Saturday, March 03, 2007

Is this really the answer?

Mom sent me a neat geography puzzle:
I sucked. With most of the countries I knew in which general area they belonged, like most of the "stans" go together to the right, but not exactly which country went where. I need to brush up on my geography in this part of the world.

After I blew it on the puzzle, I went to the main page: and read this:

Why We Banned Legos

As they watched their elementary-age students playing with Legos, Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin saw some disturbing trends. In the current issue they describe how some kids hoarded the "best" pieces, denied their classmates any access at all to the pretend town they were building, and displayed other undesirable behavior surrounding ownership and the social power it conveys. So the teachers banned Legos, and worked with the kids to surface the issues raised by the ways they had been using the popular building blocks.

Doesn't that kind of beg these questions: Are Legos the problem? And will banning the Legos take care of it? Are the teachers, perhaps, throwing the baby out with the bath water?

In all fairness, I have to say two things: First of all, I like Legos. I like to play with them and the gents play with them daily. So I'm biased. Second, I have not read the entire article. I probably won't because I don't want to pay $5 to read it. So maybe the article, when read in full, makes a convincing case for Legos in particular creating hoarding and ownership problems. Or maybe the Legos aren't banned entirely and forever, but the idea of "banning" a popular toy makes for a more interesting headline.

My boys hoard pieces and display undesirable behaviors over Legos. They also happen to be sitting at the table at this very moment working on a joint creation of some kind. (I just checked, and they're making matching planes.) They're sharing pieces, helping one another, collaborating. I think that's pretty darn good for four and six. I've put the Legos away for short time when the gents wouldn't share, but I can't imagine banning the Legos altogether. If I were to remove every toy from the environment over which the gents had issues of ownership and social power, they'd be down to the sticks in the back yard. And I'd probably have to take those away too. Heck, sometimes they fight over who gets to play with the littlest gent, but I can't ban him from the family. If I ban everything that creates conflict, how are my kids going to learn to resolve the conflicts in a way that's respectful to everyone concerned?

Finding the boundaries between individual and community rights is difficult. We don't want to teach our children that they must give up anything that they've got the instant someone else shows an interest, but we don't want them hoarding, shoving, shouting, and excluding others either. Fairness, learning the differences between what we need and what we want, and balancing our needs with those of others is tricky stuff even for adults, and in childhood environments those issues ought to be taught constantly, kindly, and vigilantly. Working with the kids to "surface the issues raised by the way they had been using the popular building blocks" is absolutely appropriate. And maybe removing the Legos, the really hot ticket, can give the children practice addressing the very valid issues raised using materials like wooden blocks or craft supplies or game pieces, toys that may not be as likely to raise the heated arguments that Legos can provoke. But banning the Legos altogether means that the children don't ever get the opportunity to learn how to work together and find equitable ways to share something that's really important to them.

I could keep going, but my gents just flew by with their planes. No creative license here, it's actually going on right now and they're proud of their planes...oops, they just informed me that they're "ships." No time to edit, so bear with me. I'm going to play Legos.


nina said...

Goodness-I didn't do so well either. I knew the general area. I might share this on my site. Recently, I read some advice about moms taking the preschool years to educate themselves and let the children just play. I'm on the fence but I do know I need to spend more time improving my knowledge base.

Lesley said...
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