Guest post from Dave at YourCub.com

Do you love to play with your children? I know I do. But many of the toys that my preschooler likes to play with will only keep me engaged for a few minutes. You’ll find that the more educational and creative the task or the toy, the longer we as adults are able to play with our little ones without getting bored or distracted. And when parents are engaged in the toy, so are our children. And that’s when they learn the most from us.

Toys are a great way for parents and children to bond because they allow us to talk with one another, understand what each other are thinking and what they are trying to accomplish. And then also how that might be done! There are many times during play where we can talk about our interests and find common ground. This allows us to appreciate our children more and form a stronger bond together.

So in order to enjoy these benefits you need to have engaging and educational toys! One of the most popular toys for people of all ages, both children and adults, is LEGO. Nearly every household has a box of LEGO or maybe DUPLO hiding somewhere! You’ve probably picked up countless LEGO pieces from the floor in your parenting journey. I know I have.

LEGO is so educational that many schools are starting to use it every day in their classrooms. It’s ideal for children who are interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). That’s because LEGO allows children to use their imagination to build pretty much anything they want. 

A simple task like ‘building a bridge’ challenges a child in ways you may not appreciate. They need to think critically and plan ahead. They have to take into consideration a wide variety of issues, like structure, availability of parts, strength of joints. If you can get your child engaged in this type of activity from a young age you can spark their curiosity and possibly impact their future for the better.

With that in mind, here’s a list of 5 activities (there more here!) you could try with your little one. Each will require you to work together, don’t expect them to blast through these without any assistance. You need to work with them and teach them about the practicalities of how some things work! That’s the educational bit 🙂

1) LEGO Marble Maze

Completing a maze is satisfying. The thrill of finding your way through a maze is exciting because you never know the right path until you have tried all of them. While completing mazes are fun, designing your own maze for someone else to complete is even more satisfying when you’re little.. 

To make your own LEGO marble maze I’d suggest find a large LEGO baseplate, a bunch of LEGOs, and a small ball or marble. You can use the base plate as the bottom of the maze. Create a starting and ending point and assemble the LEGOs all around the plate until you have a great looking maze. You can use dead ends, turns, and random structures to make your maze more complex.

This maze will take a lot of advanced planning to complete. Your child will have to determine how wide the maze has to be to allow room for the marble and how to get the marble through the maze. The ability to plan ahead, stop, and think, and redesign will be crucial to completing this task. This activity is great for children and adults to play together because each of you can design a maze for the other to solve.

2) LEGO Marble Drop / Marble Run

Like lots of fun game shows or arcade games (like pinball or pachinko) balls dropping down a pathway can be mesmerizing. LEGO is perfect for making something similar. This activity is sure to keep your little ones playing for hours and hours full of engagement and curiosity. It might keep you engaged just as long too (believe me…).

In order to try this one just find a box of LEGOs, and a marble or a small ball. You can fix several LEGO baseplates together to make a backboard. Then arrange whatever pieces you have on the board to make a path for the ball to roll down.

3) Bridge Building Activity

One of the most iconic structures in all of STEM is a bridge. The ability to build a strong bridge takes a lot of patience,and planning. Children are often surprised by how flimsy their structures can be under load. Challenge your child to build a bridge that’s strong enough to hold up a weight (like a bottle) and also big enough to allow a favorite toy to drive under. We used a toy tank.

Once you have all of your materials assembled you need to build your own LEGO bridge. There is no right or wrong way to build a bridge, but don’t expect your little one to get it right the first time. It might be big enough, but will it be strong enough? You might need to help a little with that part as kids just want to throw more bricks at it without appreciating how to best fit them together.

4) LEGO Tic-Tac-Toe

One of the most classic games ever created is tic-tac-toe. To make a LEGO Tic-Tac-Toe you need to make a tic-tac-toe board on a LEGO baseplate. Once the board is set you can play the game using other LEGO pieces. This game can be played over and over again for fun.

This is a great activity if you have two children around the same age at home. This is a great way to play tic-tac-toe because it does not require a lot of materials or pens and paper. No mess, an engineering task and a reusable toy.

5) LEGO Drop Test

To teach your children about falls and impact you can use this test, or experiment, to find out which structures, shapes, and designs are most resistant to drops.

Give your child a set number of LEGO bricks (say anywhere from 15 to 25). Let them build a shape with all the bricks and once it’s done have them drop their shapes from a height of about 6-10 feet or so. The height is completely up to you. Talk to your child about which shapes did not break during the drop and which ones did. 

If you are looking for some engaging STEM activities to do with your children you should highly consider investing in a box of LEGO. It provides the perfect way to bond and have fun. Be creative, plan ahead, use critical thinking skills, and improve manual dexterity. 

Getting your children involved with STEM style challenges now may help them find their passion and a future career in one many well-paying and highly sought after STEM jobs.

There are many more activities on this LEGO STEM post at Yourcub.com.