LEGO's advice to parents in 1974 still relevant

Jennifer O'Neill
LEGO CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp vows LEGO’s focus has always been on fostering creativity, regardless of gender. Photo used with permission via LEGO.

LEGO sets in the 1970s came with a special set of instructions – for parents to stop gender stereotyping.

“It’s imagination that counts,” declares the toy manufacturer’s note, unearthed by Redditor fryd_ from his partner’s Grandma’s house in a set from 1974 and posted online November 22 under the headline, “70s Lego had the right idea.” The letter spells out, “A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than doll houses.”

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And though the message is more than four decades old, it clearly still resonates today. The missive prompted more than 2,200 comments in just two days. Another man’s tweet with a photo of the letter, titled “Lego had it nailed in the 70’s,” has been re-tweeted more than 7,000 times.

The message in full reads: “To parents. The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls. It’s imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes inside your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls houses or a spaceship. A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses. The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.”

Skeptics initially questioned the authenticity of the note, even though people around the world posted matching instructions online in a variety of languages, but LEGO confirms it’s legit. “The text is from 1974 and was part of a pamphlet showing a variety of Lego doll house products,” spokeswoman Emma Owen told The Telegraph November 24. “It remains relevant to this day – our focus has always been, and remains to bring creative play experiences to all children in the world…to build and create whatever they can imagine.”

The company has come under fire in recent years, after it introduced its pink-and-purple heavy “Friends” line in 2011 responding to market research that found 90 percent of Lego users were boys. Critics insisted the pastel sets perpetuated gender stereotypes, yet the products were enormously popular, becoming LEGO’s fourth best-selling line by the end of 2012 and tripling the number of girls buying LEGOs among their 75 million customers.

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Boys or girls, pink or blue, CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp vows LEGO’s focus has always been on fostering creativity, period. “All children are unique, and each of them has a range of interests,” he writes in LEGO’s 2013 Responsibility Report. “We want to offer a broad portfolio of products to allow all children a building experience that matches their skills and links into their interests. However, we do not want to pre-empt that choice by defining in our marketing that some of our products are only for girls and some only for boys.”

And at the end of the day it’s mom and dad who make all the difference in the impact these toys have on kids, parenting educator Amy McCready insists to Yahoo Parenting. “When a parent is supportive of interests, regardless of whether it’s building spaceships or doll houses, it’s validating for the child,” she explains. “It shows them they’re accepted and loved for who they are, not put into a mold of how they ‘should’ be.”

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The 1974 rally to parents is as important as ever today, she adds. “If kids are encouraged, they see that their creativity has no limits. Imagine the things those children can do!”

This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Parenting.