Nation & World

Lego aims for stressed-out adults

A Millennium Falcon set costs $800

Cris McDonough, 57, of Connellsville, Pa. builds Legos during a BYOB adults-only build event. (Washington Post)
Cris McDonough, 57, of Connellsville, Pa. builds Legos during a BYOB adults-only build event. (Washington Post)
/

Elisabeth Briggs finds calm in clicking small, interlocking bricks together and turning piles of multicolored plastic into something recognizable.

Sometimes she has a beer while playing with Lego bricks — at 37, she’s allowed — or watches TV. But she keeps the instructions close by, following them to the block.

For Briggs, this ritual has become a kind of guided meditation with a tangible reward at the end — a big city skyline, perhaps, or an iconic building she can display in her office.

She picked up her first Lego building set, a 321-piece replica of the Eiffel Tower, for $35 after a trip to Paris, and now has nearly three dozen kits that mirror her travels, including Buckingham Palace, the Louvre and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lego, the world’s largest and most profitable toy maker, is zeroing in on a growing demographic — stressed-out adults. The 87-year-old Danish company increasingly bills its brightly colored bricks as a way to drown out the noise of the day and perhaps achieve a measure of mindfulness.

The company’s newest kits — which include the Central Perk cafe from the sitcom “Friends” and a vintage 1989 Batmobile — tap into Gen X nostalgia, while its Ideas and Forma lines are being targeted to adults who want to occupy their hands but keep their minds loosely engaged.

Adults have become a coveted market for toy makers confronting increased competition and waning sales growth, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for the Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle on Briggs’s wish list.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Adults with high-pressured jobs are telling us they’re using Lego to disconnect from the mania of the day,” said Genevieve Capa Cruz, Lego’s audience marketing strategist.

“They’re looking for a relaxing, calming experience — and they like instructions because that’s what helps them be in the zone.”

The company spent the past five years revamping instruction manuals to make kits foolproof for frazzled adults, she said. Adult Fans of Lego — known colloquially as AFOLs — have inspired dozens of Facebook and Reddit groups and at least one “blocumentary.”

A new book aims to teach older users how to use the bricks as a form of stress relief, not to create complicated models but to simply revel in the process.

And a competition show, LEGO Masters, which premieres next month on Fox, pits adult builders against each other. Think “The Great British Bake Off,” for Lego.

Lego faces many of the same head winds as its rivals. Sales growth has held steady at about 4 percent since 2018, a sharp drop from the 17 percent a year average seen the preceding decade.

U.S. toy sales fell about 5.5 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to NPD Group.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.