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LEGO-Mania (January 28, 1958)

Ole Kirk Christiansen probably had no idea that he would ever invent—not just a “toy” but a household name known the world over. In 1932, Christiansen started up a shop in Denmark, manufacturing stepladders, ironing boards, and wooden toys. Two years later, Christiansen named the shop “LEGO,” from the Danish phrase Leg godht, meaning “play well.”

Play well, indeed! LEGO became the first company in Denmark in 1947 to purchase a plastic injection-molding machine to manufacture the toys. With this machine, they produced “Automatic Building Blocks” which would become what we know, today, as LEGO’s.

The “LEGO System of Play” came into being in 1955 with 28 different sets and 8 vehicles. But, January 28, 1958, the LEGOs that we know and love were invented and patented. The interlocking bricks made combinations nearly infinite.

Here’s to 50 years of building!

We can all remember playing with LEGOs—and if we can’t, we’ve certainly purchased them for our own children or nieces and nephews. We’ve come to trust the name “LEGO” in conjunction with the word “fun.” LEGOs began being sold in America in 1962 as loose bricks. The DUPLO line—the large bricks for children under 5—came out in 1969 and, in 1977, LEGOs made the “big kids” feel good about playing with blocks by introducing the TECHNIC line of more “sophisticated” projects.

The LEGO company continues to grow, even in more recent years. In 1998, they introduced a line especially for girls—including dolls, a magazine, and an interactive website.

For 70 years, the company has been in the Christiansen family. Ownership passed from father to son and the current owner is the grandson of Kirk Christiansen, the founder. LEGO’s website has a wonderful timeline of events in the life of the company.

When LEGO came to the United States, it was during the Cold War. The United States became interested in the product because Christiansen said they were “toys that could teach,” (from Ideafinder.com article). Those words were and are very true. Children can learn their colors, learn to count, learn manual dexterity, learn independent thinking—perhaps even divergent thinking—and many other skills just from playing with blocks!

Happy birthday to a toy that has survived 50 years of play-testing by the harshest critics around—children! Even infants enjoy LEGOs, if not to build, then to certainly knock over. LEGO may mean "play well," but I believe it's also come to mean, "learn well," too.

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