20 June 2011

Calling all LEGO enthusiasts!

Riley and Maddie will be five on Wednesday.

FIVE.

Whoa.

I have quite a few things to say about that, but for now, I have a more practical matter to attend to.

Riley is obsessed with LEGO bricks. I managed to secure a huge plastic bin of such for a great price on Craigslist, and this will be young sir's birthday present. The bin included 20-ish instruction booklets, and I had intended to sort through the bricks, bagging each set with its accompanying instruction booklet.

Is anyone with LEGO brick-obsessed children laughing at me right now? Or at least, more kindly, groaning in empathy?

Yeah. I spent about 30 minutes sorting before I realized that my venture was entirely futile. It would take days to sort through this many LEGO bricks in any meaningful way.

Which raises* the question: What is the most meaningful way to sort out LEGO bricks?

For those of you with children who love LEGO bricks, how do you manage the insanity that is putting some kind of order to the brick chaos? Is it better to sort by color or by shape? Or both? Is there any kind of organizational system worth investing in, or is some kind of home-grown solution the best?

Riley and I need your help.

*(but does not beg)

40 comments:

Amber said...

Well, we haven't exactly found the sorting secret yet, ourselves, but we have noticed that the boys mostly like to build mini-figures, so we took out all the body parts and accessories and keep them separate from the rest. :D

Good luck!

Heather said...

We have them in this storage set from IKEA, only with shallower tubs. We let the five-year old decide how to separate them out and he chose by color. So each color has its own shallow tub, plus a tub for instructions and a deeper tub for larger pieces (like boat bottoms). Minifigs, wheels, tools, and other small pieces are sorted into these little divided boxes. He uses the top to display creations. It's made a HUGE difference in clean-up and organization.

Alanna said...

Like Amber, my son just care about the mini figures, so we keep their pieces out.

Gina said...

Happy birthday to Maddie and Riley!

A retiring teacher at my mom's school gave her a classroom set of Legos last year for my boys which is awesome, but with literally thousands of Legos organization is vital. We have an 11 drawer container on wheels, made by Steralite, that we got at Target. The drawers are clear so that he can see inside them and the Legos are organized by color. One of the drawers is devoted to the mini-figures and such.

I threw my oldest a Lego-themed birthday party for his 3rd birthday and it was awesome. If you are inclined to bake/cook the kids something special and have a Lego store near you the store sells cookie cutters in the shape of mini-figurines as well as cupcake and candy molds in the shape of Lego bricks. For the party I made sandwiches with the cookie cutters, chocolate Lego bricks, and Lego cupcakes. Lego also has a free "magazine" that comes every other month - I think it is called Lego Club Jr. with puzzles, comics, and instructions for things to build. You can sign up your kids for free online. My 4.5 year old spends the entire afternoon looking through the magazine and building Legos on the day it arrives. Awesome free entertainment.

Jody said...

We recently got this case from Target: http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/191-4607283-2308507?asin=B0031P85VC&AFID=Froogle_df&LNM=|B0031P85VC&CPNG=toys&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=B0031P85VC&ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001 (sorry, don't know how to link!) and it's been SO helpful. My 5.5 year old likes to build the specific project sets and then play with them, but doesn't want them to get mixed up with other stuff. Then minifigures are a whole other issue. This way, he decides what goes into each project case. The cases clip shut so he can drag them all over without them spilling. He keeps his regular (multipurpose) Legos in one plastic bin, but some are sorted into ziploc bags. He is way more into the sets so not as worried about the general Lego population. The case chest also comes with two of those big base plates, and the top of the case has an indent to fit the base plate, in case he wants to build on top.

Happy Birthday to M & R!

p.s. My son just started a weeklong Lego camp today. It's a whole Lego world out there...

Anonymous said...

We have a TON of Lego, including accessories and specialty pieces you get in the bins at the Lego store. For most of the Lego, we use one of the plastic rolling carts with different sized drawers. We sort by size or shape. It's a lot easier to pick out the colors when sorted by shape than to pick out the shapes when sorted by color. My boys also look for a specific shapes first, then color second as they know what they want to build. In the shallowest drawers I put divided containers, almost like utensil organizers, to keep the little parts or shapes that you only have a few of separate. They keep their unfinished pieces in one of the drawers or on top. We also have several kits or models that are kept separate.
When we went to the Lego store at Downtown Disneyland a couple of years back, they had a special where if you bought x dollars, you got a free container that you could fill with whatever pieces you wanted from the loose bins. The kids bought some big and fancy kits so we got several boxes to fill. The boys were in heaven grabbing handfuls of different accessories and shapes. It was awesome and we got lots of stuff I would otherwise never have let the kids buy. Keep a watch out for those specials.

Anonymous said...

You toss the instructions and pictures. Or store them elsewhere and give the Legos as is - a giant box of Legos! I find the instructions impede rather than enhance building. Surely your kid will make something much more imaginative and interesting.

We have Legos that we leave in huge Ikea bins. My kid has always built what he wanted - a lump of Lego can be a castle or carwash or train. (He's 2.) He was given a booklet from an older friend, and he'd just become frustrated wondering why he couldn't have things built like the picture. Without the book he'd make things (space ships, etc.) and I'd ask him to describe it as he went along. So much more fun. So hold on to them and let your kid build from his head.

Mizasiwa said...

My answer is - dont sort it. If you have an easy to open by a 5 year old container thats were the lego has to live. My son turned 5 in December and last month he got himself into the cupboard i was hoarding the small lego blocks for later. Needless to say the lego battle has been strong since then. The only way is to keep it in one place and not worry too much they will mix it up anyway and it will drive you nuts!! Good luck! Also - WOW 5 already, I cant believe it!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't have one, but this looks brilliant to me:
http://www.amazon.com/Storage-Winning-BOX4BLOX-Organizer-America/dp/B003LTYAOY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308650028&sr=8-1

Solitary Diner said...

I have to agree with anonymous #2 and Mizasiwa and vote for not sorting the Lego. When I was a kid, we had a giant container filled with all the Lego, and we managed to amuse ourselves with it for hours and hours despite the lack of organization. Plus it saved my mom from going crazy trying to sort the Lego for us (because we would never have done it!).

Anonymous said...

I'm with the non-sorters. Half the fun for my kids (one of whom is now 15, and still will occasionally have a Lego building session!) is the "raking" - the sorting through it all. We have thousands of pieces, and sometimes the quest for the right piece is part of the fun. Sometimes not finding the right piece makes you improvise, which is great for their imagination. I'm not saying I don't appreciate the case for sorting, because I do, but sticking to instructions and books and single color structures, etc. seems a little stifling!

Life with Lego is so much fun, however you do it - it's guaranteed to give you and the kids hours of entertainment! Welcome to the club!

mar

Anonymous said...

Let Riley decide. I sorted by size and my little brother sorted by colour. I found it easier to pick out the right colour if I knew what size I wanted, but not everyone is the same. My cousins never sorted, just dug through the bin.

LaRita said...

I think the best way is to buy those divided craft storage containers that are for small items beads, etc. Then sort out the small specialty items only: heads, bodies, flags, coins, lights, accessories... leave the large pieces and basic blocks in a large container all mixed up. After all, if they have to sort for what they want, it keeps them occupied longer!

Tracy said...

I bought this for Christmas for my nephew. He is a LEGO fiend and he loves it! It sorts them by size with just a few shakes.

Scrappy_Lady said...

Add us to the non-sorters. Having so many "kits" these days almost turns Legos into model-building. I prefer the free-form imagination-building that comes with a big bin of Legos. I love that my son will build the kit as per the instructions, then take it apart and use the pieces in a new, fun, creative way.

When looking for pieces, train the kiddos to dump the pieces onto a blanket, then "rake" through them. Cleanup is easy then, as you just pick up the blanket and dump them into the big bin.

Oh, and mini-figures ROCK. One good way to get some fun ones is the buy the Advent calendar before Christmas. For each day in December, they open the door and get a few pieces. About a third of the time it's a mini-figure, the rest are other cool things.

mek said...

At 36 (good lord), my brother is still a LEGO fanatic, as are his twin boys. I have never known him to sort anything or have an organizational system, and yet he knew exactly where everything was when he would build something. We always used the "big tub" method, but maybe it depends on the kid's preference what will work best. Is Riley a sorter or a rummager? :)

erk said...

Don't know how practical this is, but my brother had an old card catalog file and had them sorted to the smallest subcategory of lego possible. (There were probably about 100 different drawers.)

SmileyGirl said...

We too are non-sorters but we do pull out the "special" items like the little people, the tires, the flowers and trees, etc. My biggest tip would be the one my hubby taught me with out kiddos. When you play with the big tub, pour them out on a large sheet. When you're finished playing, pick up all four corners of the sheet and pour them back into the container. It's a way easier way of cleanup and now I don't worry about all the little pieces during cleanup.

SM said...

Oh my gosh--don't sort them! They will be so mixed up in 5 seconds and it will drive you crazy forever! Let this be the main "lego bin". If Riley gets new legos (as he gets older) and they are specific sets (like a Star Wars ship or something) then put that into it's own container right away. We use shoebox sized plastic bins. Ziploc bags also work. My boys are 5 and 7 and they are totally lego obsessed. The 7 year old can now put together a whole "item" without any help. Have fun!

Adam said...

As a Lego kid turned into a Lego dad, I concur with the "let Riley sort" as needed advice. Sorting by color isn't really helpful, but some sorting to get out the really little pieces, wheels, or other specialty items can be helpful.

More important than any good sorting is having a big space to dump the legos. We have an old chalkboard (about 2' x 4') onto which legos can be scattered and sorted during the building, and it also makes for a good roadway, cityscape, or airport runway. Some piece of paneling or a dedicated coffee table can be essential. It also gives an implicit rule about where legos belong, and prevents (or reduces) the number of barefoot-on-lego steps -- these make me cry just thinking about the pain.

liz s said...

We use the shoe box sized plastic bins. And don't sort. I would go insane.

The mini figures are usually involved in the current set as Indiana Jones and Star Wars all get along when you just let them build their own thing.

My son likes to build it right the first time and then anything goes from then on out. I finally put a big piece of plywood on some cinderblock and any legos on the board can stay out. The rest have to be in containers. That way he can work on a "set" for a long time. He build amazing cities.

I am going to look at getting the lego sorter and see if it helps a bit.

JudithNYC said...

Happy Birthday, Maddie and Riley.

My sons turned 38 yesterday (6/20) and I remember them being Lego obsessed. We never really sorted them out. I remember stepping on a lot of Legos.

And here is my deep, dark secret. When the boys went to bed I would spend hours playing with their Legos. To this day, I sometimes get the urge to buy some Legos for myself. Have not acted on it, though.

Suzy said...

http://www.box4blox.com/

My little ones are not Lego enthusiasts but if they were I would use this system for sure.

Heidi said...

I'm with the non-sorters, though raking through the huge Rubbermaid containers for sought-for pieces doesn't seem to work for my son. On the floor they must go.... My husband and I wince when we hear the sound of Lego hitting the floor. It is like an intermittent hailstorm in our house, all the time. I keep thinking there must be a better system, but I would be the one doing the sorting, and I don't have the time!

Bobbiejjj said...

My boys haven't played with Legos in years (although I've saved them!), so I can't remember how we sorted them. The one thing I remember that was helpful was some kind of plastic Lego platform that we bought. It was maybe 15" x 15"? It was used to build buildings on (as opposed to free standing models).

Hope Riley has lots of fun. Hope you're not picking Legos out of your toes.

liz said...

We have (God help us) two big tubs full of zip-locked sets (including the instructions) that were built and then broke. I think we're going to change it up a bit and sort them into sizes.

Dianapdx said...

I love sorting things and I love playing with legos. I have every intruction book for every set of legos. I have 2 tall plastic drawer sets that have large drawers on the bottom and smaller ones at the top. All the people and gems and Harry Potter book and little chains go in the small drawers, and everything else is supposed to be sorted by shape. I say supposed to be because nobody cares about the sorting but me, and while I love doing it, the second I take them out to sort everyone then wants to play with them. So they're kind of sorted....sometimes.

So I see the beauty of not sorting, but it's hard for me. As for the sets, some of my kids like doing the sets following the instructions and some don't. Once they've been built the first time, no one has ever gone back and rebuilt them. Secretly, I would like to do this myself, Legos are fun!

TracyB said...

My son is 7.5 and has been LEGO-obsessed for years (thank you older cousins and friends!). We have a couple of LEGO bins that came with a base plate each at that giant toy store. The usual price is around $15 but I found them on sale for about $8. No sorting for us; half the fun is finding the piece you want. My son will usually build the set by the book and then pull it apart and all the pieces go into the bins. He's made some great creations with Star Wars, Indy, City, Atlantis and Harry Potter pieces - sometimes all in one creation!

kathy a. said...

happy birthday to the kids!

my son is 24 now, but his legos are still at home -- we are Not Allowed to dispose of them. they're in a big bin, with a stack of manuals, and at various times we have sorted specialty pieces into baggies -- the people, wheels, other weird parts. he still loves them. last year he housesat for us, and built a big castle.

Kristin said...

Hello! I know you don't know me, but we've got something in common. I got your blog address off the Stirrup Queen's blogroll and was wondering if you wouldn't mind helping me help a couple who is trying to add a little one to their family. We're holding a silent auction for them this weekend (Friday and Saturday) on goteamwitt.blogspot.com and need help getting the word out! We would love it if you would spread the word via social media or here on your blog. Additionally, we are always looking for more donations to auction off, so if you or someone you know might be interested in making a donation, all the information is under the donate tab. If you have any questions or would be willing to post a pre-written blog post about the auction and the sponsored couple, please contact Kristin at goteamwitt@gmail.com Thanks in advance for taking the time to consider this!

Sara said...

I am Melodie's friend...
Here is a facebook album, a before and after...

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.405128187297.181774.823837297&l=164ecb7ec9

It's what sort of works for us...

Renovation Girl said...

We are also non-sorters, but do have giant lego boxes that we got at Walmart (but I've seen them elsewhere). However, not sure if someone has linked to it or not, but they have the giant lego mini-figure head that you throw legos into the top and it sorts them. We have far too many to use it, but I think it's a great idea. Happy Birthday to the kids!!!

anitajd said...

Hahahahaha! I *wish* there was a (secret?) sorting method! During a recent LEGO dump, I went through the collection and put all body-parts into a ziploc baggie, and some of the "unique" pieces (guns, light sabers, cups, surfboards) into another baggie.
But for the most part, this is how our LEGO are "sorted"...http://anitajd.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/lego-battles/
Good luck!

anitajd said...

Hahahahaha! I *wish* there was a (secret?) sorting method! During a recent LEGO dump, I went through the collection and put all body-parts into a ziploc baggie, and some of the "unique" pieces (guns, light sabers, cups, surfboards) into another baggie.
But for the most part, this is how our LEGO are "sorted"...http://anitajd.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/lego-battles/
Good luck!

ellie said...

For my kids, where both Lego and playmobil are concerned, keeping the sets separated and with their instruction booklets is really important. So we have oodles of bins we've collected over the years (my kids range from 9-22, and we've been collecting these toys since my eldest was 3. I have a shelving unit that is six feet high, two feet deep, four feet long, crammed with these bins). They repeatedly build sets per the instructions, and play elaborate games. That's what they like. We do have a couple of designated miscellaneous bins. My 11yo is so far the only child to design and construct from scratch, and she creates amazing things. They all get really bent out of shape if a set gets scattered, so they all take care that that doesn't happen.

Tania said...

Ummm, In my experience with an almost 9 year old, (that does have OCD tendencies...sometimes..LOL) NO matter how YOU sort them, they will be put back the way they WANT 2 sort them...my daughter loves to sort things and I have learned to jst let her go, get over MY ocd that each color belongs together etc...........because in the end it is one of those battles that really isn't worth the time!! LOL Good Luck N Happy Birthday to the Twins!!

cooler*doula said...

I have not read the answers, but how you sort them is going to be largely dependent on how HE likes to play with them.

Some kids like to keep them in sets and rebuild he set to the instructions.

And some kids like to build them once and then just mix 'em all up and free-build.

The serious Lego collectors have some suggestions on this, and I ended going up with one of theirs after it became clear that sorting them by color only mattered to me... It might horrify you. I was unable to imagine how successful it would be until I did it...

Are you ready?


Get a sheet. Put the Lego on it. When play is over, take the corners... Tie 'em up, put in the bottom of the closet. Lego clean-up will never be so simple again. Makes it easy for them to sift through and find stuff too when it's all spread out.

Oh. I do have a clear shoe box for the mini-figs and their accessories.

Kursten said...

As a mother of twin 7 year old boys who own more Legos than any one household should ever own I have some major experience in this topic. We have almost the entire Lego City collection as well as the Star Wars Collection. We also have an assortment of just regular colored Lego bricks to use for whatever they want to build. First off, you have to keep the instruction booklets in order to get free replacement pieces from Lego. They will ask you for the codes on the booklets. What we have ended up doing it storing all the booklets in a nice plastic box out of the reach of the boys so they don't get torn or destroyed. We have put together all the sets and store most of them in those large underbed storage boxes. They also have a Lego table that they keep some of the taller ones on. As for the everyday colored bricks, we don't sort those. We just keep them all together in a large Lego storage box. We just had a Lego birthday party for my twins with Lego shaped cakes, homemade Lego shaped candy, etc. Fun, fun, fun!

lego enthusiasts said...

Here is another view of the lunch with the lids.

jhon haverd said...


How nice Calling all LEGO enthusiasts! I like it. Thanks for sharing this post. For know more lego storage argos