Many of us had favourite toys growing up – it might be soft toys, action figures, dolls, or building blocks. Being on the spectrum, I was no different and had several toys that I loved. Some of these were even toys that I could truly call my own, like some of the stuffed animals, however as a middle child, for most of my toys sharing was not an option – it was required.
Something my brothers and I spent a lot of time with as Duplo. A product of the Lego company, Duplo blocks were brightly coloured and locked together just like Lego did (in fact, they were even compatible with one-another), but were large enough to not pose a choking hazard. We had several sets, including a school (2645), delivery trucks (2632), and a gas station (2639). Most prized of all, of course, was the train (2700). The 1980s were primitive times and this little train with its two hopper cars ran on muscle power alone (they introduced a battery powered locomotive in the 1990s), but I spent many hours pushing it around that small circular track, especially when the brothers weren’t around.
The school bus and fire truck could run on the train track too, as did the delivery trucks (though the latter did not fit so well through the curved track pieces). Duplo provided an outlet for creativity and role play, and despite being something not always seen among those on the spectrum, it allowed for my brothers and I to engage in pretend-play. As a bonus (for my mother), it draw my attention away from the other fun looking “toys” found around the house, such as the washing machine, electrical sockets, and Dad’s toolbox.
As my brothers and I got older, we graduated to Lego, though we did still enjoy our Duplo, and regularly played with both. We also had plenty of sets, such as the King’s Castle (6080) and the Holiday House (6374), and I loved to build houses of my own design. My cousin even had a 12v Lego train and I loved to spend time with him and the sets that he had.
Around the time (and much to my parent’s dismay) my brothers and I discovered the Lego catalog. Often available at the toy store for just fifty cents, this little book let us look at all the sets we had collected, and most importantly, the sets we wanted. Sets that were new that year were marked with a little yellow star, and if we were really good, there was the chance that Santa might leave something for my brothers and I under the tree, as was the case with the pirate ship (6285). A few years later, after helping my cousin get his Lego train running again, I saved up to get a Lego train of my own, the famed Metroliner (4558)
Of course, playing with Lego also meant having to play nicely with the brothers. As to be expected with most sibling relationships, fights did break out, and you knew you were in very deep trouble when the Lego was taken away. Few punishments were worse.
As I got older, I did not play with Lego as much, though my brothers and I would still take it out every once in a while. While a few pieces may have been lost over the years (such as on days when it’s time to vacuum and we did not tidy up well enough) I still have much of our collection in storage. Some of it might even have good resale value due to the vintage, though unfortunately most of the packaging and instruction manuals have long since gone and many of the gray, blue, and white pieces could use some retrobrighting. In fact, some studies have even suggested the Lego is a better investment than the stock market.
But is Lego best as an investment, or as its original purpose: something to actually play with? If I were to ever have kids (something that does not come easy to neurodiverse people who often struggle to even land a first date), it is something I would want to share with them, and it is also perfectly acceptable for adults to play with Lego. AFOLs or “Adult Fan(s) of Lego” are self-identified individuals who like to collect and build Lego and there are numerous communities out there dedicated to the hobby, whether it be for nostalgia or just general enjoyment and therapeutic value – this may involve conventions, competitions, and even cosplay. The Lego company has even created sets that cater to adults (and their budgets now that many of them are old enough to have their own jobs).
“Lego therapy” is something that has been suggested for neurodiverse children as a method to develop collaboration and communication skills, because when it comes to collaborating using Lego, Everything Is Awesome…until you get into an argument and it gets taken away!