Brickit Is an Amazing Educational Toy, but Does It Miss the Point of LEGO?

Your kids won’t care

Key Takeaways

  • Brickit is an app that scans a pile of LEGOs and generates instructions to build new models.
  • Brickit might help kids to get back into discarded LEGO kits.
  • Free, imaginative play and directed play are both valuable activities.
A child playing with LEGOs.

Ravi Palwe / Unsplash

Snap a photo of a pile of LEGOs with the Brickit app, and it will identify all the bricks, generate a list of models that you can build with them—zero imagination required.

Brickit is amazing, but isn’t the point of LEGO to open up a kid’s imagination, not just to teach them to follow instructions? Watch any kid playing with one of the world’s favorite toys, and they soon go off-course. They may start following the instructions to build a LEGO Minecraft Panda Nursery, but soon enough, they will be free-styling. Does an app like Brickit dull these creative urges? Or is there more to it?

"LEGO is a great way to advance a child's developmental abilities through play. LEGO develops fine motor, visual motor, bilateral coordination, and visual perceptual abilities. When a child builds their own LEGO creations, they do use imagination, but there are also advantages to copying designs from models," pediatric occupational therapist Michele Schwartz told Lifewire via email.

"When a child copies creations, either from the LEGO instructions, or an app like Brickit, they are forced to use their visual perceptual abilities. Visual perception is the ability to receive, process, and interpret visual information. These abilities are important for academic tasks such as handwriting, reading, spelling, and math. They are also important in real-life tasks such as driving," says Schwartz.

Some Direction Is Good

Undirected play leads to all kinds of imaginative fun. Just look at what a couple of kids can do with an old, oversized cardboard box to see how far things can go. But directed play also can be valuable, and not just for learning how to follow instructions.

A helicopter build with LEGO bricks and instructions from the Brickit app.

Brickit

"LEGOs are what they are precisely because they open up an almost unending pool of possibilities for play. But the thing is, most of us will never ever explore all of them," Mark Coster, founder of educational toy and activity site STEM Geek, told Lifewire via email. "Kids who own multiple sets of LEGO will likely just toss the bricks after playing their fill."

An app like Brickit can lead a kid to reevaluate their box of bricks. And of course, once they get started into that box, they’ll be back off into their own world again.

"So, a great side of Brickit is that it can alter a child’s view on the toys they have either forgotten or hidden away," says Coster. "It can rekindle their passion and investigative spirit, gently nudging them towards a repurposing of sorts. Because let’s face it: today’s children are so heavily distracted that such 'toys that breathe life into older toys' are more than needed."

It all comes down to context. Coster points out that Brickit is valuable precisely because we live in a world dominated by apps and the other digital distractions of the screen. It’s a way to use the seemingly unstoppable appeal of apps as a path back to real-world play.

"When a child builds their own LEGO creations, they do use imagination, but there are also advantages to copying designs from models."

"In a world that is not so full of distractions and digital noise, Brickit would probably have been redundant if not downright harmful," says Coster. "Its functioning principle is counterintuitive: by showing you some unexpected and non-obvious play paths, it actually closes up the open-ended play! And project-based open-endedness is a pillar of learning and education."

Coster suggests using the app as a way to show how those stale old bricks can easily be changed into something new, just by changing your point of view.

Universal Toys

Brickit isn’t the first attempt to bring those old LEGOs back to life. The Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of 3D-printed adapter bricks that let you—and your kids—connect parts from different construction toys.

The 3D Printable Free Universal Construction Kit.

F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab

One surprise is just how many construction toys exist. The kit lets you interconnect parts from "LEGO, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles, Bristle Blocks, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob."

Most kids attempt to marry parts from different toys at some point. The difference here is that it’s easier, and the likelihood of separating those parts again is much higher. The Free Universal Construction Kit seems better than Brickit in terms of encouraging kids to use their imagination.

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