In April 2019, I traveled to Denmark for the LEGO® Idea Conference. "Unlocking the Power of Parenting" was the conference theme, and more than 400 people gathered from around the globe to collaborate.
We all met at the newly built LEGO House in Billund, Denmark—a small town where the LEGO brick was invented by Ole Kirk Christensen in 1932.
(The name LEGO is from the Danish expression "leg godt", meaning play well.)
One of my favorite things to do at conferences is to draw sketches of the talks and give them to the presenters! Here's a sample of my journey at LEGO.
Here's a quick sketch I made of LEGO Foundation CEO John Goodwin while he was welcoming us to the gathering.
LEGO Idea Conference talk by Karima Grant, on her work creating ImagiNation—Senegal’s first cultural and educational hub for children. A conference highlight for me was talking with Karima after I gave her the sketch and hearing how much it meant to her.
The LEGO Foundation tweeted this photo of me playing a collaborative game with paddles and balls. It was fun!
Marc Bornstein of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development gave a fascinating talk on specificity principles. Because the talks were fast-paced and the environment was stimulating, I iterated on my typical drawing style to create easy shapes that evoke the big idea without so many details.
I loved chatting with Jack Shonkoff, the LEGO Idea Prize winner. He approached me after I shared with the group about how trauma affected my childhood, how trauma affects parenting, and the need for trauma-informed care. He told me how he's dedicated his life to this cause and reminded me that trauma and dysfunction affects families across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Jack Shonkoff, holding the sketch I made him after he won the 2019 LEGO Idea Prize for "deepening the world’s understanding of the importance of the early years." I cited his work on "serve and return" dynamics in my first ever published academic paper!
LEGO Idea Conference Keynote by Pakistani education activist Ziauddin Yousafzai on parenting Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize Winner. It was special to connect with him on Twitter afterward and share with him this sketch! I was surprised by how the descriptions of his homeland evoked a more fluid, softer drawing technique from my fingers.
Art imitates life! Something I was intrigued by in Denmark were the trees, and how much they mirrored the LEGO trees. Just as I saw the forms of dragons in the serpentine mountain ridges of Japan, the unique branching of Denmark's pine trees and troll trees were reflected in the LEGO trees too.
The theme of the conference was "Unlocking the Power of Parenting" and in this panel Ralph Smith, Luis Benveniste, Sarah Hutchinson, and Sumitra Pasupathy discussed how to reframe the parenting narrative for a family-centered approach.
At the end of the conference, we split into 11 breakout groups before sharing our final takeaways. I chose "On the Move" to brainstorm how we can support children and families who are displaced. I was lucky to collaborate in the group with Thomas Kirk Kristiansen—chairman of the LEGO Foundation board and great-grandson of the LEGO inventor. He's deeply motivated to support refugees.
After the conference, I brought my MindScribe prototypes to the International School of Billund to help preschoolers tell stories about their creative play.
Kids chose their stuffed animal, and the stuffy asked them questions about their inventions. 3-5 year olds told original stories in English, Danish, and Japanese!
I hope to visit the school again—it's a special place.
Until next time, Denmark. <3