Lego's branded kits — such as the Star Wars packs — which come with instructions, hamper children's creativity, researchers say.

Scientists in Norway gave children kits with step-by-step instructions while others were left to build what they wanted. Both groups were later given other creative tasks.

Those who had no instructions with the Lego outperformed the other group in the creativity tests, the study found.

Co-author Marit Gundersen Engeset said: "What we find is that a well-defined problem — in our case, following an explicit set of instructions to build something with Lego — can actually hamper creativity in solving future problems."

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She and Page Moreau of Wisconsin University published their findings in the Journal of Market Research, writing that Lego that comes with instructions is like "Googling [the answer to] a problem instead of getting it from your memory".

Lego has been popular with generations of Kiwi kids and is an ongoing big-seller in New Zealand.

Dr Carrie Barber, a specialist in childhood education and behaviour at Waikato University said it was a hot topic of debate but believed there should be a sensible balance between improvisation and following instructions.

"It is not a bad idea for kids to follow steps and there is something to learn from this," Barber said. "But it is doubtful they would pay heed to them for too long. Kids will follow instructions once, then the next time will try it whatever way they like.

"There should be a balance between systematically following steps and letting children use their imaginations."

Lego's Roar Rude Trangbaek denies the sets stifle creativity.

- Daily Mail