I’m sure everyone is aware that Legos are great toys for learning and creativity. My oldest son turned 5 in January and has been raking in Legos. They are his favorite thing. All he want’s are Legos. He began working with them last year, but they have really taken hold over the last few months. I’m sure it helps that The Husband is a great big nerd and loves Legos too. The two of them will sit for hours working on a Lego project. Often separate projects (Husband wanted Legos for Christmas too, which he got), with Daddy helping Ben on hard parts.
Since I didn’t grow up with Legos, I didn’t really know how they worked beyond, you snap them together and build stuff. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I didn’t realize that Lego kits came with instructions. Step by step instructions. After watching Ben work on some for a while, I realized that, beyond the obvious benefits of Legos (fine motor skills, three dimensional thinking, problem solving, hand-eye coordination, just to name a few), they are good for literacy preparation. Yes, I know that Lego instructions don’t have words or letters, but reading is more than that.
Ben isn’t reading yet, not really. Oh, he knows all his letters and sounds. He can spell his name, and he can sound out small simple words like car and bat. So, he is getting there, but he isn’t sitting down reading books on his own yet. (Although, he understands when his dad and I, in conversation, spell out certain words when we don’t want the boys to know what we are talking about, like b-a-t-h. He immediately announces that he doesn’t want a bath and Eli can go first.)
Toddlers and pre-readers can get some great practice decoding by doing Lego projects. Decoding is an important literary skill. Technically, the definition of decoding in literacy is, the ability to decipher words from a group of letters. When you read the word cake you are decoding. When you read the word flish, you are also decoding, even though flish is not a real word. You are able to associate a sound with the letters, and apply phonetic skills to pronounce it.
Decoding is transferable. It is the ability to decode meaning from a medium of communication. Those who study Egyptian Hieroglyphics must learn to decode that language, and they can, because they already know how to decode other languages. They can transfer these decoding skills from one language to the next. Some can do it more easily than others, but it can be done.
Kids do this with Lego instructions. They start at the left side of the page and read to the right. They have to learn the order in which to proceed, they have to read the pictures to decide what pieces they need to find, and where to put them. In this instance, the type of block is the letter, and the completed car, helicopter, starship, is the word. This is great practice to prepare them for decoding letters and words. It is also great practice at following directions.
Now, while I was doing just a bit of prep research for this post I came across a wonderful post on This Reading Mama. She shares 18 different ways to use Lego bricks to teach reading. It is definitely worth a gander for those of you with Lego lovin kids at home.
For tips and ideas to prime your birth to toddler age kids for reading check out my 6×6 series on early literacy.