LEGOs aren’t just for building anymore.
To enable a more representative way to play and learn with your children, the toy company launched its new LEGO Friends Universe, including digital content featuring the latest generation of characters, storylines, and associated toys. Between the eight new Friends, the product line introduces an array of physical and mental traits, complex emotions, and unique cultural backgrounds.
“The relaunch answers a call for change that real kids desire to see in their toys and the content they watch. New characters feel, express, and acknowledge a range of emotions similar to those of today’s kids, helping them relate to and explore their mental well-being through play,” the company wrote in its announcement.
From characters with limb differences to Friends navigating ADHD and anxiety, the products are a departure from the usual simplicity of children’s toys. The first set of products launched along with a 44-minute special episode of its LEGO Friends YouTube Series, to be followed by more episodes and sets later in the year.
The LEGO Group conducted a nationwide survey of children ages 6 to 12 during the design process, polling the kids about their daily emotions, friendships, and toy preferences. According to the survey, 70 percent want to see their toys represent emotions beyond “smiley or happy” in favor of more realistic expressions. In their own lives, the vast majority of kids (94 percent) said they believe it’s important to talk to someone else about big emotions, while 93 percent said they believe it’s good to have friends that are different from you and can teach you new things.
The company also called in the expertise of a partnering organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and leading childhood researchers to design the alternative set of LEGO toys. “Two things are true when it comes to kids and mental health: Today’s kids are experiencing high levels of stress and today’s kids understand the importance of opening up to someone about it. Kids don’t usually ‘open up’ with their words; rather, most kids open up in play; a range of diverse toys and figures ensures that more children will have the opportunity to see themselves, feel less alone, explore their emotional experience, and build coping skills for life,” said parenting psychologist Becky Kennedy.
The stories behind each of the new characters, residents of LEGO’s Heartlake City, are fictional representations of the diverse experiences of tweens:
Autumn (12) is the first LEGO character representing someone born with a limb difference, which doesn’t impede her adventurous spirit. New character Paisley (13) struggles to make her voice heard while navigating intense social anxiety. Liann (12) is a creative and imaginative student living with ADHD. Nova (13) is a video game streamer and tech genius whose blunt communication style has left her a bit of a loner.
The rest of the crew make up another group of students at the new Heartlake City International School:
Aliya (13), the star pupil and perfectionist leading the crew, is struggling with the pressure to keep up her success. Leo (13) has just moved from Mexico to Heartlake City, and is trying to figure out how to form healthy personal relationships. Zac (12) is a new African-French student who has found that having English as his second language makes it hard for him to do well in school. And British student Olly (12) is learning to communicate his intelligence and special interests while respecting other students’ personal boundaries.
The paired content tells stories of real relationships and struggles — offering forms of visible and non-visible representation — using the means most accessible for a younger audiences: childhood stories and play.
LEGO Friends toys are available for purchase online and in stores now.