When we first met Cava in Ukraine, he would come to the small room we had at his boarding school. One night, he found our travel version of Blokus. This hyper boy who was constantly climbing the bunk-beds and doing flips off them, stopped and spent an hour working with the different shaped pieces until all of them were on the board. Is it any wonder then that he loved doing puzzles and has done around 75 of them since he has arrived here almost two years ago. He went from doing small 24 piece puzzles to doing puzzles that are over a 1,000 pieces. He got two Ravensburger 1,000 piece puzzles for Christmas.
He also got quite a few Lego sets.
Cava loves Legos. Much for the same reason that he loves doing puzzles and they are very similar in that he has to figure out which piece goes where to build something. Cava is someone who likes having instructions to follow. Since he didn't have any toys back in Ukraine, he doesn't really know how to play with them. With Legos, he doesn't have to play, he just has to build according to how the pictured instructions show him to. (He struggles if I ask him to take his Legos and just build from his imagination. This is something I wrote about in Learning From Legos. Here is a link to that post:
While Cava can get frustrated and upset whenever he finds building with his Legos too difficult, we are working on him taking breaks and walking away to do something else for awhile and then returning to the Legos when he's calmed down.
I love that he comes to me when he needs help. I grew up loving to build with Legos and I enjoy seeing this love for Legos grow in Cava. It's something that we can share together just as he and Danelle work together on puzzles.
What I like about Legos is that they not only work on Cava's motor skills, but also hold his attention for hours, causing him to focus and develop his thinking skills. He likes that this kind of play is very structured. Like his puzzles, Legos are a way for Cava to work through and persist at a task until its completed. This is great since Cava has ADHD and this provides a way for him to focus on one thing for hours. It also helps build his self-confidence as he builds more complicated sets with more and more pieces, just like with his puzzles. He got so caught up in building with his Legos that he had finished all of the new sets he got by the end of his Christmas break.
Something else that Cava loves that helps him with his ADHD is Minecraft. This is a free-form design tool that requires planning and good organizational skills. It develops his focus and his imagination at the same time. He has to build the world with everything from shelter to equipment. In an article on the website LearningWorks for Kids entitled "Minecraft, Executive Functioning and ADHD," the author of the piece wrote:
"Using the game as an educational tool for children with ADHD can help reinforce and practice key cognitive thinking skills with which these children commonly struggle with — all within the fun world of Minecraft. All this week, we’ll be sharing specific ways to use Minecraft to help kids with ADHD, offering structured projects to try with your child. Each project will target a specific thinking skill, with detailed guidance on exactly how to exercise it during gameplay."
Another bonus to Cava playing Minecraft is that, unlike with Legos, I have no idea how to do anything in that world, so he has to ask his older brother. This has become another way that the two of them have bonded. I love seeing the two of them sitting at the family computer, working together, as Cava delights in what he is either building or tearing down at the moment.
Puzzles, Legos, and Minecraft have all required Cava to focus, to work at a task, to figure out how to overcome problems, and to not give up until he has finished what he was working on. I have loved seeing how excited he's been to show off a newly completed puzzle, or a Lego creation, or what he's built on Minecraft. And I really love seeing the sense of pride and accomplishment that he has when he's done. They also help foster creativity and imagination in him. These are all things he desperately needed, so for as long as he enjoys doing these activities, I will continue to encourage his love of them because I love seeing what they give him.
To read the full article on Minecraft, here is a link to LearningWorks' site: