Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Playmobil vs. Lego?

Lego. The word takes on almost mystical significance in our home. My husband and I are huge Lego fans. We played with them when we were children and both have fond memories. A starter set of Duplos were in Michael's hands well before he turned two. Michael has mostly graduated from the larger Lego Duplo line to the smaller Legos. We have an embarrassing number of Legos and Duplos in the house and Michael's imagination for building with them well surpasses mine.

Our brand loyalty to Lego turned us "Lego blind". We always preferred them to all other building toys. I still think they are extremely high quality building toys and I haven't changed my mind on that point. However, I was realizing that the children weren't really engaging in imaginary play with them. They were great building toys, but the creations didn't facilitate true imaginary play. Michael would play with his car/truck/spaceship/rocket/other random creation until it fell apart, but there was no interaction between characters, no setting of scenes, no dialogue, no group play with his sister, etc...

Neither my husband or I ever had any experience with Playmobil and due to the previously mentioned "Lego blindness", had never considered branching out. I had somehow gotten the impression that people were either Lego or Playmobil, but not both, and we were already committed.

Then I started researching great toys for facilitating imaginary play and Playmobil came up again and again. We purchased our first sets a few days ago and I am impressed. The price was very reasonable, the level of detail is extraordinary, the minifigures are more appealing and detailed than the Lego ones, and the sets create an entire scene that can be played with in an imaginary way.

Ava got the Vet Clinic Carrying Case and Michael got the Pirates Carrying Case. They were only $10.99 each and they have played with them for hours waking up again the next morning to run to those toys as their first choice. We created elaborate scenes where the four animals in the vet clinic set needed splinters removed, antibiotics on their scrapes, bandages on cuts, medicine for tummy aches, etc. We borrowed a few gold coins from the pirate set that make great pretend pet food. Michael loves the cannon included in his pirate set. In his imagination the pirate and soldier are friends and can often be found raiding the vet clinic to capture a dog for a pet. The vet, of course, has to use the cannon to hold off the invaders.

I have discovered that both Playmobil and Lego hold an important place in our household. Lego is wonderful for building, following directions, and visual-spatial skills. Playmobil is definitely my new-found love for facilitating independent and cooperative imaginary play. I think we'll be seeing more Playmobil over this birthday and holiday season.

I have, however, been frustrated when trying to research Playmobil sets because I felt like their product pictures didn't provide a lot of detail about the contents of the sets. I couldn't get a true feel for what a Playmobil set was actually like. Here are some pictures of the contents of our new sets.

Playmobil Vet Clinic Carrying Case (5970)

Playmobil Pirates Carrying Case (5894)

I think these small, Playmobil carrying case sets have a lot of potential for the therapy room as well. They are priced well, come with their own (well-made) storage, and are appealing to children ages 3 and up. There are a wide variety of themes available (vet, pirates, pony farm, school, knights, firemen, dragonland, police, princess, holiday). They would be great for facilitating dialogue, turn-taking, attention to detail, and all of the other skills that can be developed through in-depth imaginary play.


  1. At my son's therapist's practice, they have a ton of playmobile - some of it is old, but he plays with the camper and the farm and it's always a hit. The therapist works on he/she with the figures and play schemes. It's expensive, but a durable toy that is worth it.

  2. I really like the gender-neutral sets & items (as I do with Lego). I love Lego for the generic building and kit building, and I love Playmobil for the themed sets (various rooms of the house, vet stuff, farming stuff). My only quibble with Playmobil is that so many of the pieces are so small. I work with a special ed preschool program and too many of our kids don't have the fine motor control to really play well with Playmobil pieces. A few of our kids are also still mouthing quite often, and we don't want the kids choking on anything. But with some of my kids, it's been a great way to play-act everyday routines such as toileting and bathing, feeding pets, going for walks, going to bed, and things like that.

  3. @Wendy -- there is a Playmobil 123 line that is larger, and better for young kids or kids who tend to put pieces in their mouths. I got some of the toys for my daughter's 2nd birthday and they were great!

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