From the gentle snap of your first LEGO connection, to discovering the tactile thrill of some of the more obscure Technic pieces, LEGO has a range of sensory elements that are universally satisfying. At Imagination Station, we love seeing people of all ages engaged with LEGO, building, creating, exploring. Whether it’s something vaguely shaped like a fish, or a complex, self-supporting, fully mobile Ferris Wheel, we think the journey is the best part of the build. With or without a goal in mind, Imagination Station encourages everyone to experience the simple pleasure of LEGO. Whether you’re using LEGO, DUPLO, Technic or other toys, we’ve outlined a few ways you can use play to stimulate the sensory areas of your brain!
Building Builds Your Brain
"Aside from the obvious creative outlet, sensory play has benefits for adults and children as it reinforces key connections in the brain."
Sensory play is an unstructured activity that engages multiple senses. Luckily for us, sensory experiences are abundant with LEGO. Aside from the obvious creative outlet, sensory play has benefits for adults and children as it reinforces key connections in the brain. For example, every time you pick up a brick, you reinforce the links between size and weight of objects.
Test this out by guessing whether a flat brick will weigh as much as a regular sized brick. You could also test some more items around your home that are the same size as LEGO pieces. For example, do coins weigh more or less than a brick a similar size? What about a square of chocolate?
The same goes for the links between shape and sound. Larger DUPLO bricks have much more hollow space than a regular LEGO brick, and whether you realise it or not, your brain probably knows the difference between the sounds created by each of those shapes. Make a game out of this kind of activity by using a blindfold. One at a time, click two DUPLO bricks together and two LEGO bricks together. Take turns being blindfolded and guessing the brick type. What happens when you just tap the sides of the bricks together compared to connecting them properly? Can you tell these sounds apart?
In children, improving these neural connections actually increases their brain’s capacity to complete complex learning tasks. In adults, it works the same way. Performing simple tasks teaches us how the world works, and reinforces the fundamental pathways that we use in complex reasoning.
While there are definitely benefits to setting goals and completing epic builds, there’s value in the little things too. Anxiety, along with depression and panic attacks are increasingly common symptoms of a busy world. A widely used technique for managing anxiety and panic attacks is to engage all five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. While we don’t think LEGO can do much in the way of taste and smell, it can definitely be a tool used to engage three of the five senses. Focusing on each of these in turn for 10 seconds will help calm anxiety and encourage slower breathing.
"We often exaggerate the value of problem-solving over free expression. In fact, innocent creativity drives us to learn new ways to engage the problem-solving part of our brains."
While we live in a world that is frequently hectic and often stressful, mindfulness is a trendy way to calm the energy in a room. At Imagination Station, LEGO lets us use our creative brains in a non-threatening space. It’s a way to focus on the short-term, and it allows us to step back from the big picture when we need to. It also promotes a kind of innocent creativity as well as problem-solving creativity. The difference between the two is subtle, but they’re equally necessary and in a results-driven world. We often exaggerate the value of problem-solving over free expression. In fact, innocent creativity drives us to learn new ways to engage the problem-solving part of our brains. Building for the sake of building leads us to discover new techniques. Free play keeps creativity light, rather than the commodity it has become.
Ultimately, we need creativity. It's the skill that keeps humans alive. It’s behind problem-solving, good leadership, entrepreneurship and all types of art. Even those professions that are sometimes considered less creative or more formulaic, such as scientists and mathematicians, rely on creativity to drive their work into new frontiers. Practicing innocent creativity helps the brain to use pathways that are critical in problem-solving too.
Take a moment to unwind and enjoy the clicks and snaps of LEGO with us on Hapori (Level 1) in Tūranga.