Bulk Lego Bricks
Since their creation in the 1940's in Europe, Legos have become one of the most beloved children's toys of all time. They are also consistently rated by parenting experts as the best of the best. Not only do children love them, they also have many educational and developmental qualities. Legos promote creative play,which develops imagination and problem-solving skills and improves coordination and attention span. Legos also develop design and building skills. They are durable and safe for children, as long as age guidelines are observed.
Although the classic Lego brick remains one of the most perfect toys ever devised, I have been dismayed to watch the steady decline in quality of Lego sets. The beauty of creative play is that it encourages imagination. Give 100 children 100 Lego bricks each and every single one of them will build something different with them. Give 100 children a Lego set and most of them will build the set. Most will later dismantle it to use for something else, but a few won't, and even for those who do, the percentage of useful bricks instead of showy, set-specific extras has declined even in my own lifetime. The extras increasingly tie children to a specific genre of building.
Now admittedly, there is still almost endless variety in, for example, the type of castle you want to build, but I appreciate the versatility of older sets, which could build a castle, or a town, or a spaceship, or any number of other things. In his teens, my brother, a certifiable Lego fanatic, made himself a working German-style nutcracker (well, working in the sense that the jaw went up and down - it wasn't strong enough to crack real nuts), lifesize replicas of the masks of King Tut and Darth Vader, and several Lego versions of Impressionist mosaics - pictures that appeared close up to be a random grouping of different colored bricks, but from farther away revealed themselves to be Sir Alec Guinness, Abraham Lincoln, and the British singer Michael Ball.
For this reason, I prefer to purchase bulk Lego bricks for my children, rather than sets, and encourage their doting grandparents, uncles, and aunts to do the same. I don't avoid sets entirely - some have interestingly-shaped bases, or useful extra pieces like revolving doors, interesting windows or doors, drawbridges, and other cool stuff. But I try to buy sets at about a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio with bulk tubs. In addition to mixed bulk sets, it is also possible to buy bulk bricks of just one color. In my experience, the most useful and versatile color is black.
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