Duplo: The 2×2 Problem

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All Images: Sarah Pinault

For the second Christmas in a row, our family received a multipack of Duplo. This time we added farm animals and fencing to the mix, a few new people, and a new car base. The boys are loving the new additions, and an extra box of blocks is always a good bet with my boys. They have no problem playing with these bricks for long stretches of time, making all manner of things. I, however, have issues with symmetry, a need to join blocks in an architecturally sound way, and a 2×2 problem.

You know the 2×2 problem well, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. For me it is Duplo, for you it might be Lego. The accumulation of multiple sets inevitably leads to a block imbalance: So few 4x2s for construction, so many 2x2s.

The kids have no problem with the 2×2 blocks, but the parents, we’re a little more distracted by the impossible task of building with the smaller blocks. Whenever a construction project is complete, or even in progress, there is always a pile of blocks off to one side with which the parent is expected to produce the Empire State Building. This is always a big pile of 2x2s.

With the expansion of our building materials this year, I was hoping to redress the imbalance. Alas, more 2x2s. I have been trying to come up with some useful ways of using these smaller increments, ways that don’t fall apart instantly, and don’t offend my adult sensibilities!

1. The underwater camera. This is a more peculiar shape than the cameras we generally construct from Duplo, but given the constraints of the 2×2 we decided to go Jacques Cousteau, and design an underwater camera. It even works in the bath tub.

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2. The classic pyramid. While the 4×2 enables the construction of a more artistic pyramid, the 2×2 is a mainstay in Egyptian playtime.

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3. The 3-D pyramid. Yes, the pyramid is already three dimensional, but what we are looking for  here is depth. You can even go in from underneath and remove superfluous blocks, thus making tombs.

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4. The photo frame. Run around the house with this bad boy and take pictures, with an actual camera, of anything you would like to frame. That is, have your child run around the house looking for things they would like to frame, ahem!

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5. The robot. Not as sturdy as the multi-brick kind, but a decent robot can be made from simple 2x2s. These are great for robot wars, as they break up easily on impact. Robot wars: a game in which siblings knock each other’s robots together until one breaks. Kind of like the old British game of conkers, but not.

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6. Tetris. Okay, this one is not at all fun to play, but it looks kind of cool. It will fill those moments when you are being told not to play with your child’s construction project.

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7. The steps. Simple. Classic. Completely boring unless you are a four year old with farm animals that like to play Lemmings.

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8. The race track. The piece de resistance. Once constructed, this kept both of my boys occupied for longer than I thought possible. A simple track construction, using a three pronged width for long stretches, and a four pronged turn. Towers and turrets can be added at will. Be warned, siblings will attempt to block their opponent’s car by putting bricks behind their progress, a la turtle shells in Mario Kart.

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So that was a wonderful morning spent learning how to construct minimalist projects with my boys. Any suggestions to add to our repertoire?

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