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How Lego lost its innocence

Published: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sue Palmer

Child’s play is now big business. Lego abused our trust with cynical marketing and toys that limit development—then it did a deal with Shell.

I’ve been watching with interest as Lego struggles under the spotlight of Greenpeace’s latest campaign. Alongside three-quarters of a million petition signatories, the environmental campaign group is calling on Lego to drop its line of Shell-branded cars and quit endorsing Shell for good. A co-promotion with Lego is a lucrative PR stunt for Shell. But as Greenpeace is keen to point out, Shell is an appalling choice of partner, not least because of its controversial plans to extract oil from under the melting Arctic region.

Lego was formed in the 1930s by philanthropist Ole Kirk Kristiansen. His vision was to make it a stalwart cultivator of creative play and contribute to healthy child development. This idea was enshrined within the company. Even Lego’s name translated from Danish means “play well.”

Play is children’s inbuilt learning drive. It’s the natural desire of a young human being to explore, experiment, build and imagine. It’s how children learn about the world and how to thrive in it. Since much play is social, it’s also where they learn how to get along with each other, refining their powers of empathy.

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