When I was in the hospital, one of the items I asked Paige to grab during an errand run was a LEGO set. Any set. It didn’t matter. The idea was focusing on a task and working to put something together and feel a sense of completion when it was all done.
She came back with a Star Wars set and I overestimated how much flat surface real estate I would have in a hospital room. I didn’t end up doing the set until I returned home but the upside was that my daughter and son helped me piece it all together.
Someone asked me why, as an adult, I was so into LEGOs. It’s therapy for me. How many projects can we undertake and then completely finish with something fun to see, hold, and touch in 2-4 hours? (Depends on the LEGO set, of course. Mina and I worked on the Parisian Cafe during nights for a couple of weeks before it was finished.)
What I realize now is that working on a small project or task-focused exercise like a LEGO set forces you to live in the moment. The next thing driving you is finding that 1×4 blue block that you need to complete the siding of your LEGO house. Nothing else is creeping into your mind. Bills, to-do lists, office concerns, and material fantasies all disappear. The only thing I have to force myself to check and re-check is the clock. It’s common for me to lose an hour or two working on a set with Mina and Will and realize that their bedtime should’ve been much earlier.
I find the same thing happens when you or a group of adults work on a jigsaw puzzle. I’m also the person that just grabs the box and spills out all of the pieces on an available table. One friend joins and helps turn the upside-down pieces over. Another friend joins and starts finding all of the edge pieces and putting them off to the side. Before too long the whole group is huddled over a table working on a scene of North Carolina waterfalls or The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (that’s a fun one).
I don’t think this effect holds up for most digital tasks like playing video games or binge watching a Netflix series, even those I really like both of those activities. I think that a lot of video games now require a steep learning curve. And if you’re trying to play with someone who just doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination needed to fast-action video games then you might be having fun and in the moment but they are not, despite what they may say. For taking in TV content, even without commercials, there is too much space for anyone’s mind to wonder. What are we going to do next? Maybe I can show them my show. Do we all need some food? Are we going on that walk tomorrow?
These issues don’t exist with a set of LEGOs or a jigsaw puzzle. Grandparents can walk in and help for a bit and head out with no fuss. Everybody wins. And if it’s a game you’re after, nothing beats a good deck of cards. Spades, anyone?