The other day, sparked by a post on an Instagram account I follow (@ourbilingualhomeschool), we set out to do something a little different when Eddie wanted to play with LEGOs.
I asked him to draw what he was planning to build before he even touched a LEGO brick. Now, this is a bit of a challenge for him. His usual building process is self-described as “I build something and then see what it is.” And that’s wonderful! Honestly, that’s about how building LEGOs goes for me, too. But we had a conversation about how Dad builds a satellite antenna at work. How he “draws” design ideas on his computer first so he can start to get an idea of what parts he’ll need and how they’ll fit together. This is called the engineering design process.
While we didn’t have a problem to solve with LEGO, other than the need to constructively fill time, stretching Eddie’s building skills by challenging him to design before building seemed like a way to simplify a few steps of the design process to suit the attention span of a preschooler. I handed Eddie a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. He drew a hotel.
Then he started building, and I was amazed. My kid is amazing, what can I say?
I expected him to be unable to carry out his design and get frustrated. I expected him to get distracted a build something completely different. But the finished product actually highly resembled the original design. He did add a swimming pool, hotel sign, and antenna on top. But that’s part of the design process too! Often the steps are not followed rigidly one after the other, but rather changes are made along the way and earlier steps are revisited as the design is modified. That’s called an iteration.
All these big words and concepts sound…well, it sounds like rocket science. And let me tell you, it is a blast to see this little guy, 4 years old, doing it, really doing it with a piece of paper, a pencil, and a box of assorted LEGO pieces.