I finally succumbed and took my children to see The Lego Movie. A central theme of the film is that children should be allowed to engage in creative, unstructured play and should resist being pushed to follow the rules or constraints of formal play.
Of course, the irony of the Lego Group, which charges exorbitant prices for its Lego™ sets, now telling us we can just play with our Legos, seems a little disingenuous. I have thrown away many a dollar on Lego Friends™, Lego Architecture™, Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™, etc.
Recently, I discovered a service online where you can rent Legos for your children called Pleygo. You can pay a monthly fee, do a Lego kit, and then return it in order to receive another kit. My first thought was, “This is an amazing idea! No more Legos cluttering my house (they are so painful when you step on them), and my children still can build what they want.”
However, when I broached the idea to my children, they had absolutely no interest in the service. They said that they wanted to be able to keep their Legos, play with them over and over again, and do what they wanted with them. I never did sign up for the service, but I've discovered other play services since then. Mark Cuban, on the TV reality show Shark Tank, invested in a toy rental service for young children.
This all makes me think of how this next generation of children may be re-inventing the idea of ownership. When I was a child, we bought VCR tapes so we could watch the same movie over and over. These days, we find movies on demand or use an online provider like Netflix or Amazon Prime. I wonder, as more services encourage children to rent instead of buy things, are we changing our notion of an ownership society?
To take it an absurd level, will we be “renting” friends one day? We might laugh at the notion, but I've already noticed that the definition of friendship has changed since I was a kid. When I was small, my friends were made up from kids in the neighborhood, and we orchestrated our play organically. Now, parents must arrange play dates for their children. In some busy months, the only other kids my children see outside of school belong to my friends and colleagues when we get together. These friends of convenience provide no long-term connection, but merely a day to play.
The Lego Movie may be encouraging children to think creatively when playing, but I’m wondering if we are re-inventing the concept of play in new ways. Have you noticed changing notions of play in your life?