When we encourage parents and kids to play with LEGO Bricks, we spend a lot of time touting those STEM benefits. We all feel pretty terrific when someone quotes one of those studies that links LEGO play with improved math skills. And it’s encouraging to think about the real-life engineering skills kids are practicing without knowing it when they design a fortress or bridge.

Here’s one skill we don’t think about. LEGO Bricks can make great tools to help kids build their literacy skills as well. Skeptical? Here are three ideas worth exploring. 

Sounds like …: If your preschooler has a keen grasp on letter recognition, a homemade matching game with printables and DUPLO Bricks makes a fun learning activity (courtesy of the blog This Reading Mama). On one brick, attach a picture of, say, an apple, and then they can search for the letter and click the pieces together. For a critical-thinking challenge, make sure the picture and corresponding letters are on different-colored bricks!

Word families: Here’s a practical way to use LEGO Bricks to help emerging readers. Again, before you give away the DUPLOs, turn them into sortable word family pieces. Using a permanent marker, write a series of short words on each brick (cat, sat, hat, tall, wall, fall, big, pig, dig). Kids can then arrange and lock them into their proper word families. This is a great exercise in pattern and word recognition.

3-D comic book: This last idea has to do with a more traditional use of LEGO Bricks, as building blocks to create designs. Instead of using LEGO Bricks to build something functional, like a castle or bridge, these models help them tell stories. 

We think of literacy as something that wades into words, thoughts, analysis and discussion. But think about it: When we’re reading or listening to a great tale, our minds are busy making pictures. When it comes down to it, we’re very visual creatures.

With LEGO Bricks, kids can build their own scenes, telling stories through visual means, kind of like a miniature comic book. It’s a great tool to express point of view, character, symbolism, setting and more, and it can help them organize their ideas into a story. How do you get started? As a rainy-day activity, start with a writing prompt and then help them plan and build a series of three to four key scenes that take you from beginning to end of the story. When finished, they can share their models and tell the story verbally to the entire family.   

The many ways LEGO Bricks can build literacy just builds on our love for these versatile bricks.