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Why Choose Between Learning and Playing?

Why Choose Between Learning and Playing?
By Rhyan Davis

Did you know that a classic and popular toy could help your child learn STEM skills? Legos, which you may have also played with years ago, can do more than entertain your family on a rainy day. There are even classes available in the Jackson area to provide structure and enforcement of the educational skills your children learn by playing with a toy they already know and love.

Lacey Fondren, owner and director of Bricks 4 Kidz, says she recognized a need for STEM exposure and enrichment in our community. Bricks 4 Kidz uses Legos, or “bricks,” as a tool to provide an educational service that has become a staple in many local schools’ curriculum.

Learning or fun?

While your child may already play with Legos at home, structured classes provide facilitated learning and bring out a level of resourcefulness and problem-solving that children may not recognize on their own. One kit that Lacey uses with her classes can make over 500 models. She says she wants children to understand that their mind is the tool, and they can do great things by using technology to put their ideas into action. “We aim to inspire children so that one day their curiosity is celebrated by a career in STEM related fields including engineering, science research, medicine, technology, video game design and more!”

Parents say that the best part of brick-building classes is that children don’t realize they’re learning; they just know they’re having a great time! Meredith Johnson, mom of William, age 5, says, “I am thankful that he gets to enjoy the class every week at preschool. I appreciate that he is learning and working on fine motor skills. But he doesn’t realize any of that: to him and his friends, it’s just a fun class, especially for very busy boys!” William said his favorite thing to build was the ice cream model. And he loves free-play!

Opportunities for all ages

Your child may already be in a brick-building class. Many schools in Mississippi contract businesses like Bricks 4 Kidz to provide exposure to STEM that children would not otherwise have access to. Teachers offer instruction, tailored specifically to the curriculum of each grade level, and reinforce topics already taught in school. These classes promote age-appropriate developmental skills, reaching farther than just STEM. In preschool, for instance, a brick-building class is a great way to learn how to form letters and numbers, recognize artistic elements such as colors and shapes, and gain spatial awareness. One lesson may involve the teacher starting off by singing a song and showing children an apple, then demonstrating how to form the letter “A” using Legos. Next, the children learn how to create a 3-dimensional apple using Legos and following clear, visual, step-by-step instructions. In elementary school, children learn how to make more advanced models with other subjects incorporated into the lessons. For example, learning how to make a windmill (which even involves a pully system) includes a history lesson on when gears and wheels were invented, and the economic significance windmills have had on the agricultural industry. Lessons for older children even incorporate robotics and physics. Students learn to wirelessly control a Lego car using an iPad as a “steering wheel.”

Not only do these classes promote STEM exposure, they also cultivate other qualities such as motor skills, focus, self-esteem and organization. For instance, a child can develop fine motor skills by learning to sort and assemble bricks, gears, and axles of various sizes. For a child that has difficulty completing sequential tasks, learning how to create something step-by-step helps realize the importance of following directions to achieve a goal. Finishing the model and reaching that goal provides a level of satisfaction that free-play sometimes lacks.

According to Diane Ackerman, a contemporary American author, play is the brain’s favorite way of learning. In a perfect world, school, extracurricular activities, sports, and homework would all feel like playful adventures to children. Thankfully, Bricks 4 Kidz is exactly that — loads of fun incorporated into the learning process, and we are thankful that children in Mississippi have this unique opportunity.

 

Rhyan Davis never played with Legos until she started babysitting. She is considering buying herself a kit to build Rapunzel’s tower from colorful bricks.

 

Summer fun with bricks!

If you and your child want more building time, or if your school does not offer Bricks 4 Kidz classes, after-school and summertime enrichment is also an option. Summer vacation is a great time to reinforce skills that your child learned during the school year, and free-play with Legos can help kids be more independent and make connections on their own.

If they need more structured lessons or socialization, day camps are available to kids in the Jackson area and allow children to practice cooperation, communication, and patience by working in teams with a low student-teacher ratio. Don’t worry, kids won’t feel like they’re at summer school. During the summer and in after-school programs, models include kid-friendly characters like Minions and Harry Potter, and there’s extra free-play, which encourages children to use their imaginations and think bigger. For more information, contact Lacey Fondren at lfondren@bricks4kidz.com, call 646-853-3375 or 601-946-4552, or visit www.bricks4kidz.com.

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