I don’t want to speak too soon, but RU may be on her way to Master Builder status.
We’d gone to a LEGO event last month and picked up two free sets — little ones that just come in a plastic bag and are about a step up from what you’d get in a Happy Meal. We let the girls open them up the other day and play with them (at the table, away from the toy area so any lost parts are unlikely to get swallowed by Z). I must say that I was surprised at the results.
Now, we’ve had Duplo blocks for the girls for quite a while. They’ve got maybe two or three medium-sized sets and another two or three small ones, all integrated together now in a big tub. When the play area isn’t too cluttered with other toys, we get the tub of Duplo blocks down and MeToo will dump it all out into a big pile. They will build things, more or less at random, and two of the sets had a plethora of animal figures that get played with a little. Although the girls have fun with the Duplo blocks, they’ve never been a favorite. Which is too bad, because there are some good-looking Duplo sets out there these days. I’ve seen a few DC superhero ones and a couple of Jake and the Neverland Pirates sets that I’d be happy to get them. Even so, something about LEGO’s baby brother just fails to inspire the girls’ inner architects. I must confess that even when I sit down to play with them and try to demonstrate some building skillz, I have a difficult time generating a creative spark.
But they’ve never had actual LEGOs before.
The set we picked up (we got two copies of the same thing) seems to be from an “Elves” line which I hadn’t previously been aware of. The figurine that came with it isn’t built on the same model as all the LEGO men of my youth. They seem to be similar to the figures from the LEGO “Friends” line. RU calls them “LEGO Barbie,” which is accurate enough.
(As an aside, the Wife is a little appalled by the “Friends” line of LEGO sets, and probably the “Elves,” too, by extension. They’re clearly meant for girls and the sets are full of pastel-colored bricks used to build, well, Barbie-esque playsets that promise zero adventure. “Elves” seems more fantastic, naturally, but even the more dynamic sets (like a medium-sized boat) steer clear of any martial action (you’d have to bring in orcs from the Lord of the Rings LEGOs for that). The Wife also sneers at the large number of fancy pieces that seem customized for one particular set. Like giving you a single spiral staircase LEGO piece instead of requiring you to build one out of more standard parts. I did point out the plethora of such pieces in the Star Wars sets but I still think she detects a gender bias. Personally, if “girly” LEGO sets get more young ladies into LEGOs who otherwise would not be, I’m for it. No one’s keeping them away from the Pirates or Ninjago stuff. And in my day, if you wanted to build a dream castle out of pink bricks you were SOL no matter what your gender was.
But I do concede that if the “Friends” and “Elves” LEGOs are clearly meant for girls, that creates the suggestion — whether intended or not — that the other stuff isn’t. Which is crap.)
Anyway… After RU ripped open the bag and shook the pieces out with a hazardous lack of caution (clearly she’s used to hard-to-lose Duple blocks, not the vacuum fodder of the real thing), she said she wanted to follow the directions.
That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I almost never built anything by using the instructions. If there weren’t any cool pieces used in the first three steps, I tossed ‘em aside and did my own thing. But when I did want to build the spaceship shown on the front of the box, I would always screw up somewhere and either have to start over or give up. Seriously, when I was in Junior High and decided to finally put together my Blacktron Message Intercept Base I placed one of the main support struts wrong on, like, step two but didn’t realize it until things weren’t fitting together right at the very end. So when my four-year-old stepped up to the metaphorical plate, it seemed like a Big Deal to me.
RU only needed a little help in figuring out how to read the directions at one point and finding a few pieces (one seemed to be missing from the outset but we swiped a replacement from MeToo’s pile). Otherwise, she did it entirely on her own — and she constructed it exactly right on the first try! If I seem proud, it’s because I am.
The finished product, “Azari’s Magic Fire,” is an odd thing. Without any context for who these elves are or what they’re up to, it seems to suggest a kind of forge in the sylvan, one-with-nature mode. There’s a bench over what’s either a pit of flame or pool of lava. The bench itself is brown and seems to have a plant growing out of it — perhaps the whole thing is a living tree of some kind. Attached to this workspace is a long rod with… a red apple stuck on the end of it? I assumed this was some kind of mystical foundry, but instead of smithing weapons or armor or magical accessories, the elf is apparently toasting a red delicious like a Cub Scout with a marshmallow. I dunno, maybe it’s like the Golden Apple of Discord and she’s going to start a big war with it. That’d be kinda cool.
As she was admiring her work, RU picked up the elf figure and asked, “Dad, what’s her name?”
“Um… I think her name is Azari.”
“Yeah, I think so. What do you think Azari does?”
“I don’t know,” RU admitted. “Maybe she drinks coffee all day.”