How Playing with LEGO Together Helps Us Get Through the Pandemic

By Bastiaan Slabbers and Jana Shea

Today, exactly one year ago, our family of three — like so many others — found ourselves scrambling as we reset our lives to deal with a global pandemic.

With three months left in the academic year, the School District of Philadelphia had made the decision to pull the plug and indefinitely shutter in-person education. Suddenly, we had to create a full-time learning environment for our Kindergartener, right in our home. The small screen of a laptop would become our son’s entire window to the world.

As part of a package to help guide us with homeschooling, the teacher shared a simple, colorful, one-sheet page of instructions. A 30-day LEGO building challenge she found on the Internet kicked off a momentum. Not fully capable of comprehending it at the time, we now credit this thoughtful gesture as a major stepping stone into the future development of our young creator.

What was only supposed to last two weeks, turned into a month and then another, until it was clear the lockdown was going to keep us stuck at home for the rest of the year. And into a new one.

Throughout it all, LEGO has been a balm, bridge, and brain booster.

The 30 days of builds as a STEM component of handmade home schooling turned into a daily passion. Builds grew more original and complex.

Playing with LEGO in a digital age
Playing with LEGO in a digital age

Online LEGO building “summer camp” helped fill solitary, sweltering days with fun and prepared our son for an all-virtual 2020-2021 school year. LEGO Life provides a safe social media experience where our “lonely only” child can connect with others to share his creations and story ideas. 

A fantastic tool to learn coding concepts came into our lives this winter when a generous neighbor offered a box not only filled with hundreds of bricks, but also a fully working (after some TLC and a rubber band hack), programmable LEGO robot.

Today, our son has a developing fascination with the art of storytelling, comic book creation and film making, completely inspired by watching tangible Minifigs come to life through the magic of animation (thanks to LEGO’s Ninjago movies and television series). With our pandemic kitten looking on (and sometimes starring as our own Meowthra), epic battles are recreated on the floor while the ‘director’ produces an appropriate soundtrack with his voice.

All things we have picked up this year are starting to fit together………like two studded bricks that form the base for yet another amazing build. And now our son is learning how to produce, direct and edit his own story.

Published by Bastiaan Slabbers

Independent freelance photojournalist. Philadelphia, PA based Dutch citizen. Producing multimedia content for local, national outlets and wire services. Available for assignments in Greater Philadelphia area and abroad.

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