I’ve always said that playing with LEGO is an emotional experience.
Of course LEGO wins the award for Best Hands-on Play Experience standing on one leg but it goes much deeper than that. LEGO has the power and potential to unlock words and feelings to build conversations and character.
I’ve got loads of LEGO mini-figures at home and they often help out when needed. If my household want to talk about how they are feeling then there is sure to be a mini-figure in my collection to mirror an emotion and swapping heads is easy.
Children readily interact with objects that are designed to represent personalities and the ‘minifigs’ are perfect for that. LEGO Education have gone further and tuned into the emotional power of the brick to produce a very timely resource called Build Me Emotions.
This is a characteristically stroke of genius from LEGO as it is the perfect starting point for PSHE work for children aged 3 to 5 years for exploring feelings and for developing a core vocabulary to help express their feelings. They not only contribute to each learner’s sense of self and self-competence but they allow children to collaborate, reciprocate and build relationships.
The Build Me Emotions set includes 188 classic LEGO DUPLO pieces and eight double-sided building cards. The pieces are basically joined together to build characters with unique features so children can understand their own feelings and they provide a fun and engaging learning context to explore similarities and differences by sharing with others.
Children build a person and they can compare themselves looking at the expressions, clothing and features. The non-toxic pieces are large, robust, and colourful. As quality is a LEGO obsession then you know the resources are built to the highest standards.
The brilliant and easy to follow building cards are what children mimic to construct a character and an associated emotion. The distinctive yellow faces in the set each show a different emotion and because the cards are double-sided children can flip their people around to express a different emotion to make 16 different characters.
The cards show a character displaying an emotion and the fun is copying that character and building it. But it’s also an open door to discuss why a particular character is feeling that way. What has happened to her? Who has made him feel like that?
Whilst the building cards provide support and inspiration for children to build and rebuild characters teachers can rely on tips, ideas, vocabulary and learning values included in the set. With LEGO Education there is always an added-value element and this resource comes with excellent online activity videos to help inspire you for incorporating the resource into lesson plans. With this level of support you get extremely good value for money.
What this ingenious set does is allow children to explore their connections to others including family and friends which in turn helps them understand the emotional needs of others. They can be easily used for role play in different scenarios and allow children to experience emotions in playful settings.
Whilst children might start off using common words like ‘happy’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’, the characters provide you with golden opportunities to explore alternatives, what they mean and how people react and interact. Rather than lose their heads, children can pick up the pieces, build a character and create meaning.
Obviously copying the building cards is the starting point but you can go off piste and free range by encouraging children to create their own characters, build their own scenarios, problems and stories to act out. This is the beauty of LEGO.
Effective hands-on materials that teach emotions and social skills are very difficult to find but LEGO Education have come up trumps here. They have made talking about complex feelings and complicated emotions really rather simple and enjoyable with Build Me Emotions.
The resource fits the LEGO template perfectly by being a challenge for young learners to build, the pieces are robust enough to survive rough play and the set is educationally sound.
When selecting a resource I ask myself, “Do I want this?” and the answer to that is yes because my PSHE needs is crying out for something hands-on and minds-on. Once opened and played with a few times I then ask, “Do children want more of it?” and the answer to that is also yes. One month later this will not be in the cupboard but it will be played with and rebuilt many times over.
This fresh and exciting resource will make a very significant contribution to early learning and the ecology of young minds as they learn about their own emotions and reflect on the emotions of those around them. They fit in effortlessly with a spiral programme of learning and provide a superb foundation for children to build on their understand and to eventually realise that if they don’t manage their emotions then their emotions can manage them.
The Build Me Emotions set could easily be used as a sort of LEGO therapy especially for supporting children with autism, emotional and behavioural disorders and other challenges in the area of communication and social skills. Of course, they are perfect for contextualising feelings as part of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In whatever way you use this set, it will provide a safe and supportive learning context where children can develop their personalities, share feelings, ask questions, draw on their experiences and have fun.
In 2009 LEGO DUPLO was judged by educational psychologists at the University of Nottingham as being the ultimate educational toy. If they saw this character building set today they would probably explode with new superlatives.
Construction skills and problem solving is a given but the real focus of this set is helping children understand the social world they live in and how emotions can be the captains of our lives. It teaches them to express their feelings and needs and recognise the feelings and needs of others.
The company motto is ‘Only the best is good enough’ and this set certainly lives up to that.