Child’s play

Thursday 14th July 2011

LEGO superseded Bayko and Meccano during the early 1960s. I was a teenager by then, having progressed from Matchbox toys to Monopoly. Having missed out on this wonderful invention as a boy, I have more than made up for it since. Three children and three granddaughters have given me countless hours of construction fun.

Ole Kirk Christiansen had started manufacturing wooden toys, when, in 1934, he asked his staff to come up with a new name for his company, the best suggestion being guaranteed the prize of a bottle of home-made wine. The winner was ‘Lego’: a contraction of leg godt, the Danish for ‘play well’. The name was put forward by Christiansen himself. Tut tut.

It is also a common Latin word, with various meanings: I gather, select, read.

The toy helps develop both convergent and divergent thinking. Structures demand logic; flexibility encourages flights of fancy. The government should instruct Father Christmas to deliver boxes of the colourful bricks, cogs and levers to every household in the land. I believe it would be of more benefit to children everywhere than any trust fund programme.

My hairdresser was seven yesterday.

She is more entertaining than television, livelier than a crowded pub, as quick-witted as any adult. Among her recent additions to the family lexicon are ‘slooping’ – when a gymnast bends the knees – and ‘aubergette’: a vegetable suitable for stir-frying.

As big a fan of Lego as her Granddappy, she may not yet know it, but the bricks of our relationship were built on carpets.

One of my all-time favourite examples of child creativity features a girl of her age. That’s why I imagine her speaking whenever I recount this delightful exchange, which, in an earlier era, would have surely made its way on to the back of those England Glory matchboxes.

TEACHER: That’s a very interesting painting you’re doing. What is it exactly?

CHILD: It’s a picture of God.

TEACHER: Oh? But nobody really knows what God looks like.

CHILD: Well, they will in a minute.




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2 Responses to Child’s play

  1. Annie Hitch says:

    A lovely piece on my youngest child’s eighteenth birthday. Many construction toys have been tried since – sticklebricks and flexistraws to name two we had – but none match up. A box of the Danish stuff could entertain for an entire camping holiday.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That is a lovely story.

    One of the signs that your children are getting older is the number of years it has been since you last unexpectedly stood on a piece of Lego whilst barefoot.

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