It’s said that DNA is the building block of life but I would beg to differ. When having a building block contest there really is one that trumps them all…Lego of course! Its tiny form belies its mighty power but any child (particularly one who grew up in the 80s – before advanced computer games really took over every young boy (and girls) playtime) will tell of the magical properties held in the little bricks. And plus, what other toy has a whole theme park dedicated to its cause!?!
Lego really is the toy that knows no boundaries, gender, culture or even age. It transcends all social constructs and can offer unlimited amounts of joy as well as being a great training instrument for future architects!
Originally developed in the 1940s in Denmark, the blocks slowly developed to become those which we know and love today and are now manufactured all around the world. It didn’t really take off till the 60s in the UK, when it was spotted in a toy fair in Brighton. However the significance of Lego for 80s kids is that back then you could buy Lego as single pieces, as opposed to the pre-built model sets that became the staple later on down the line.
My own Lego experience began at a very young age, and some of my happiest toy memories are based around it. Whenever I visited my grandparents I would head straight upstairs to fetch the giant box of Lego, and promptly tip the entire contents over the floor. Immersed in my little land of Lego I would spend many a contented hour building everything my mind could dream up, although I do confess to being a bit tame and preferring houses to any other structure!
I didn’t ever own a fancy set and my Lego was quite simplistic – containing only basic boards and bricks, so one of my greatest challenges was trying to build roofs for my houses. I’d always manage to get half-way across and would either run out of bricks or discover that there was a flaw in my engineering and the weight of the stacked blocks would cave in on itself. This was always a sad moment but I’d manage to regain enough composure to start again!
My first experience of playing with themed Lego was with my best boyfriend, Richard (we weren’t romantically involved) he lived next door and it was always fun to go round and experience all his ‘action-y’ toys! As a birthday present Richard had received a huge castles and knights’ themed Lego set. We’d both avidly watched the television adverts for this particular collection so it truly was a momentous day when I had the opportunity to go and experience it firsthand!
The box itself was excitement enough with the giant castle on the front and themed illustrated background, plus it was huge – to my small self it seemed practically the same height as me! Richard had already played with it once so when we upturned it all the pieces came out unsorted like a shower of Lego! My favourites were the little knights and horses and I loved the way the accessories (shields, swords etc) all fit together too. I don’t think we ever completed the castle but nonetheless we were always proud of our creations.
The above advert is from 1983 and was reissued a couple of years ago, due to the popularity and fondness it still holds with 70s and 80s babies. I’m always pleased when I see an advert for Lego now as it’s great to know that children of today can enjoy the same simple pleasures. The brilliant thing about Lego is how it can adapt to the times with new elements always being added from robotic mechanisms to themes such as Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, so here’s to many more happy Lego years to come!
By Tanya Clark