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My six year-old son got a Lego® set for Christmas, his first because we finally don't have choking hazard age children in the house, but we've always had blocks and other building toys around.

I've always heard that children are naturally creative, and all you have to do is give them the tools and get out of their way. However, although my son loves the Legos, he only makes the same thing over and over: cars. And it's not like he makes lots of different kinds of cars. He makes nearly identical cars, and gets excited about extremely minor variations, like adding a single brick to the back.

I'm unsure how to respond to his excitement. On one hand, I want to encourage creativity. On the other hand, what he is doing isn't exactly creative.

When we encourage him to make something else, he insists this Lego set is only for cars (it's what was pictured on the box). When we play with him and make something else, he says something like, "Cool house Dad! I'm going to make a car!"

How should I respond to his excitement over repetitive creations? Should I even be concerned about them at this point? Should we force him to try something else? He almost certainly has ADHD, and possibly also something like Asperger's, if that affects the answer. We are working on getting a diagnosis and professional advice.

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6 Answers 6

Personally, I think that building lots of cars with minor variations is creative. That's how an engineer works most of the time; takes a known design and fiddles with it oh-so-slightly to make it just slightly better. Obviously your son likes the car design he's come up with and just tinkers with it slightly.

Beyond that, he could well be exploring his creativity in other ways - playing with the cars, imagining things, etc. Creativity comes in many different flavors. As long as you're providing the tools, he'll work things out in his own way.

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They also sell boxes of bricks. Try getting him one of these and tell him it's for building wild and crazy things. See what happens. If he's totally stuck, give him suggestions, and (as AaronKorn suggests) don't worry about it.

Maybe you can respond to his excitement by asking questions? Ask him why he's so excited, or why does that extra brick make it a better car?

If you want to pursue the creativity aspect, and he's car-obsessed, try giving him something it would be a little harder to make cars out of, pasta shapes and paper and glue, for example, or sofa cushions and throw pillows, and see if he can come up with something. See if he can make a car with recycled materials. The concept of re-purposing (if you haven't played with it already) stuff may strike a response. Ask him if he can draw a comic strip with cars talking to each other. (You may have to show him how to draw a basic car first.) Basically, try different media, and see if the theme inspires him.

Some people have their own inner vision of stuff that they are eager to implement in the real world, and others (like myself) need a goal or suggestion. My daughter is never at a loss when someone asks her to make or draw or build something. She used to build Lego cars, too: multi-story, fantastical structures with windows and balconies. It never would have occurred to me to make anything like that. Give me something to draw/build/code and I'll draw/build/code it. Tell me to draw/build/code "something" and I'm stuck.

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Along those lines, you could get a book of lego things to build; Lego has a lot of them (unsurprisingly), like a coloring book but for Legos. –  Joe Jan 30 at 22:14

I have a 6yr old. He does not like Legos. I dont think he likes to be creative. He will draw only when I tell him. Every since he was baby people did not like his attitude and would say "what is wrong with him?". I'd just say "Can you be a little less bias and subjective?".

I just got to know my son and worked with that:

  • He has sensitive feelings. Yet strong confidence.
  • He loves when people read to him.
  • He likes to read and write.
  • He loves cars and skateboards.
  • He loves movies and understands the plot. Even at 4yrs old.
  • He likes to help around the house with chores.
  • He gets things done. Not idle.
  • He is bold and courageous - if it's fun, he will throw himself into it.
  • He wants to be a cop to meet Batman

Basically what I'm saying is that every kid is creative in his own way. Just find out how.

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I love this answer! –  Ossum's Mom Jan 30 at 18:40
    
Somehow, I fail to see how this answers the very specific question in the OP. –  arne Jan 31 at 5:40

Have you tried asking him if he can figure out how to make a car that seats seven lego people instead of one or two? Have you asked him if he can figure out how to make a bus, truck? . . . It might still fit in his "rules" for the set as well as push him further and yet seem encouraging.

My daughter went through something similar when her uncle bought her a kit for making buzz lightyear. It was fun to learn to follow the directions, but frustrating for her because she was so young. After enough times of building other things with the legos and her seeing that as well as questions similar to the ones I ask above, we did add a "generic" set of bricks and she started incorporating the buzz kit blocks in with other creations. It seemed to open her mind a bit more.

Outside of that, I'd suggest just giving him some time. It is a new toy, he is exploring it his way and having fun with it for now, but eventually he will get bored with the same old thing too. At that point, he'll have seen you and maybe his siblings build other things too and may try doing so for himself out of the need for something new alone.

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First off, I'd say that this is how he's developing and expressing his creativity. So don't worry about it. But if you want to build something else...


Cars drive, don't they? So build something for the cars to drive to/on/through. Build a tunnel. A bridge. A garage. A petrolstation. That way, you can introduce other elements while still having cars.

New interests don't (have to) pop up out of nowhere. It's much more natural for them to be related to a current interest.

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I would suggest that you might follow his passion.

  • Check out books about cars. Try How To Design Cars Like a Pro (9780760336953 ) or Cool Cars and Trucks (a Lego book, 9781250031105) or DK Eyewitness Books: Car (978-0756613846).
  • The forward to the design book is written by Ian Callum who submitted his first car design to Jaguar at the age of 14, and has been a designer for Ford, TWR, Aston Martin, and is currently the Director of Design for Jaguar Cars. You might look up information about him together on the Internet. He is quite proud of how certain elements of the modern Jaguar take their inspiration from the animal.
  • You could take your son on a tour of a car factory if one is near enough.
  • Take him to a car sales yard to look at and notice different things about cars - different body shapes and shapes of wings, exhausts, headlights, windscreens, rearview mirrors etc.
  • The Discovery Channel ran a series last year called How It's Made: Dream Cars - the first few episodes are available on DVD, but I think the series is still going. This might interest him in using other materials, like clay, to design cars.
  • Show interest in every minor change he makes. Ask him why he decided to make that change. As @Joe mentions in his answer, design creativity is incremental. Matisse used to have his paintings photographed in progress. Each iteration was slightly different than the prior image, each change significant to the artist who was eventually satisfied with the painting.

Both of my children have always been fascinated with cars. One is now working for a race team and finishing a degree in engineering that is focused on race cars. The other is working on a marketing degree and works part-time doing automotive events. Both of them grew up on Lego cars. We used to design workshops together for them to build their cars in.

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