Difference between LEGO and LEGO DUPLO

Most of us would know LEGO as one of the market's best brick-building toys for children. However, you might also notice that LEGO has another line called the DUPLO. Are they the same? And what is the difference between LEGO and DUPLO?

LEGO is designed for children from 6 years old and upwards, while DUPLO is for children from 1½ to 5 years old. As a result, DUPLO blocks tend to be bigger than regular LEGO blocks, reducing choking hazards. DUPLO blocks are also easier to build, requiring less precision and coordination to make than LEGO.

This article will explore LEGO and DUPLO and how they are similar and different from each other.

We will also attempt to provide answers to some common questions you may have about DUPLO, such as if they are interchangeable and if adults can still play with DUPLO.

What Is LEGO?

LEGO is a plastic, brick-style construction toy line for children and adults. Originating from Denmark, LEGO bricks are designed to be stackable yet can be taken apart for reuse. LEGO also has many lines, such as DUPLO, Technic, Classic, and Junior. Each line focuses on the different ages and abilities of the players.

LEGO is a line of plastic construction toys for children and adults alike. A typical flagship LEGO set would usually consist of many colored interlocking plastic bricks in configurations such as 2X2 (two columns of studs, in two rows), 2X3, 2X4, or more.

A standard LEGO set would also come with an array of gears, figurines, and many other smaller parts. LEGO blocks are designed to be stackable and taken apart multiple times, making them reusable for building new things.

LEGO comes in many lines of products, catering to children as young as 18 months old all the way to adults. Many LEGO players eventually become lifelong players of it, starting with DUPLO, to LEGO Junior, LEGO Classic, and ultimately building with LEGO Technic sets as an adult.

LEGO sets are manufactured worldwide today, with over 600 billion parts manufactured since its inception in 1932. LEGO means 'play well' in Danish, where the brand originated.

What Is LEGO DUPLO?

DUPLO is a line of plastic, brick-style construction toys from LEGO. DUPLO focuses on children from 18 months to five years old. DUPLO sets are double the size of regular LEGO bricks, enabling smaller children's hands to manipulate them better. DUPLO sets are also often simpler than other LEGO sets.

DUPLO first came into being in 1969, when LEGO attempted to create a new line of LEGO sets suitable for younger children. This new line aims to create LEGO sets that would introduce children to the world of LEGO and make bricks that are easily workable for children's small and less agile hands.

The decision was made to make larger LEGO bricks, creating DUPLO. DUPLO bricks are twice the size of regular LEGO bricks. The larger size also helps reduce choking hazards, as younger children have a habit of placing things into their mouths.

Similar to many other LEGO lines, DUPLO has undergone many changes since its introduction. Some remained with it till this day, while some were reversed due to poor market reception or other practical reasons.

The initial DUPLO sets only come in four colors, red, yellow, blue, and white. More colors were added on, as well as more brick configurations, such as 2X2 bricks in 1972.

In 1977, LEGO renamed DUPLO as LEGO Preschool and then introduced figurines. Compared to regular LEGO, DUPLO figurines at this time are simple, with a cylindrical head, and limbless. LEGO eventually reversed the renaming and brought back DUPLO in 1979.

DUPLO improved on their figurines in 1983, introducing DUPLO People. These figurines have movable heads and limbs, similar to actual LEGO figurines. However, they are undetachable, making them safer for children since it reduces the risk of choking. Further additions were introduced into DUPLO, such as screwdrivers called DUPLO Toolo and a rail train system in 1993.

LEGO tried to leverage the success of DUPLO by trying to produce a simpler version, aiming it at children as young as 6 months old. Released in 1995, DUPLO Primo is significantly larger, simpler, and less compatible with other LEGO bricks. It was renamed LEGO Baby in 2000, but poor reception and overlapping target market with LEGO Quatro resulted in its discontinuation in 2006.

DUPLO's most known sets are those produced under license from Bob The Builder and Thomas and Friends. Many DUPLO sets also come with trucks, cars, and engines, albeit simpler. Modern DUPLO sets can be somewhat similar to other LEGO sets but much more straightforward to build and have a higher cuteness factor.

Many DUPLO players graduated into building with more complicated and difficult LEGO sets, progressing from LEGO Junior to Classic to eventually LEGO Technic. The word DUPLO is derived from the Latin word 'Duplex,' showing its size relation with regular LEGO bricks.

How Similar Are DUPLO and LEGO?

LEGO and DUPLO are products from the LEGO Group, have the same construction system, and are built with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastics. These similarities are the result of both coming from the same company.

Company

Both LEGO and DUPLO are manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately-held group based in Billund, Denmark.

LEGO is an umbrella brand, with many other series and lines underneath it, such as LEGO Junior, LEGO Classic, and LEGO Technic. DUPLO can be considered as part of the lineup. However, LEGO has a tendency to push the DUPLO brand more than LEGO itself.

You may roughly equate the relationship between LEGO and DUPLO to how Toyota treats Lexus. They are part of the same company, but Toyota tends to promote Lexus as a separate brand.

Construction Structures

Both LEGO and DUPLO use similar construction structures. Both LEGO and DUPLO bricks contain 'studs' and 'tubes.' The studs are the rounded extension on the top side of the bricks, while the tubes are the holes at the bottom of the bricks.

The studs are designed to fit into the tubes tightly while being easily removable at the same time. This allows the bricks to be taken apart again for reconstruction later.

The difference will be in the size of the tubes and studs. You may assume that DUPLO's studs and tubes are double the sizes of regular LEGO bricks. However, despite the size, they fit together. You can attach a regular LEGO brick into a DUPLO brick and get a good fit.

Materials Used

Both LEGO and DUPLO bricks were built using similar materials. The regular bricks for both LEGO and DUPLO are mostly made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastics.

Transparent parts are made from Methyl methacrylate-acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (MABS), while some accessories also use polypropylene. All in all, there are 12 types of plastic being used in LEGO and DUPLO models.

It took LEGO almost five years to experiment to finally find the perfect type of plastics to use for their bricks. ABS was eventually selected due to its rigidity, scratch resistance, and long-term performance. ABS is also environmentally friendly, as it is recyclable.

What Are The Differences Between LEGO and DUPLO?

LEGO and DUPLO differ in size, difficulty, safety, range, creative possibilities, and more. The reason these differences exist is that DUPLO aims itself at younger children. At the same time, LEGO works with players across all ages.

LEGO LEGO DUPLO
Size Smaller Larger, double the size of regular LEGO bicks.
Age Range 4+ to Adults 18 months to 5 years old.
Difficulty Easy Easy to difficult.
Safety May not be safe for children under 3 years Safe for children 18 months and older.
Range Contains a variety of brands and licenses. A single LEGO brand that may include licenses.
Creative Possibilities Almost limitless Less expansive.
Manufacturing Denmark, Mexico, Hungary, China, Czech Republic Hungary

 

There is a reason LEGO created the DUPLO line - it focuses on very young children that have specific needs. Their limited and growing cognitive ability also may require a more straightforward building set to lay the foundation for them to build more complex sets in the future.

Size

LEGO bricks are, in general, smaller than DUPLOs. You may assume most of DUPLOs bricks are created to be double the size of regular LEGO bricks. In fact, this is how DUPLO got its' name - the name DUPLO is derived from the Latin word 'Duplex,' meaning double.

This is because DUPLO is aimed at players of much younger age, as young as 18 years old. Children at this age may have limited, albeit growing cognitive ability, as well as smaller hands that are less agile. Their hand-eye coordination is also not as good as an adult.

Which means they may need larger bricks. Larger bricks make it easy for their little hands to manipulate and make attaching bricks easier due to their limited hand-eye coordination ability.

Larger size bricks also reduce choking hazards. Young children do have a tendency to put things into their mouths, which means smaller LEGO bricks may be very dangerous for them. DUPLO bricks are made large so that no children may be able to put them fully into their mouths, let alone swallow them.

Suitable Age

DUPLO focuses on children from 18 months to five years old, while LEGO as a whole contains other lines that cater to children from 6+ years old all the way to adults.

This can be attributed to the relationship between DUPLO and LEGO. LEGO is an umbrella brand with many product lines, with DUPLO being one of them. LEGO's other product lines cater to different ages, such as LEGO Classic, LEGO Junior, or LEGO Technic.

As such, you may see DUPLO being very child-like in its presentation, cute figurines, and using themes and brands familiar to children, such as Bob The Builder or Thomas and Friends.

Compare this to LEGO Technic, which is much more technical and produces models that are based on themes and brands such as Star Wars, Volvo Tractors, or Lamborghini cars. This makes LEGO Technic more suitable for older players.

Difficulty

You may assume that in most cases, DUPLO is easier to play with than other LEGO lines. This is simply because DUPLO is aimed at younger players, from 18 months to five years old.

Younger children may have limited but growing cognitive and logical reasoning ability and weaker hand-eye coordination. They also have smaller and less agile hands. DUPLO sets are created with these abilities in mind to present challenges to help young children improve their skills but not too challenging for them to give up.

DUPLO sets do not come in a large number of pieces, usually only in the lower hundreds per set. For example, a DUPLO Wild Animals of Asia (10974) set comes with 117 pieces. The lower number of individual pieces makes the building process manageable for young children.

If you compare this to, say, LEGO Technic, you may see sets that come with over thousands of individual pieces that need to be assembled, such as the D11 CAT Tractor (42131), which comes with 3,854 pieces. Sets like these might even be too complex for a full-grown adult to assemble, indicating their difficulty level.

Safety

In most cases, DUPLO is safer for young children compared to other LEGO sets. This is because DUPLO is designed especially for young children, meaning it considers many of their limitations.

For example, young children may have weak hand-eye coordination and the ability to manipulate bricks better. As a result, DUPLO bricks have more rounded edges than other LEGO bricks to reduce potential injury. Rounder bricks may also help removal in case a child accidentally swallowed one.

DUPLO blocks are also larger in size to reduce the choking hazard. DUPLO takes into account how some younger children have a strong tendency to put everything into their mouths, which means when they play with DUPLO blocks, they might do the same.

Larger brick sizes help to prevent children from being able to put the brick fully into their mouths. Even if they managed to, at least they would not be able to swallow the bricks.

Range

DUPLO has a limited range of sets to play with, while LEGO as a whole offers a much more comprehensive range of sets. This is because of the relationship between DUPLO and LEGO.

LEGO is an umbrella brand that houses many other product lines, of which DUPLO is one of them. Other LEGO lines include Junior, Classic, Technic, etc.

From its inception until now, DUPLO has produced over 1200+ sets. These sets range from basic DUPLO blocks to theme sets such as those from Bob The Builder, Thomas and Friends, or Disney Princess Belle (10960).

LEGO as a whole can offer much more than DUPLO, and in various difficulty and themes as well. Since its inception, LEGO has released almost 20,000 sets. Say if we deduct that number from DUPLO. This means instead of having just around 1200+ DUPLO sets to play with, you can choose from 18,800 plus other LEGO sets.

Creative Possibilities

The creative possibilities with DUPLO may be lesser compared to LEGO. This is because DUPLO sets are much simpler and less manipulatable. DUPLO sets also tend to come in smaller numbers, meaning there is less space to experiment.

For example, if you take this DUPLO Wild Animals of Africa (10971) set. It only comes in 10 pieces, with many pieces complete and undetachable. It means players may not have much chance to perform creative modifications, such as building a hill and placing a tree on it or adding some apples.

If you compare this to a LEGO Classic 500-piece set (11019), players are free to build whatever they want since the bricks are not predesigned. Players can use the bricks to build a house, tree, car, or anything they fancy. This allows maximum creativity space.

Manufacturing Location

LEGO sets are manufactured throughout the world, in places such as:

  • Billund, Denmark
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Nyíregyháza, Hungary
  • Jiaxing, China
  • Kladno, Czech Republic.

Some manufacturing facilities focus on producing the bricks, while some focus on producing packaging or brick decorations. From its inception until today, LEGO has manufactured over 600 billion pieces.

Compared to LEGO, DUPLO is made only in Nyíregyháza, Hungary. This particular plant managed almost all of the production process, with only a minor part managed by other facilities.

This made sense since LEGO constitutes a broader range of LEGO parts and pieces in various difficulties and sizes. This would mean a multitude of designers, engineers, and plastic molding machines are required to produce them.

This could mean higher costs, which may have pushed LEGO to move manufacturing outside the European Union and into lower-cost countries such as Mexico or China.

Who Came First, DUPLO or LEGO?

LEGO came first before DUPLO. LEGO started as early as 1932, not as the plastic brick toy maker it is today, but as a wooden toy maker. DUPLO only came about in 1969 as a new line of products from LEGO. It caters to very young children, as LEGO did not have products for them then.

LEGO started as a wooden toy maker in Billund, Denmark, in 1932. Ole Kirk Christiansen (1881-1958) originally ran and operated a carpentry workshop. However, as Great Depression set in during the late 1920s, he was forced to experiment with producing miniature wooden pieces as projects stopped coming in.

Christiansen started by producing small ladders and ironing boards to trade for produce with the local farmers. This eventually led to the idea of making wooden toys.

Christiansen settled on the name LEGO in 1934 before turning the company into plastic toy markers in 1947. It took until 1958 and multiple forms of experiment and listening to market feedback before LEGO released the current system of interlocking plastic bricks made from ABS plastic.

LEGO has since built on that formula and is not the world's largest toy maker company, with assets of around $5 billion and about 25,000 employees worldwide.

DUPLO started in 1969 when LEGO realized that it did not have sets that cater to the unique needs of young children aged five and below. DUPLO initially came out as a different set of bricks, only in blue, red, yellow, and white colors. The earliest DUPLO sets often come with regular LEGO bricks as well.

It took until 1975 for DUPLO to become its own individual line, and LEGO has tinkered with the formula multiple times throughout the years. This includes renaming DUPLO info LEGO Preschool and LEGO Explore, as well as introducing many other accessories to it. Some worked and remained with the line till today, while some were discarded.

Can You Fit LEGO and DUPLO Bricks Together?

You can fit regular LEGO and DUPLO bricks together. The general rule with fitting LEGO and DUPLO bricks is to 1/4 the number of studs needed from the DUPLO brick to fit a regular LEGO Brick.

LEGO bricks can generally fit into each other across product lines. This means you can fit a LEGO Technic part into a LEGO Classic or Junior. You can assume the same with DUPLO bricks as well.

LEGO believes this helps with creativity and allows playability to be extended. Say a person gets a DUPLO set as a child and is now an adult. They can continue to purchase LEGO Technic sets, play with them, and try to see if they could use their old DUPLO bricks with their newer LEGO sets.

Generally, when fitting a regular LEGO brick with a DUPLO brick, you may assume it takes four times the number of studs on a regular LEGO brick. For example, you will need a 2X2 regular LEGO brick to fit into a single DUPLO stud.

Are There Bigger Brick Sets Than DUPLO?

Currently, DUPLO is the largest brick set from LEGO. However, LEGO has released larger brick sets before, such as LEGO Baby and LEGO Quatro, but these lines have been discontinued.

DUPLO is currently the largest brick set system from LEGO, double the size of the regular LEGO bricks. You may assume it takes four studs from a regular LEGO brick to fit into a single DUPLO stud.

However, LEGO has experimented with even larger brick sets, notably LEGO Baby and LEGO Quatro. LEGO Baby started as DUPLO Primo in 1995, aiming at babies below the age of 18 months. DUPLO Primo were primary toys in nature and not really constructible.

DUPLO Primo was renamed LEGO Baby in the early 2000s. However, the lack of sales and LEGO's restructuring eventually led to its discontinuation in 2006.

LEGO Quatro first came about in 2004, again as an attempt to build a system of interchangeable construction bricks for younger children below 18 months old. Quatro bricks were two times larger than a DUPLO block, which means it is four times larger than regular LEGO bricks. This leads to its name Quatro, which means quadruple in Latin.

Similar to LEGO Baby, it did not do well in the market and was discontinued in 2006 following the company's restructuring.

Can Older Children or Adults Play With DUPLO?

Older children or adults can continue to play with DUPLO in many ways. LEGO and DUPLO bricks are interchangeable, meaning they can easily reuse DUPLO bricks in other LEGO lines such as Classic, City, or even Technic.

One common misconception about LEGO sets is that you may no longer play with them once you pass the age range. Some also think that while you can still play with it, you will no longer derive any cognitive challenge nor satisfaction from it.

However, LEGO bricks are designed to be played with for the whole life. This means as players age, they can still reuse or derive pleasure from DUPLO bricks in different ways.

One popular method is to reuse DUPLO bricks in other LEGO lines, such as Junior, Classic, or Technic. This is possible since LEGO bricks are engineered to fit into each other, regardless of lines or series.

For example, larger DUPLO bricks can be used as elevated platforms to display multiple LEGO Technic models. The DUPLO bricks can also serve as a terrain modifier to create hills or highlands for LEGO City sets.

Another way to reuse DUPLO bricks is to combine DUPLO sets with other LEGO sets with the same theme. For example, the pieces from DUPLO Police Station Set (10959) can also blend into LEGO City's Police Station Set (60316).

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