Lego History & Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Perhaps the most popular toy in all of history, LEGO bricks can build anything from a house to a spaceship. Learn about the origins of this toy and how the company has changed over the years to create new sets in this lesson.

Build The World

What would you do if one of your friends wanted to play with space toys, another wanted pirates, and another wanted cops and robbers? There's only one toy that fits the bill for all of these, as well as anything else you can imagine: LEGO building bricks.

LEGO has become one of the most successful toys ever, with millions and millions of sets sold around the globe. However, at the very beginning, the company didn't sell a single plastic brick, because LEGO originally sold household goods instead of toys, and they were made of wood, not plastic.

The famous bricks that can build just about anything: LEGO
LEGO bricks

Starting Off

LEGO began in Denmark in 1932 with one man, named Ole Kirk Christiansen. Christiansen first built the company to sell goods like ladders and ironing boards. However, a global financial crisis, meaning economic problems, left him needing to find something that people would want to buy more. He decided he would be better off selling toys made out of wood, using his son, Godtfred, to make sure they were fun to play with.

Once Christiansen's toys became popular, he decided his company needed a name. He chose the name 'Lego', which combines the Danish words leg and godt, meaning 'play well'. 'Lego' is also Latin for 'I put together', making it a very good name for the toys. Christiansen started off with just seven employees, or workers, making 42 types of wooden toys. They quickly became popular, and the company grew and grew.

Brick by Brick

By 1947, Christiansen began to make toys using plastic instead of wood. However, the bricks that we know of today didn't come about until 1958, after Ole Kirk Christiansen had died and his son Godtfred took over. Godtfred realized that because these bricks were very strong, they could be used to make bigger and more complicated toys. What's more, a fire in 1960 burned down their building used for wooden toys, so the company switched full-time to plastic bricks.

City built out of LEGO
LEGO city center

While nobody wanted the building to burn down, the change to plastic bricks was a turning point for the company. They began selling their toys in the United States, and soon millions of kids had their sets. LEGO started to include building instructions in their sets, and branched out into new types of sets, like trains. By the 1960s, LEGO had over 500 employees.

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