As much as Lego has a hold on my children, and serves as the primary creative media for their enterprise, there is something they crave vastly more-- me. The kids and I play as often as I am willing. They are always willing, but like most grown-ups, I have all kinds of other things to be preoccupied with.
It takes some degree of intentionality to play with children, even for the kid at heart. Children don't always play the way I want to, and to play the way a child wants is to deny myself the well-earned right to play my own way. I didn't log seventeen years in the trenches of immaturity to be micro-managed by a five-year-old. The responsible parent in me reminds me (almost always soon enough) that it is not just nice but important to play with my kids they way they like. I personally recall a deficiency of wrestle time with my own dad.
I have devised two simple strategies with my own family to merge these two often conflicting priorities: I want it my way and they should have it their way (to some degree at least).
First, I jettison, chuck, or otherwise discard everything I don't personally like, and replace those things with stuff I do like. Gone is Candyland and that stinking Plumpy, who is a heartless time-sucker. No more marbles or ball bearing toys. In, is Lego of course, and baseball and certain board games.
Second, I model and teach my kids to enjoy the things I like. I happen to think they are good diversions, and so am not conflicted like the poor parents who willingly suppress the gag reflex when kiddie asks to watch Barney with them*.
It turns out that kids know how to play with the things I like and are good at them and seem to genuinely enjoy the pastimes I have allowed to filter through. I do have a heart, and I know this because many things have entered the home by the childrens' persistence and have found a place in that heart. Baseball for one.
When not playing with Lego, we have learned together to enjoy several games. They are not exactly board games, but fit into a geeky category known as German-style games. Carcassone, Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico and Dominion seem to be the recurrent favorites. Lego lovers ought to enjoy each of these choices.
My boys seem to latch on to the fairly complicated principles in some of the games and navigate the nuances like patent attorneys. It is oddly thrilling to get crushed by a nine-year-old in size seven jeans. None are really all that similar to anything else out there. Please check them out.
In the spirit of this blog, check out these clever Lego MOCs other fans have come up with.
Settlers of Catan
Now, as always, play with a purpose!
* I'm sure you “really do like Barney.” I agree that his show “promotes a great deal of positive values.” I just can't personally “resist the temptation to throw rocks at the TV,” and “mime out abusive behavior” whenever I have no choice but to be in a room when he and his cohorts are on.
Ty Hansen of www.brikcrate.com is a freelance badass living in Naples, Florida with his wife and passel of children. He produces storage solutions for the avid hobbyist.