Thursday, December 15, 2011

building a case for Legos

Tonight is the boys' Christmas concert at school--Mr. D will attend since I'll be AT MY BOOK LAUNCH PARTY IN STEVENS POINT. Anyway, I'll sit in on the dress rehearsal, which, as my sons helpfully pointed out, is NOT the same thing as the evening performance, but there you have it. They don't seem terribly impressed by my reason for missing the concert.

It's all about LEGOS here lately. By lately I mean for the past year. My children have almost exclusively asked for Lego kits for Christmas. Mr. T has a hankering for the Old School Star Wars kits which are wicked pricey and hard to find, Mr. B and Mr. G are kicking it Clone Wars and Ninjago-style. Mr. D and I think we should buy stock in Lego Corp. because Lord knows we spend enough on their products. Star Wars! Ninjago! Pirates!

This morning we rehashed that conversation and I mused yet again to Mr. D, "And they haven't even begun to effectively tap the GIRL market yet. I mean, it's all for boys, their product lines. But Legos are huge and believe me, there are plenty of girls who like them now, but imagine if they developed lines exclusively for girls."

Mr. D looked at me like I'm crazy (which happens more often than you might imagine) and said, "They're BUILDING toys. Girls don't like to BUILD."

I replied, "Baloney-Salami. I was a girl and I loved to build. In fact, I spent more time BUILDING houses and mansions and towns for my Barbie dolls than I spent actually PLAYING dolls. I loved building toys--this old farm set my dad had as a kid, tinker toys, blocks, dollhouses. Sadly, most building toys are geared to boys, but I'm telling you, girls like to build."

It's true. Look at all the women you know who like to make things--crafting is a form of building. It's creative but it's also productive. Knitting a sweater, stamping an album, nailing together a birdhouse--the beauty of BUILDING is the satisfaction of looking at your final product. I truly believe girls both need and would enjoy toys that incorporate both.

Look at the wild success of Webkins. How many of those beanbag critters were sold because of the code that gained access to a virtual world where kids could build their own house and manage their own affairs? A form of building. My kids' favorite thing to play lately is Lego Universe because it's a virtual world where they BUILD their properties, create their characters, and design their characters' paths.

Kids want to interact with their toys and the lamest toys are the ones with a limited script (I'm talking to the likes of you, Tickle Me Elmo). The best toys are the ones that work at the mercy of a kid's imagination. Now these Lego kits the boys want for Christmas come with instructions, but once they're built, they get shuffled around and engage in all kinds of dramatic warfare. And then the boys build NEW space shuttles and rockets and weapons using random Lego parts, constantly interchanging the dynamics of their play.

More importantly, kids enjoy feeling the pride of looking at a finished product that they assembled themselves. So many toys rob them of this experience--what pride is there in dressing a doll? Almost none. What pride is there in rolling a car? Almost none. But building a track? Assembling a house/castle/spaceship? Creating a city? Piecing together an outfit/weapon/vehicle from scratch? Significantly more. I've got 3 kids who'd prefer to have blank paper and markers than a coloring page because they have Big Ideas to express. I don't think my kids are unique--I truly believe every kid has the potential to imagine and create--IF they're given the right toys and tools to employ their imagination and creativity.

For all these reasons I believe there is huge untapped potential for the girl market in Legos. Then I went online this morning to read the news and found this. Which I immediately sent to Mr. D with a request that I get stock in Lego Corp. for Christmas because by golly, it's about to happen! For all of the money Lego poured in to gaining the rights to and developing product lines for Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter and Star Wars, I argue they can spend a pittance on some of the popular girl brands and gain traction. Imagine an American Girl-themed Lego world. Think of it! The perfect trifecta of education, creativity and positive identity development in a single toy line!

Spill it, reader. Are you with me? Do girls like to build? And more importantly, do you see a market for girl-themed Legos*?

I'm off to practice my reading for tonight.


* I know there's a missed opportunity here for exploring the whole gender dynamic of toys and branding and so forth, but for Pete's sake, people, I have 3 boys and a BOOK LAUNCH PARTY TONIGHT, so we're just not going there, okay?

18 comments:

  1. I had a Lego castle as a kid - it took my dad and I a week to build it. I loved it.

    You know what kills me? The price of those Lego kits!

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  2. Your husband is off his rocker on this issue! Emma picked out a great lego 3-bay garage and trucks set a couple of summers ago at a Lego Store, and in addition to that she has the old (chewed, lit-on-fire) legos from her dad's childhood, a whole set of window frames, doors, etc. to build houses, and miscellaneous legos she's used to make wheel chairs and buses for her Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop toys.

    She has also taken summer enrichment classes where she learned how to build machines with legos --a ferris wheel, a car, a dump-truck-- all with a battery pack so they really work. Those are her favorite classes!

    Rob and I were so disappointed when she first got into legos that they were so boy-oriented. And, yeah, expensive. :-)

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  3. good luck with the reading!!!

    We are all about Legos. It's sick and disgusting the amount we have that will never be used again. and yet we buy more sets for xmas.

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  4. I'm so excited about your reading! Break a leg! And having girls, you'd be surprised how hard it is to find good picture books that are about girls. I was always in love with beautifully illustrated books and if happened to be about a girl, you can bet I snapped it up. And then I had two boys....

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  5. So exciting about your book signing!!!!!!! DO tell when you get back. Oh and that "Leah" that you said you'd pray for on "Being Green" is my big sister. So, thanks.

    Also I agree that girls spend a lot of time "setting up" their playspace and building than they do actually playing. At least when it comes to miniatures. Um hello...dollhouses!! :)

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  6. Just bought my niece the "corner buildings" or whatever from their City collection - she LOVES Legos!!

    Break a leg!

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  7. Would you like for me to send you a photo of my GIRLS' toy room, which contains thousands of $$$ of Legos -- thousands of Legos which they have assembled themselves into some damn fine architectural specimens?

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  8. First, I wish I could go to your book launch party! YAY Green Girl!

    Second, we love to build! My nieces are crazy about legos. And as a kid, I used to love to build forts. And when I bought a home, I got to gut and decide how I wanted to put it back together. I got to design and build my own garden plots too. And I think it has a lot to do with the tinker toys, lincoln logs and legos I played with as a kid.

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  9. I wonder if a lot of girls play with the Harry Potter Lego sets. I know the website has pink house sets, zoos and animal clinics.

    When my son was young all they made was the buckets of squares and rectangles. My daughter never touched them. I'm really surprised they don't make sets to build dollhouses and

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  10. Tell Mr. D Bull Hockey! My brother had bazillions of legos and we would all build together...same thing with his domino rally kits...we loved making domino mazes to knock down.

    I'm pretty sure that legos and dominos were the only things that we all played together well....

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  11. all my 6 girls loved building legos. and they built their own tree houses in the back pasture by themselves. one of my daughters has claimed her lego sets for her daughters.
    I so enjoyed my brother's erector sets when I was young. I had wanted my own, but back then... no go..

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  12. When we were kids, my sister and I loved Legos, our brother could not be bothered. Now my son and daughter both love Legos. Luckily Legos are made in the Czech Republic so we can find some pretty cool kits here!

    Have a wonderful time at the book launch party. Anyone who can wield a sword with such aplomb will be a hit as a reader, I am positive!

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  13. Book. Launch. Party. Those three little words are just nifty. Yay, you! I'm waiting for my pre-ordered copy!
    Yes, girls do like to build. Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and Legos were the most desirable toys. There was infinite possibility in each package... that my brother received. My jerky boy cousin was also likely to receive Lego sets, but he would build according to the directions only to display his Lego Goodies trapped forever in one form. (That seemed like a total lack of imagination and a real waste of Legos to me.)
    My mister gave me Legos during our courtship. That probably helped seal the deal.

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  14. Yes, many girls would love to build/play with Legos. My youngest daughter, at about age 9, asked for some Legos but it seemed to me all they had was stuff for preschoolers. She loves to build with our wooden blocks. Any large cardboard box she finds becomes either a space ship or a wand shop, and has the added feature of being cheaper than Legos.

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  15. The box of Legos my boys have now is mine from when I was a kid. I LOVED Legos. Back then they just had basic Legos. I would make houses and cars and all sorts of cool stuff. LOVE Legos. Love them. My boys are getting a bunch of Legos for Christmas too, as they are really enjoying them now.
    However, I am kind of a traditionalist and I just like original sets. That way the kid uses their own imagination to figure out what to build, not just the pictures on the boxes. Not only that but they were more neutral instead of boy theme and girl theme, know what I mean?

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  16. I got a male lego lover and a box of legos stored in the attic for those grandkids he'll someday give me. Bring out that box and boy or girl, they all dive in. Lego is asleep at the wheel, you're idea is a no-brainer.

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  17. Lego is awesome, whether you're a boy or a girl! Lola has just discovered playmobil. They have jumped on the girl bandwagon a long time ago.

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Spill it, reader.