Dollars and Cents

I’ve found another reason to Legos. Not that I didn’t have plenty of reasons to love Legos already – they are good for hours of entertainment, they teach spatial relations, they are great for small motor skill development, they demonstrate the importance of following directions (and following them in the correct order), but I have found another. They have taught my son about money. Well, yes, the interesting sets cost a fortune and that is a good way to learn about the value of money and how to save it, but that is a topic for another post.

My son recently decided to start his own Lego business. The business plan goes something like this: he gets out the Lego bricks he already owns and builds something, he then describes its various features to me and tells me what the price is, I agree or start negotiations based on the value I place on the benefits and features he has described to me, he then collects his coins and gives me the Lego creation or comes back with a lower price or a better description of the benefits to try to talk me into the higher price, then we start over again at the beginning. This has been going on for a week or so now and let’s just say that I now “own” a lot of Legos.

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I am loving this game for several reasons. The first reason is that he is playing with his Legos again! We got stuck in a phase of only building new kits purchased at the store and not creating our own structures. That is a quick way to empty your bank account! The Legos, which were previously an item which was played with daily, began to sit untouched for weeks at a time until there was a new kit to build. Instead of playing and creating, my son was wandering around the house, bored and unable to find something interesting to occupy him. The Lego business has rescued him from the doldrums and from the claws of consumerism.

The second reason is that he is learning about the value of the various coins and how they compare to the value of the various bills. This has worked against me in his pricing scheme (he used to accept my offer of 4 pennies instead of 4 quarters in negotiations), but has been a great way to teach him what a nickel is and that you need five of them to make a quarter. We haven’t done much formal math yet, but he is getting a great head start on the mental math of adding, subtracting and comparing values.

The third reason is based in his entrepreneurial spirit. He comes from a family of several generations of small business owners and looks to be suited to business ownership himself. This early venture is the first of what I am sure will be a string of businesses. The first main hurdle he is working to overcome is the idea that once you sell something to someone you no longer own it. Keeping the pieces he has already sold to me from becoming part of new creations to be sold again has been hard. They are still living in the play room and in plain sight when he is building new sets. Eventually, when the game has run its course and the Lego business closes up shop, I will give them all back to him and not make him pay me for them, but while I am still “buying” Legos from him, I am trying to impress upon him that I will not buy the same Lego twice. It’s a confusing leap for a five year old!

The last reason is that he is learning excellent negotiation skills. This kid was born a good negotiator – if you tell him to do (or not do) something you better have a reason (and a very good one at that) at the ready. His ability to question authority and to seek consensus at the age of five amazes me. Some days, I would love to pull out a “because I said so” and be done with it, but most days I appreciate how useful this skill is going to be when he is adult and he is arguing with someone who isn’t me. Determining the value of his work and recognizing that different people will value something more (or less) than others has been an interesting side effect of the Lego business. If you want to get rich, as he most certainly does, you need to produce something which not only you think is awesome, but that other people are willing to give you money for.   Another confusing leap for a five year old.

So there you have it, my unpaid glowing endorsement of Legos and the myriad benefits associated with starting your own Lego business. ~P.L.H.

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