The Bakughans, from last summer, are still played with this summer, these magnetic Japanese marbles that can suddenly bolt open and that my youngest carries in his pockets.
But this year, my now turned 5 year old is obsessed with Lego. The way his brother loved Playmobil. One likes to build, the other likes to imagine. It is true that half the time of play with Playmobil characters is to get everything set up, to take them out of their storage box, to get their accessories set up, their environment prepared. Then the Playmobil men, women and children interact: at the supermarket, the postoffice, the airport, but also the Medieval castle, the Egyptian Pyramid and the Roman bath. Imagining all these little people from different eras and occupations live together is certainly magic!
My youngest prefers Lego. Not that the eldest didn't either. But no one plays Lego in the family with the same passion as he does.
I remember playing Lego myself in the 70s, when Lego pieces were all simple, primary color rectangles, as if created by Mondrian. The basic structure to build was a house. After all, weren't Lego colorful bricks? We learned to build strong walls by linking them in the next row, as brick layers do.
At the hight of the 70s and feminism, Lego was designed for both sexes. Boys and girls were builders and architects. In this new century, with so called progress in the domain of toys, Lego has had a comeback with super-sophisticated designs based on Star-Wars, Pirates of the Carribean and a whole array of high tech robots. For boys only. My tom boy daughter hasn't even shown interest in it!
Lego gifting has been the greatest reward for my youngest. He takes me to the super-market aisle, by the hand and pleads. Where are the days when I pushed him in the food cart and averted the toy aisle?
Commercialism has dictated that these Lego boxes are for one time use only. They have a thousand minute pieces and a manual of detailed instructions. If left to his own devices, the child is bound to loose 10% percent of the pieces after successfully building it (that amounts to 1 piece): one piece missing and you cannot recreate the work of art.
But most important is the manual of detailed instructions. If the manual gets lost, only a genius could build the model from the image on the box. The 1000 pieces are designed for the completion of that unique model. No place for creativity and whim. Sometimes, we can buy a 3 in 1 box, with a manual for the 3 models possible.
If my son had the choice between the bricks and the manual, I think he would choose the manual. It is the first thing he grabs when he opens the box.
But God help us if he looses 10% of the pieces. He will obsess about its recovery and solicit the help of all and everyone. We move couches, mattresses, lift carpets and cushions.
He celebrates his 5th birthday today and he has received a pair of roller blades from us.... and many boxes of Lego from his Aunt and cousins who know him all too well