Why I’ve Started Playing With Legos

A surprisingly great way to pull your brain away from your keyboard

Clive Thompson
8 min readDec 1, 2023


A small car made from a black Lego brick with two sets of wheels attached beneath it, a angled clear brick for window shield, and a white brick at the back, holding two round bricks that looked like jet engines, pointing at the back of the car

See that car above?

I just made that.

With my new Lego set.

Which I now carry around town. I am in my mid-50s, by the way.

I should maybe unpack this a bit.

The other day I was in a Barnes in Nobles getting some books, and I wandered past the section that has kids’ toys. I gotta hand it to Barnes and Nobles: They stock some pretty kickass toys — a truly great selection of Euro-style board games, and lots of weird arty creative sets.

They also stock Legos. Most of them are the “kits” — i.e. you buy a kit to build the Eiffel tower, or the Death Star, or a scene from Harry Potter or something. I’ve never much liked that whole movement towards the kit-i-fiation of Lego. It feels like a devolution: Taking a toy that was originally the epitome of open-ended play, and turning it into the rote following of instructions.

As an aside, I suspect the shift of Lego into “kits” is part of why Minecraft took off so profoundly in the lives of elementary-school kids in the last decade and a half. With infinite blocks and zero prescribed “kits” to build, Minecraft neatly stepped into the cognitive role that Lego…



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”. @clive@saturation.social clive@clivethompson.net