By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – Interlocking blocks are helping children build personal and spatial relationships through participation in a monthly Lego Builders Club launched Feb. 1 at the Veterans Memorial Library, 2790 Westfield Road.
The group, designed for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, meets the first Monday of each month at the library, using Lego components donated by the Friends of the Trenton Memorial Library, a group that supports the library through programming, volunteering and fundraising.
Additional Lego donations are welcome. To donate, or for more information about the library and its services, call 734-676-9777, or go to trenton.lib.mi.us.
Youth services librarian Amalia Ash said the program was created to encourage children to come to the library.
“Lego is such an encompassing toy,” Ash said. “It links reading together, and math together, and science together, and it’s just fun to do, and creative, and we want people to look at the library as a place where you can do all of those things.”
Ash said they had a great group of children, parents and grandparents at the first meeting of the club, and while people checked out books before and after the event, her goal is to encourage more residents to use the library as a community resource.
“It’s not just about circulation,” Ash said. “This is your library. This is your community. We are here to help you, so you let us know what we can do to help you.”
Ash said Lego building develops hand-eye coordination, and requires planning and improvisation.
“Not everyone got the piece that they wanted, so they were able to improvise,” Ash said. “Everyone seemed to be very calm, and they worked together. It was cooperative play. Lego builders are kind people.”
In addition to free play, Ash created an “a-maze-ing” challenge, encouraging participants to use a base plate and bricks to build a path for a marble to roll through.
“When it worked it was awesome, but when it didn’t work, you just took it apart and did it again,” Ash said, “(They learn to) persevere, keep working, not give up.”
Assistant librarian Lynda Wiltse said the activity fills a programming gap.
“It was something the children’s librarian thought would be a cool activity for the younger kids,” Wiltse said. “She’s got a program for preschool and toddlers, and she’s got a high school program, and this would involve the elementary kids.”
Deno Cardona, 8, of Flat Rock, said he had fun building things.
His grandmother, Marlene Cardona of Flat Rock, said she likes to see him exercise his creativity.
“They are using their mind to design,” she said, “and get them away from watching TV and video games. The kids have a lot of fun being with other kids. My son grew up with (Lego), and now he’s got a lot of his dad’s stuff.”
Isaac Anderson, 8, of Trenton, who built a Lego airplane, said he likes to create his own designs and make friends while he builds.
Allison Smith of Trenton, who grew up playing with Lego, brought her daughter Kelsey, 5, to the club.
“She loves Lego, and she has a 2-year-old sister at home, so we are very rarely able to play Legos and actually build something without the little sister tearing it apart,” Smith said. “So really it’s a chance for us to spend some mommy-daughter time together.”
Smith said she loves to watch her daughter’s imagination being engaged and her building skills encouraged.
“They have a lot of Lego,” Smith said. “The kids work together, to share, and to create.”
Chloe Carpenter, 6, of Trenton said it was fun to build with other children.
“We all can build and have teamwork,” she said. “I like to build a lot of things. My favorite thing to build is people and a house.”
Evelyn Langlotz, 9, of Brownstown Township, discovered a love of Lego when building Star Wars-themed sets at home with her father. She said she also enjoys building with children her age, and they help each other find the Lego pieces they needed in the bins.
“You can build your own thing,” she said. “You don’t have to follow directions. It teaches you that you can do it your own way.”
Her mother, Cindy Langlotz, said she likes to see her husband and daughter bond over Lego, and she likes that the blocks challenges her daughter’s creativity.
“She’s learning if something doesn’t work out, she’ll try a different piece,” Cindy Langlotz said. “It keeps her thinking and opening her ideas up.”
Joe Kowaczyk of Trenton brought his daughter, Sabrina, 5, to the event at his wife’s urging. Both are Lego first-timers. Sabrina said she liked building the maze and rolling a marble through to test it.
John Skinner of Trenton brought his son Sam, 5, because he anticipated that it would be fun.
“He loves Lego,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to get out of the house, to give him some different Lego than he normally gets to play with.”
Sam Skinner, a self-professed Lego fan, built a house, a car, a pool, and a garage of his own design.
John Skinner said that while he doesn’t think there is a magic bullet for developing kinesthetic and motor skills, he hopes Lego play will help Sam, his middle son, develop his lateral thinking.
“As long as he has fun and we are hanging out, that is all that really matters,” John Skinner said. “I try to just expose him to a lot of different things. It’s good that they have opportunities to just play creatively, whether it is with Lego, or or rocks and sticks outside, to get them away from the glowing rectangle.”
With three sons, and Sam being the middle child, John Skinner said it is fun to do a solo activity with one of his children.
“I think this is great,” he said. “I hope it gets bigger and more people come. I think that coming to the library here is great. It is a great part of the community.”
Ash was pleased with the inaugural Lego Build Club session.
“It’s a fun experience,” she said. “You get a taste of being creative and building. This is exactly what I was hoping for – they were active and involved and engaged.”