, at local bring and buy sales, from ads in supermarkets and so on. Because Lego is so durable, even 40+ year old pieces are still usable. I am thankful that parents don't want to keep their children's collections anymore and are so willing to part with them at a fraction of teh new price. New Lego is not cheap but there is good value in secondhand collections.
My girls (5½ and 4) are slowly getting into it as an aid to role-play. It helps that they also like princesses and pirates. A few judiciously bought new boxes (pirates and some pink blocks) and all is well. The unique pieces do have their place. Doors and windows are greatly welcomed, for example.
That's a very good point - my two girls (now 6 and 8) are lego users since birth (we started with Quattro, through Duplo and now onto the hard stuff)
The way they play with Lego is very different to the way I did: my aim was realistic and technically challenging construction, even more so when Technic came along (and I won a competition which got me the car chassis of the time - the rear-engined flat four one...).
They make approximations of birds, aeroplanes, cars, whatever: but they then make up stories and scenarios around those models and that's more important to them than the building.
I suspect that Lego's marketing people have seen the same thing, and the Lego Friends stuff fits that pattern very nicely. It could do with a bit more depth, perhaps, than beauty and shopping, but I think the kids can work that out for themselves, especially if they have a bucket of bricks on hand for the cars, aeroplanes, ships etc.
I haven't bought my girls and Friends yet, although we did get a couple of the pink buckets for them - that just adds a few more colours into the mix.
And their little brother is showing balance - trucks and diggers all the way for him :)
Up until about 2003 there was a proliferation of single-use pieces that made 'free construction' almost impossible. If you followed the five easy steps of the instructions you ended up with a great model, but the pieces were useless for anything else.
However, as described in this interview ( http://www.monocle.com/sections/business/Web-Articles/QA-with-the-CEO-of-Lego/ ) they realised that they had gone too far and started by drastically reducing the number of different types of pieces. As a result a lot of current 'LEGO city' models use lots of pieces that can be used to build just about anything. (Ask my kids!).
However, 'LEGO technic' haven't followed the same course. Their current models (e.g. 8110 Unimog) is a brilliant working copy of the legendary off-road vehicle, but it's far too complicated to build anything else. (At least for an 8-year-old.) When I was a kid, you could buy sets with just gears (e.g. 9610), but today there's nothing like that on offer.
Technic truly was amazing. A working jcb, the walker from aliens etc truly great designs. You could even buy a book with extra ideas, but for the most part, when I had it, it was just a giant box full of potential. Whilst the designs were amazing, they just taught you the skills and techniques to build what you wanted. If you built a really skinny frame and used handmade balsa blades you could just about get a twin rotor copter off the ground. Sad to hear it went downhill. You didn't need it to look perfect with flushfit bodypanels (it's not like landrover ever bothered with them), just being generic pieces meant you had complete freedom to remake anything, only whilst lego lacked functionality, with motors and pneumatics technics brought functionality.
Have they taken away the ability to order individual technics parts?
The over gendering of children has gotten out of hand in the last 20 years. It seems since I grew up in the late 60's and the 70's that sexist stereotyping in marketing has gotten completely out of hand. Have you been to a toy store recently? There are toy high heels for SIX year olds!
There is a strong drive from an earlier and earlier age to sexualize and genderize children, their activities and their clothing, to the point where its amazing anyone gets a childhood at all. I know a lot of adults who admit they wanted more choices in toys as children, but between marketing, peer groups, and parents terrified their children would turn up not NORMAL if their girl asked for Hotweels cars, or their boy who asked for a craft kit or ghods forbid a DOLL had it made clear to them that their parents were very upset at them for "inappropriate" choices. The children learn rapidly they are rewarded "and punished" for the wrong choices.
Children learn early whats EXPECTED of them. And the choices they make are as driven by cultural expectations as by actual desires. A good friend of mine works in day care, and we discuss this regularly. Most children in her day care play with everything with great imagination, till they get to kindergarten or first grade till their peer groups pound home "sometimes literally" what is, and is not conceived as appropriate. In a matter of months, children she have worked with since infancy suddenly have a very conservative and hard line attitude over what is perceived ans correct and incorrect toys. This is not innate, this is cultural, and its getting worse, not better.
Children want to be accepted by their peers and their parents, and they learn rapidly that a cookie cutter image gets them rewards, and rocking the boat gets them punished. Many of them even convince themselves over time that it was their ideas all along. Its just one of the ways society has issues. Like taping bows on bald babies out of sheer terror someone might accidentally mis-pronoun their 2 week old. The people buying Harley Davidson branded shoes for children too young to walk are no better.
These neuroses belong to the parents, its just a pity they can't let their children find out who they are before marketing assigns them a label.
What's annoying is that even toys that are inherently not gender-specific, such as arts and crafts, and now also Lego, are marketed to the exclusion of the other sex. Most craft toys are now themed towards girls, which is something that I never experienced in my own childhood (1970s/1980s).
Lego used to be the one good example - a toy that was whatever you wanted it to be. Girls and boys did tend to make different things, though -- I remember the girls mostly making houses and gardens, with we boys mostly making cars, planes and rockets. But the point is that they can actually play together, which is something that today's toys create a barrier against (ninja extreme-snowboarding hair salon prom-date scenarios excepted, naturally).
As a parent of a girl toddler, I can attest to this all to well, it's all either blue or pink and action figures vs. dolls and prams (and try watching children's TV for an even more extreme version of this, all those programmes are shockingly unashamedly sexist), to a really horrifying degree (you'd honestly think it was the 50s). I just have to ignore the gender bias and get the little one things that look "fun" to me (and I'm mostly right), irrespective of whom it's "targeted" at. She certainly doesn't seem to care about what she's meant to like and not...
Heck knows how that's going to stand up to peer pressure, going forward.
Ah the fun I had with Lego.
I did a mixture of things, some building and then modifying models and some straight up inventing.
A couple of modifications that I remember were converting a car to be a working right hand drive model or swapping out the dummy engine in my loading shovel for a pair of electric motors that drove it and powered the pneumatics.
I think my favourite DIY one was a hill climber grabber crane tank thing like a CEV. It had enough traction and torque to climb up (pretty smooth) boards that I'd put up our stairs at home and a pneumatic grabber arm/crane mounted on a turntable up top. That used all three of my motors for driving, turntable and compressor, all of my pneumatics (boom*2, reach and grab) and it was brilliant :)
More recently, we had to use some of the Mindstorms stuff in my degree, that was so much easier once you ditched the crappy Lego visual programming interface and went to C.
... is a great tool. I still use the original RCX kits with Y7 (11yr-olds), and the go from nothing to understanding systems and programming in 20 hours - sumo battles and twin-sensor line followers, learning about modifying the machine for better accuracy and the program for things like series or parallel sensing and control. It really inspires the students to get results and they all look forward to seeing who does best. In my experience the prior use of LEGO is about 50/50 between boys and girls, but I scatter the LEGOistas around to make sure they are not in one supercluster...
We still stick to using the LEGO software, but do move on to Scratch and Alice later in Y8 and Y9, which gives us a path to Squeak and ObjC if we need to extend it into GCSEs. That's where the divisions occur, because up to the point where we lose the visual drag'n'drop methods, most students are okay with programming.
@MrT I have the Mindstorms RCX 1.5 (circa 1999) but lost the CD... it's extraordinarily hard to find either the CD or a download of said software (ie I have a useless microcontroller, some motors and a collection of Technic parts in the garage somewhere)... I'm open to suggestions for alternatives too, although the simple graphical interface would be ideal for my 6 year old daughter.
Actually, searching about I see that version 2.5.4 that I use is now out of date. There's a v2.9 out here for US users and the price is only $23. Given that the UK price is £65 for the same thing, it's worth seeing if anyone in the US can offer a shipping address since the US dealer won't ship to UK...
Not sure if this is an upgrade to the original, which means you'd still need the old software key from the CD cover, or if it comes ready to run.
Cheers - glad to help. Mindstorms has already been ported to LabVIEW - check this link for details. They have a patched version of the latest software on that platform, which seems to offer much quicker program speed even on the old RCX. I think there's still an issue with the USB IR Tower not working on 64-bit as well, if that's an issue (IIRC just Win7).
Now, if there was just a way of making the old big brick remember it's firmware when the batteries die...
I can't remember whether I used NXC or NQC for it, but by the looks of things you can use NQC with the older RCX stuff too:
I don't know whether you'd need to have drivers or something form the original CD though.
If you send me a PM I'll look out my RCX CD next time I visit my parents and copy it for you.
Lego is a business and it's first concern is profit. To make profits you have to know your consumers and for Lego those consumers are boys. So what? The only reason that this article was written, especially with the tiresome sexism angle, is that the company was not launching a campaign for girls. If they were, this author would be singing the praises of a company so enlightened, that they were throwing good advertising money at a target group that would never make it worthwhile.
Lego would possibly have gone bankrupt if they had not reconnected with boys, the group that actually made them money, yet they are chastised here for daring to speak of it. May as well advise businesses to market footballs to girls and ballet shoes to boys and watch those companies lose profits accordingly.
Boys and girls are different and this is fine. One of the first lessons of parenthood, is that it's CHILDREN who decide what they like, NOT their parents. Parents buy trucks for their sons and dolls for their daughters because that's what they choose to play with, not what parents are forcing them to play with. Buy a typical boy a doll and he'll stick it in a catapult and fly it across the room.
My daughter will sit and play with my old Lego for hours, building all manner of things, from houses to cars, without any prompting from me. But then she is also quite happy to get covered in oil helping me fix my Land Rover, so maybe the environment she grew up in was against her :-)
She is, however, definitely not a "tomboy", as she has the usual fascination for all the pink tat that is nowadays thrown at young girls, and the usual clothes, makeup etc that is "normal" for a girl of her age.
On another note, when I was young I used to have some lego-like construction bricks which belonged to my dad, which were made of a type of rubber, rather than hard plastic. Anyone else have anything similar?
>On another note, when I was young I used to have some lego-like construction bricks which belonged to my >dad, which were made of a type of rubber, rather than hard plastic. Anyone else have anything similar?
I remember those - one of my friends had a set. Buggered if I can remember what it was called though.
... was a 'toy' in most non-bricksters' minds. I remember buying some of that new-fangled LEGO Space stuff back in the 80's (some kit with a cruiser and drive-out buggy plus three LEGOnauts), long after leaving school. The lady on the till in Woolies said "Aw, it's great to buy birthday presents" and I very nearly said "But it's not my birthday" before realising...
well two, actually - a girl of 8 and boy of 6. Our daughter definitely prefers "crafty" to "constructive" toys despite my hope that she would be grabbed by the idea of building stuff. Her most recent toy purchases was one of the 'Friends' sets but I was disappointed that she didn't go on to raid the Lego box to build a house for the little plastic princess. She definitely prefers 2D and fantasy, while our son prefers 3D and facts... they're almost stereotypically girl and boy, and have been since they were toddlers.
Not sure what the hell a "single use piece" is exactly. A far as I'm aware, there ARE no single use pieces. There are certainly special pieces, but they can be used in more than just one way. I seem to remember as a kid, the front shovels from two lego JCB sets being used to form the side of a submarine
I'd suggest that the real issue here, isn't these lego pieces themselves, but a lack of imagination on the part of those complaining.
There's nothing wrong with that, it'd make a great core piece for a larger model. Just off the top of my head (and in 12-year-old mode) I could use it as the central piece of a model of the Ro-Busters' rescue ship (Starlord/2000AD) The pegs would fit into the front and back sections which could then split off.
That "Worst piece".
I'm looking at it and thinking, it could've been good as a chassis for a crane or a digger or a lorry of some sort. Possibly even a boat with wheels to allow it to be pushed across the room (vs. the Pilot boat which just had smoothed over flattish 2x2 pieces on the bottom. And I know the bigger cargo boats were actually watertight!)
I had all sorts of 1 piece chassis pieces, mostly the 2x2->3x4->2x2 where the 2x2s had axles, but also a couple of 1x4 -> 2x2 (axle-less) -> 4x4 (with lowered centre) -> 2x2 -> 1x4 which came from the yellow 'City Car' and the blue 'TV Van'.
They were useful as a guide to the size of a car / van that a lego person could sit in. Usually needing a couple of flat 1x3s under the doors, the windscreen (not the flat windscreen from the sports car / motorbike trailer set) and a rear frame / roof combo (with optional sunroof).
I think there are 2 ways to use Lego, "creative" and "constructive". "Single use" would probably apply to either special creative parts or sometimes very very limited constructive parts (like an angle your not likely to need).
Thankfully the balance seems to be back in keeping enough of each and not too much of either.
I agree that imagination can help with the creative parts, but not much with the construction ones that don't fit anything else. However I'd guess most people think about the construction first, so if they see a weird shaped creative part, it would be confusing. :P
Oh, here is an amazing link for creative use of Lego (they failed to get a job at Lego though, probably because they use unconventional stacking methods).
This is one of the best articles on the Register I have ever read. Well written, supported and tragically relevant. I would love to see it taken up and reported on by more mainstream media. It's painfully insightful and I hope the people at Lego are made aware of it and read many of the intelligent comments here as well.
Thank you for writing this.
For one thing, the article is horribly out of date. LEGO's 80th passed months ago and all the outrage over the 'Friends' line (which has been an enormous success) was at the start of the year when they first sets were launched.
For another, it's a lot of rubbish. The Friends set not only require as much building as any other LEGO set* but also are some of the more innovate build experiences you can get these days. They are, typically, more "modular" though so you can build them in stages (or more easily share the building with friends) and play with the bits you've built as you go along because that was one of the things a lot of girls wanted (that same modular approach is also common in City sets). The real "outrage" was supposed to be the figures, after extensive surveying by LEGO concluded that one of the key problems with girls opinions of traditional sets like Lego City was that they want 'more realistic' people than the traditional LEGO minifigure. The rate at which Friends sets fly of the shelf seems to confirm that theory.
And if you really just want a "bucket of bricks", you'll find several varieties of those available too.
*Yes, there are some large wall pieces in some of the big sets. You will find those *exact* same pieces in larger sets like Jabba the Hutt's palace too (which is supposedly for boys). Larger wall panels have, in fact, been found in sets since the Castle sets of the early 80s. You'll also find some of the smallest pieces available in there too.
Cab't help but agree on the Friends sets success and usefulness.
My daughter (who turns four in a couple of months) spent an entire week constantly looking through the little promo catalogue for the Friends sets. It just instantly appeals to little girls, or so it would seem from my daughters reaction.
If she still wants these sets when she's old enough for them, then I'll happily buy them. If it's a toy that constantly encourages her to create new things, use her imagination and tests her ingenuity; then I don't care what colour it is, or how the Lego traditonalists view it as a bad thing.
With that said, I myself will stick with my 1980's Classic Space sets and technic :)
In response to Binarydad, you'll know your daughter best, but nearly four is perfectly old enough to be playing with proper Lego - they've become incredibly conservative in their age guidelines and my daughter has been happily constructing the smaller Creator kits since around her third birthday (she'd helped her mother build the Christmas toy Shop) - my daughter needs a little help with the fiddlier bits and with reading the instructions, but that just means that Dad gets to play too...
I'd echo those who are saying Lego has rowed back from the brink with the reduction in stupid, big pieces - some of the newest models use standard bricks in some really rewarding ways, even in 'standard' City kits.
@BinaryDad wrote: If she still wants these sets when she's old enough for them, then I'll happily buy them.
Buy Lego now! My daughter built the Winter Village Toy Shop http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=10199-1 when she was four years and eleven months old, and that's marked as a 12+. Mind you she now has over 300 minifigures, so here be dragons (and crocodiles, and kittens, and goats even).
Annoyingly, she also likes the Friends figures, even though she says "they're not as good as the minifigures". I've tried to explain how sexist she is, but she'd only six and doesn't seem to get it.
As for Lego, their sexist City range can at least be populated by the slightly more varied collectible minifigure series. But why we need dayglo pet grooming Friends products when the City line could have a female Vet, Doctor, Garden Centre or Architect I don't know.
I loved the little packs when they came out (I remember a little pirate set, especially, and one with a wizard and a dragon) but I was already well into adulthood by then; when I was but a wee lad it was Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. OMG, I suddenly feel so old, I think I'll have a bit of a lay down now.
Strangely enough, I was the one that constructed all manner of crafts, buildings, cities while my brother used lego as missiles. My father would try and encourage him to engage with him in building all manner of things but the boy wasn't interested while I'd pick up the bits and see how things could be constructed (without instructions or pictures as he had torn them up).
My brother ended up being a burly strapping policeman while my sister and I ended up in technology. Together we managed to escape the gender role pressures.
My own children, two girls and a boy all created things with equal enthusiasm using all manner of materials and played with all manner of things while enjoying their little selves. That was in the 1980s when the gender stereotyping pressure started to ease off, or so we thought.
Seems that we haven't progressed, but somehow we have slipped back into the 1950s sexual stereotyping, which is most unhealthy and unhelpful. Is it due to a failing economy, or the media brainwashing that the masses are being subjected to with the "pink-girlie-sparklie" images like "certain celebrities" being pressed upon females. I found it much worse coming back to the UK from Holland, where people were treated equally and the emphasis on people developing their own personality.
My sister lives in Denmark and it seems that they don't have the same marketing approach for the Danish market, which is closer to the Dutch than the British profile. I wonder if the same results have been found in Holland.
Modern "archittecture" is abominable: the vast majority of buildings are Lego-like rectangular blocks of cement and glass, complete with flat roofs and apparently made from identical kits. They look ugly, are inhuman in scale and look shoddy within a couple of years of completion.
I theorise that this is because the modern "architect" spent his or her childhood playing with Lego and so formed rather dull ideas about how buildings should look and be built. Even if there is a proper roof or some sort of variation on blank concrete and glass walls, very often the details are still jagged, as if constrained by the shape of Lego blocks.
I have two girls, ages 8 and 6, and they both love lego sets. In fact we enrolled them in a summer Lego class. They really like the old kits I used to have (from the '70s), and they like the new kits with all of the specialized pieces.
For some reason when I was a kid all of my legos used to end up as cars or rockets. My daughters' end up as houses or farms. Granted some of that is due to the kits they gravitated towards. Now they're asking for "Olivia's House" and that looks like it will have even more specialized bricks.
They do manage to turn them into other things and configurations. Last week they built me a Lego-sized!
Im from the time Lego was crossing over from generic block sets to models with unique parts (70's) and I remember how cool it s when I finally got some jet engines in a helicopter set so my spaceships could get away from the long single wide pieces as engines.
As for girls, my daughter is 11 and on a trip to visit her grandfather in Florida, her one request was a visit to Lego land there. She spent $40 of her own money on LotR Legos because she thought the spider looked really cool. Ok, maybe I'm raising a Wednesday Addams but still, she loves all the Star Wars, Batman, and LotR sets. Not sure how Lego would market to girls with these sets; she just likes 'cool' stuff. Same goes with comic books: another male bastion. She loves the stories and does gravitate towards the female characters (Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl) but she also follows several male storylines as well (Batman, Thor, etc.). In comics she's aware enough of the marketing to boys and is quite vocal in the store when she spots a particularly suggestive cover. Who bows, she may grow up to be an executive at Lego or DC one day and decide how the marketing will be done.
Mines the one with the bloodstained 2 dot brick I just pulled from my heel.
I'm an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego). Been one for over 10 years. I'm a founding member of our local group, see web page here: <http://www.nalug.org> (warning - slow site).
Yes, you can buy individual pieces online from Lego (look for "Pick-a-brick"). However, since there are now so many piece types and colours, only a small subset are available there. Also, they are expensive - Lego seems to sell by weight, so rare stuff is the same price as common stuff.
Yes, you can still buy boxes of just bricks, etc. without instructions. Again, however, Lego is expensive, and that's not going to change - the material itself is costly.
Competitors like Megabloks have now got their quality close to Lego's. One remaining issue is that because they use a different material (which is why they are a lot cheaper), they don't last as long - bits of it flake off when you connect the pieces.
The Friends sets seem popular here - there are rarely much of them in the stores. I haven't bought any myself, but I mainly buy sets for parts to build my own stuff. I'll repeat the mention of the "Creator" line of sets - very worthwhile - each shows 3 different projects for the parts, just like the old Technic sets did.
I don't like the new style of "lift arm" Technic sets, so don't buy them. I find them simply too hard on my fingers in this dry climate, especially for disassembly.
One of Lego's most successful lines of all time.
My son started to get seriously interested in Lego at around the time that Bionicle kicked off. The theme and the mythology behind it was the real success behind this line. A pat on the back for whoever got that going.
Here's the thing though. You could practically tell when the bean counters and market research droids got hold of it.
Instead of releasing kits at a rate that the kids could realistically accumulate them via birthday and Christmas money, they started banging out new lines practically every month. The rate of acceleration was really quite staggering. They re-engineered the story lines to allow totally new lines and peoples thus perverting the purity of this original premise.
The whole thing imploded under its own weight...and they canned it. Unfreaking-believable.
It's now been converted to a generic "battle" series with cheaply and thinly-made generic parts that break at the drop of a hat.
Oh, while I'm on the rant, the whole Lego Universe fiasco. Draw in many thousands of kids to a rich environment where they can make friends and live the Lego experience online.....and then kill it because it wasn't making quite as much money as they would have preferred, thus truly pissing off a ton of their customers and their parents at the same time.
The people at Lego have no self respect.
True, but as it "was not always this way", we tend to question WHY. It has only been the last 50 or so years (less than 100 for certain!) that there has been the divide in children's toys to such a large extent. Even pink v blue is a relatively new concept. I personally blame marketing and profit margins.
I don't see why they think girls don't play with Lego, and need pretty pastel sets. My sister used to love the medieval Lego sets that they used to make and we used to create all manner of different things out of Lego (which we kept organized by type, not set). Then again, I've been told that my youth was unusual I used to have some of those littlest pet shop things which apparently are for girls. I honestly think it may have been my parents just not typecasting this stuff.
Lego's 80 years old. lets write a 4 page article about how it's sexist.
So what if they create a line for girls. Girls who are interested in lego will still ask their parents for other stuff.
If you want to complain about anything, complain about how much it costs. I'm an adult earning a full wage and i still can't afford to indulge.
Sanctimonious BS... Is the writer even familiar with LEGO sets? Because then he would know that the LEGO City sets, for example almost always feature at least one, often several female figures. And guess what, it's LEGOs! Want to have a politically correct police station with a fifty-fifty gender distribution? Just swap out the male policemens heads with female heads, and knock yourself out with policing the kids playtoys for any signs of gender bias.
Of course as anyone who actually HAS kids will know, even when you try to raise them in a gender neutral way, as soon as they get to be four or five years old, they start to develop politically incorrect interests. Boys will be interested in machinery, and girls in more complex ways of playing, based on social interaction. (and of course princesses). The difference between males and females of the species. It's one of those nasty facts of life that the PC brigades yet have to develop a solution for.
Oh, and what's up with the whining about buckets vs. sets?
Yes, there are probably more sets available now than 10 or 20 years ago. Thank god for that, as they're also much more detailed and of higher quality.
But surely it can't have avoided the LEGO ludites attention that, ehm... Well... You can still buy LEGOs as a bucket of bricks if you so choose! (There are even several sizes available!) Sure, your creations will most likely not be nearly as detailed and impressive as those of the sets you buy, and your kids will probably think you're a sadistical weirdo for insisting you build your OWN police station, but hey... The option is there if you want it!
So let's sum up... You can STILL buy LEGOs in buckets, and no ones forcing your daughters to play with sexist LEGOs, and heck: You can even choose to make an all female LEGO city if you so choose,
What's everyone upset about, really?
(Besides the fact that kids these days have it too good, and when YOU were their age blah-blah-blah...)
I am a 40-something female, who loved to play with Lego as a kid. I even a had a few lego technic sets, and a lego train set, of which I was very proud of. My daughter (who is four now), loves to play with her Duplo, and she will inherit my Lego sets latest next year.
I hate that there is this obvious gender bias in Lego nowadays - and lego friends is NOT an alternative for girls. But then, as has been pointed out before, gender stereo-typing has become more and more prevalent over the last few years - maybe to counteract the fact that in real life, women do what men do?
I have 3 girls, oldest 9, youngest 4. The eldest has/had no real interest in Lego - though she did get a large traditional "house" set a few years back.
To my surprise, the 4 year old is mad on.... (wait for it).... Lego friends. She builds it according to the pack and then builds other things as well.
So while the article is correct about the pieces being more "set" than in the past, the fact that they are has shown my daughter what she can do and now she is pushing the bounderies - is that not what lego is all about?
BTW, Lego has never really been gender neutral - All my life they were very much "boy" oriented and you would always find it in the boy section of the toy shop. The advent of Lego space in the early 80's strenghtened this idea but it was always there (and I have never heard of a girl playing with meccano)
"Here at Vulture Central, that seemed really odd. Not only did everyone in the office, regardless of gender, remember playing with and loving Lego throughout their childhood, for the most part, their kids, both boys and girls, love it as well." In combination with Lego's research, this just proves than anyone of a non-male gender hanging out at Vulture central, and all children of said denizens of Vulture central, must be really odd. Is anyone surprised?
I started off with a big bucket of bricks.
Later specialised sets followed, such as F1 style race grid/pits, houses and vehicles such as a boat, cargo plane, cars, motorbikes. Even a castle from the medieval range.
While the sets were specialised, they did allow for the building of other things, which is where the imagination and ingenuity of lego kicked in, making something from what you have. Especially when you end up with a big tub full of generic and speicalised blocks. Heck I was even in the lego club one year to get ideas. Even old Duplo bricks could be used, such as tower bases or train chassis, using 4x2 blocks as shims to interface with the lego.
I recall from one of their brochures they did have a range to cater to girls - something like Bellevue or something? Seemed to be mostly pastel colours and palm trees and a lot of stables with horses.
I also had some of the compatible sets such as Mega Bloks. Mostly compatible, though the bricks were usually about 3/4 the height of a comparible standard Lego brick. Some non-standard bricks made interesting vehicles / houses.
Moved on to Technic, the Lego answer to Mecanno. Had the big V8 supercar before I passed my lego on to younger relatives.
(Oh, and for our US cousins, it is "Lego" singular, as in the brand, and not "Legos" which is like talking about Mecannos or Hornbys)
Even as a kid of the 70s, I never saw the point of the specialised kits some of my mates had - they just seemed rubbish and limiting to me - I could build whatever kind of space ship I wanted - they could just stick together the crappy space ship kit and that was that... where was the fun in that ?
I remember lots of time playing with my sister and a big box of lego - basic blocks + some wheel blocks (you need them!).
It's strange though, my sister has 2 girls now - 4 and 6 and both and 'girly girls' - pink everything, dolls and furry toys, etc. no interest in lego or any construction type toys at all - and not through parental genderifying (?is that a word... well no.. osx has just underlined it in red... oh well) - maybe it really is just in their genes ?
at the end of the day it would be pretty miraculous if the one 2 things different been the sexes turned out to be tits and a fanny - I think one could make a pretty airtight case that the development of of other differences are almost inevitable from our evolutionary roots - and yet we continue to try to push this 'girls and boys are alike' thing on our society.. it's clearly bollocks.
Our eldest who can in no sense be mistaken for being male, badgered us for both Lego Technic and Meccano and we still have both. Both daughters played with the other Lego sets, especially the space stuff. The eldest ended up going to Spacecamp in Houston, from Scotland.
My wife (BA Maths, BSc CompSci, MBA) and I were in a large toyshop at the weekend and I noticed the girl's meccano toolbox, it was hard to miss as it was in hot pink. There was a toy car from another company just for girls, pink. Why just because it's for girls does it have to be one colour? all the boys' stuff isn't universally blue so why is the girl's stuff ALL pink? It's depressing.
Lego is trying to be playmobil. And they are losing. The little figures are worthless for building or making imaginary worlds, one might as well play with actual dolls. I bought my kids kennex instead because you can build things. And try buying a tiny bucket of bricks: its costs a fortune, plus you get ripped off as some "bricks" are useless tiny bits coming probably from unsold spaceships. Sorry Lego I loved you, but you screwed up badly and you took your customers for a ride, so now you can pay and disappear. :(
Sorry, it's true. generally only boys 'get' lego.
I'm one of 3 boys and 2 girls. 2 boys into the lego (just the building bricks in our day), oldest lad not and the girls not.
my 2 boys were into lego, inventing and building (despite the very specific kits nowadays) my daughter wasn't really. liked playing with the girl stuff, but not inventing or building really.
...how many people built spaceships out of their lego as a child, but not many have gone on to build actual spaceships in adult life? If we turned our minds to it as adults (forgetting about the cost) we should be able to build some pretty wild space rides with the experience we gained as kids.
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