Come Build With Us!

Come Build With Us
by Lara Buckley

Play Therapy with Legos

            Play therapy has been long recognized as an effective method for working with a variety of childhood issues as it is uniquely responsive to children’s behavior, social adjustment, and personality (Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005; Paone and Douma, 2009). Play allows children to express their feelings in a comfortable way, allowing for a bridge between concrete experience and abstract thoughts (Kot, Landreth, & Giordano, 1998; Paone and Douma, 2009). Play also allows children to learn and practice important cognitive and social skills (Caldera, Culp, O’Brien, Truglio, Alvarez, & Huston, 1999), such as self-awareness, self-reliance, problem-solving (Paone and Douma, 2009), communication, positive regard, trust in others (Katto, Hattori, Iwai, & Morita, 2012), and spatial and abstract reasoning (Ferrara, Hirsh-Paske, Newcombe, Golinkoff, & Lam, 2011). By engaging a child in play during therapy, a clinician becomes more relatable to the child as play is a familiar activity.

            Lego or block therapy was introduced in the late 1990’s (Attwood, 1998) and is considered a social skills intervention for school-aged children based around collaborative Lego play (LeGoff, 2004; LeGoff and Sherman, 2006; Owens, Granader, Humphrey, & Baron-Cohen, 2008), which utilizes the child’s natural interests to motivate learning and behavior change (LeGoff, 2004). Because Lego blocks are a highly structured, predictable, and systematic toy (Owens, Granader, Humphrey, & Baron-Cohen, 2008), children are able to explore and play directly with spatial concepts, assisting in their development of representations of spatial relationships between objects in the physical world (Ferrara et al., 2011).

            Within the group setting, utilizing Lego play allows for children to engage with each other in a comfortable and collaborative setting, giving the opportunity to practice social strategies and gain social confidence (Owens et al., 2008). The effort of collaborating as a group increases a desire to better know the other participants, develop trust, better communication, and the ability to interpret non-verbal cues, even when group members did not know each other prior to participation (Kato, Hattori, Iwai, & Morita, 2012). The group participants will be given the opportunity to encourage and learn from each other through positive interactions and peer modeling (LeGoff, 2004) with the assistance of the facilitator. Furthermore, utilizing Legos has been shown to increase spatial reasoning, but within a group setting, the use of spatial language has also been shown to increase and develop (Ferrera et al., 2011).

            Come Build With Us Lego play group will be a 60 minute structured group consisting of a variety of topics designed to assist participants in developing social and cognitive skills such as increased personal awareness, communication, problem-solving, emotional exploration, and spatial and abstract reasoning. Participants will work together and individually within the group setting in order to maximize the learning potential. The goal of Come Build With Us is for participants to gain new skills, understanding, and comfort in areas that may be difficult and incorporate those skills into all facets of life. The group is designed to be fun, engaging, and collaborative, offering participants a chance to select group topics and act as activity leader.

Group Topics:

-Architect for a Day                -Emotion Ocean                      -A-MAZE-ing Mazes

-Me the Tree                           -Bouncing Builder                    -Telephone

-A House for Who?                -If I Were an Animal…             -Color Constructors



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Bratton, S. C., Ray, D., Rhine, T., & Jones, L. (2005). The efficacy of play therapy with children: A meta-analytic review of treatment outcomes. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36, 376–390.

Caldera, Y.M., McDonald Culp, A., O’Brien, M., Truglio, R.T., Alvarez, M., & Huston, A.C. (1999). Children’s play preferences, construction play with blocks, and visual-spatial skills: Are they related?. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 23(4), 855-872. doi: 10.1080/016502599383577

Ferrara, K., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Newcombe, N.S., Golinkoff, R. M., & Lam, W.S. (2011). Block talk: Spatial language during block play. Mind, Brain, And Education, 5(3), 143-151. doi:10.1111/j.1757-228X.2011.01122x

Kato, D., Hattori, K., Iwai, S., & Morita, M. (2012). Effects of collaborative expression using LEGO® blocks, on social skills and trust. Social Behavior And Personality, 40(7), 1195-1200. doi:10.2224/sbp.2012.40.7.1195

LeGoff, D. B. (2004). Use of LEGO as a therapeutic medium for improving social cCompetence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(5), 557–571.

LeGoff, D. B., & Sherman, M. (2006). Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO_ play. Autism, 10(4), 317–329.


Paone, T. R., & Douma, K. B. (2009). Child-centered play therapy with a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder. International Journal Of Play Therapy, 18(1), 31-44. doi:10.1037/a0013938