Earlier this week, I took the chance to spend some quality time with my 8yo daughter and a box full of Lego. It was a rare treat for both of us; not only indulging in the childhood pleasure of a long-beloved toy but also getting to spend decent daddy-daughter time together with no other disruptions.

There are numerous articles out there about the correlation between Lego and working (especially in tech) so I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on an enjoyable afternoon to see what I could learn and compare against common pitfalls we see from working in software engineering.

Rules are made to be broken

Alternative colour pieces (brown bricks instead of white, multi-coloured “metal)

I’m a stickler for following the instructions but when we were struggling to find the blue pieces, my creative daughter suggested we just try brown that we had already found. Low and behold, the end result actually was more pleasing which my daughter even said “See Daddy, looks good!”

Sometimes, using your initiative encourages creativity with better results.

Stop rushing

There were occasions where my Gen Z daughter’s patience was getting the better of her, quickly putting pieces in the wrong place, getting bored waiting for the pieces. I had to remind her there’s no rush and there’s a reason most pieces are added at the necessary steps of the instructions.

Take time to do things properly, enjoy the process and appreciate the end result more.

Trying to find detail amongst chaos

Chaos of multiple Lego sets in one large box

Someone at some point decided it would be sensible to pile all the different boxes of Lego into a large single toy box. Maybe it was to pool resources, simplify storage… who knows. By doing so, it looks ridiculously difficult to find specific pieces.

However, we did find that once you know what you’re looking for, it actually becomes easier. Smaller pieces were likely to be towards the bottom or corners, larger pieces at the top. Strangely, even the rare pieces you wouldn’t expect to find became clearer once we know what was being looked for.

Once you know what you’re looking for, it becomes clearer and easier to see. 

Enable others to grow

Early in the process, I offered to help collect the pieces so that my daughter could focus on the building part. Whilst I was mindful of her doing “the easy part”, I was keen for her to focus on how the building process worked. Defining those distinct roles and responsibilities early on made it clear who was doing what too.

Take the brunt out of the boring work enables others to learn. 

Sometimes it hurts

Bleeding cuticles from rummaging through Lego

Rummaging through a large toy-box full of bricks for hours can wear on your skin – both of us commented on sore cuticles and numb finger tips as the hours passed. Even the assembly can pinch or graze your fingers as my daughter realised on several occasions. However, rather than moan about it, we both just battled through to focus on the final goods. Her words: “It’s OK!”

No matter what pain you’re put through, fight on – it’ll be fine.

Take time out

Both of us enjoyed the dedicated time with each other when there was plenty other things that we could have done, my daughter typically watching something on-demand, me doom-scrolling through social media feeds. Even when we both had important things that we could have prioritised, there was nothing that couldn’t wait a few hours.

It helps to unwind and build rapport when it seems there’s “never enough time”.