Loving Legos at the Los Lunas Library

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Children seated with heads bowed in concentration over brightly colored snap-on bricks are pulling ideas from their young minds to build houses, automobiles and other structures concocted from their imaginations.

They are building with Lego bricks in a program for children at the village of Los Lunas Public Library.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Jude Benjamin Lopez builds a house with a frontyard and tree as well as a flower bush using Lego building bricks.

The library started the program last February, and it is catching on quick.

Local mom, JoAnn “JoJo” England, told the Children’s Libriarian Judy Riley Bensley, that she would buy the Legos if the library would start a Lego program.

“I had heard that there were Lego clubs in other cities, but I Googled it and couldn’t find anything local except in Albuquerque, and that’s just way too far for us to go,” England said.

England has an 8-year-old son, Valentino Young, who has played with Legos since he was 3 years old, she said.

“I thought if I could find other kids that shared that, it would be great,” she said. “I’m always trying to find clubs and sports things for him to do just so he can get more kid interaction.”

She and Bensley began to work together to put a program together, and the library offered to match the Legos England purchased for the group.

Bensley had also heard about Lego clubs at some of the local schools, but she didn’t think the library would have an audience for it, she said.

“The first time, we had six kids in the class, and it keeps growing, so there is a definite audience,” Bensley said. “The Lego clubs were after-school programs and not every kid can stay after school.”

Bensley and England tried the program from 6 to 6:45 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, but soon expanded to twice a month on the first and third Thursdays.

“We have a lot of kids who run to karate, then run back over here. They run to their practice, then run over here,” said Bensley. “It’s funny.”

Cuts to art and music electives in the schools due to federal and state public education budget cuts and curriculum reforms might have created the need for the library LEGO program, she said.

“I think they’re kind of deprived in the schools lately, because there’s no more art and very little music,” she said. “I think they’re hurting our children’s overall development, and it just keeps getting more and more restricted.”

Playing with Legos helps the development of children’s creativity through playing and learning.

“I think it’s really good for them to do instead of just sitting there and playing video games all day, because they’re actually using their creativity and learning to follow directions,” said England.

Several different Lego instruction booklets are spread on the tables in the children’s room of the library. Two boys are pouring over the instructions amid the soft chatter and laughter of the children.

It’s a fairly quiet group as the youngsters concentrate and build their colorful creations. Lego sets now come in pink, specifically for girls, as well as the primary-colored bricks.

They come by the bucket, or in an assortment of sets for different projects such as a set to build a spaceship, a tree house, another to build vehicles from the “Lego Movie.”

Each set comes with unique pieces that can be used with any of the bricks, so the buildings can become evermore extravagant. There are house doors and windows, wheels and figurines that help spark children’s ideas for objects to build.

“You get to build stuff,” says Valentino Young. “I really like playing with Legos.”

“They’re pretty fun,” adds Kolton Lamb.

According to the company’s website, Lego toys were invented in wood first by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in his carpentry shop. The Lego toys company was founded in 1932 and is based in Billund, Denmark.

After World War II, Legos were made in plastic, and today, Legos can be purchased in more than 130 countries. The company has passed from father to son and is now owned by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, a grandchild of the founder.

The name “Lego” is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well.” The brick in its present form was launched in 1958.

The Lego Group has also launched a robotics program, LEGO MINDSTORMS, in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

LEGO MINDSTORMS was introduced in 1998, and for 15 years ― through three generations of robotic products ― millions of children have learned about science, technology, engineering and mathematics by using MINDSTORMS robots, both at home and in the classroom.

The latest generation of Lego robotics is LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, released in September 2013, according to the website www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms.

“It’s a real accomplishment to put 500 blocks together and make it look like something,” said Bensley. “That’s serious when you’re doing the one on one (tiny bricks). To us, it just looks like they’re playing, but they’re growing and developing.”

The library welcomes any Lego donations if families have old sets they no longer need.

“I think when Legos appeal to a child, it’s a lifelong thing ― the building, the free style,” she said.

The Lego program can be enjoyed by parents as well, whether volunteering to help with the program or getting a little free time to browse the library’s books, use the computers, rent movies, or research genealogy.

During the summer months, the Lego program will be shut down because of a busy schedule of summer events, but it will resume in September.

For information, call the Los Lunas Public Library at 839-3850.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.