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As a speech language pathologist and educator, there is one thing that I have learned to do with any student I see….ADAPT! If I can teach a child through a preferred activity, why wouldn’t I want to? Getting a child engaged is half the battle sometimes. This brings me to the topic of the day: LEGOS! Kids love them, (Heck my husband loves them!) so why not use them to teach important skills? I think you will be surprised at how many topics can be taught with these classic toys!
Okay, let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first. Legos can absolutely be used to teach a large range of skills to youngsters. Preschoolers can practice motor skills and visual-spatial skills, just by building simple structures. Tons of vocabulary and concepts can be taught through the basic Lego sets too! Using bricks is a great way to learn and reinforce color concepts. Just by asking your child to hand you a blue Lego (or whatever color you so desire), you can assess if your child really knows their colors. Preschoolers can also improve classification skills by sorting a giant bin of Legos. You can assess knowledge of basic concepts by giving different sorting activities (i.e. sort all the Legos into piles by color, piles by size, by number of Lego circles on top…you get the idea).
As an SLP, I love how many language goals I can address through Lego play. You can teach following directions (one-step, two-step, or multi-step) by simply giving your kiddo oral commands and assessing their ability to respond appropriately. If they have difficulty, provide models and do a few examples yourself first to help them get the idea. You can also teach spatial concepts or positional words, which can be difficult for children to learn (i.e. under, on, over, in, beside, behind, etc). Start by telling your child where you are putting the Legos, and over time you can give them a directive to see if they put the Lego in the right place.
Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD from here on out!) tend to LOVE Legos. They also tend to have a great deal of difficulty with pronouns. So grab some other kids and practice following directions with pronouns! For example, you can say, “Give HER a red lego and give HIM a blue lego.” Did you check out all the skills we assessed with that one sentence? Pronouns, colors, and two-step directives!
More than one kid? If you play your cards right you can add in some social skills! Have those kids make eye contact when they share Legos and teach appropriate requesting when building with friends. Obviously, the choices are endless and it is just a matter of choosing the appropriate skill to target with your child. We find Legos so successful at Dot-To-Dot (our learning center located in Coral Springs, Fl), that we built a Lego therapy room. And guess what? Sometimes kids are more willing to work just because it is a fun place to sit and a change of pace from a boring therapy room!
On to my out-of-the-box thinkers, who may have been bored with the ideas set forth in this blog thus far. Legos are fantastic for math! It can be integrated into :
One-to-One Correspondence and Counting – Count away and match up your answers to number cards to teach number recognition.
Word Problems – Use the legos as manipulatives to help solve problems in a more concrete way!
Geometric shapes – How many shapes can you build? Furthermore, teach characteristics by what you CAN’T build. (i.e. Circles are round and have no edges.)
Multiplication – Tape numbers and problems to Legos. Make matching sets that have the same size or color brick. The students will learn facts naturally through repeated trials. (i.e. Match the RED 4X6 Lego to the RED 24 lego.) As their skills progress, you can tape the pieces of paper to different sizes and colors so there are no clues!
Measurement – Give the students a structure with specific dimensions and ask them to build it.
Graphing – Give the student a variety of Legos to sort and they can create a bar graph charting how many Legos are in each different group.
If you haven’t gotten the gist yet, Legos can help you teach any topic and are toys made for creative play! So it is time to get creative in your lessons with your kids! Build away friends!