Lego parents

Working as a Summer Explainer has been an eye-opening experience. I used to be a teacher – and as a teacher you actually very rarely see a child interacting with their parents, apart from at the beginning and the end of the day.

We’ve been making spacecraft out of Lego.

The routine goes like this – parent and child rock up to the Lego table, and we explain what’s happening. We give the child a pot of Lego and they set to and make their thing. When it’s finished, they bring the thing back to an Explainer, who will make all the right noises about how fab it is and engage them in a little bit of conversation along the lines of ‘What does this part do?’ and ‘Tell me about that bit there’ and so on. The things are then displayed on our table.

Part of our role as Explainers is to engage with children – to get them talking about science subjects. The aim is to ‘increase Science Capital’ – in other words, to increase the general knowledge that people who are not science specialists have about science. This could be science concepts, science facts, science vocabulary and so on. By chatting to kids we are encouraging them to use the science vocab they already have, and also using the opportunity to extend that vocab as appropriate. It’s a worthy aim.

This is what actually happens. A lot –

Child is given a pot of Lego and tips it out onto the table. Child looks at all the pieces, and thinks about what to make. Parent watches.

Ah, but no. Parent is helping – finding pieces to make a rocket. Child hasn’t actually decided what to make yet.

Now what?? Parent is telling child what to do. ‘Use that as the base’, ‘It needs an engine’, ‘You’ve got to have two sets of wheels.’

FFS, parent is now actually doing it. Even grabbing Lego from their child and fitting it on to the model. Dear parent – if you would like your own pot of Lego, please just ask.

At this point, the child becomes withdrawn, or bored, or irritated. Why wouldn’t they?

We go around the table, chatting – to see what everyone’s doing, to give them an opportunity to use whatever scientific language is appropriate, and to give them the correct terminology if they’re not sure.

This is what actually happens. A lot –

Explainer (to child): Hi, how’s it going? That looks great, want to tell me about it?

Child: opens their mouth…

Parent: It’s a rocket. (Yes, parent, I know it’s a rocket. And I know that you know that it’s a rocket. I’m engaging with your child.)

Explainer (to child): So, tell me all about it.

Child: opens their mouth…

Parent: This is the landing gear, that’s the pointy bit at the top, and this is where the people sit. (Yes, yes, I know. I’m giving your child another chance to say what they want to say)

Explainer (to child): It looks great. What does this bit do?

Child: opens their mouth…

Parent: Those are the engines, and then this bit is the… (Seriously mate??)

Why do parents do this?

Some parents aren’t like this. Some parents bring their child or children, get them sat down, make sure they know what’s wanted and then LEAVE THEM TO GET ON WITH IT. They stand within reach but not interfering – some of them even have grown-up conversations with each other. I think that’s a much healthier way of going on, for both parent and child.

And when the Explainer asks their child a question, some parents listen to what their child has to say. That’s when the magic happens. That’s when my job becomes worthwhile.

These are actual responses from children, when they’ve finally been able to get a word in edgeways –

  • ‘It’s a shop, for when we’re living on the Moon’,
  • ‘That window is so they can see where they’re going’,
  • ‘This is the ramp for the wheelchair’,
  • ‘That’s the propeller’,
  • ‘First of all these rockets fire, then they detach and then they use these rockets for steering’.
  • ‘That’s a light so they can see the aliens’
  • ‘Those are solar panels for energy.’

My message to parents – leave them be, please. Give them space, give them time. Let them do it, don’t jump in at the first hesitation, give them chance to think. Let them breathe.

And if you want your own pot of Lego, please just ask.

If you’ve enjoyed this and would like to see more of my Middle-Aged, Musings, Memories and so on, please scroll all the way down and Follow me.

You can also Like, Share and Comment, or Email any of my posts to a friend. I really do appreciate it.

I always reply to Comments from nice people.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. janeyjump says:

    I worked at a care home for young folk with difficulties. They were a great lively bunch and loved making things and I loved bringing ‘stuff’ so they could be creative. Some had major physical problems but none of their problems compared with the ‘ helpers’ taking over. It was so frustrating for me and must have been a hundred times more so for the students. I tried so hard to gently explain to the helpers that it wasn’t about a perfect finished product but they just didn’t get it. One woman who could barely use her arms and had speech problems too made it quite clear she did not want help. She was great and made amazing ‘wobbly’ things. I still have a wonderful tray she painted proudly displayed in our kitchen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain. I can’t work out WHY they do it!! Are they scared the child will get it wrong? (There is no ‘wrong’ with a Lego model!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah says:

    My son went to day nursery a couple of days a week from ages 1-4 years. He came home with many things he had “created”. Evidently the staff were not cable of appreciating each child’s unique talent as all the creations were identical. As a result we haven’t kept any momentoes.

    It is good to hear a workshop facilitator wishing parents stepped back and allowed the children a chance to join in.


    1. That’s so sad!! When I trained as a teacher I had to write an assignment on ‘Product versus Process’ – basically making the point that it’s the doing that matters, not the finished item. Obviously your nursery staff didn’t get the same assignment!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.