12 October 2007

Keeping Lego sets organized: Ziplocs and cookie sheets

It was my son's birthday last week, and he got two wonderful Lego building sets. Of course, his first inclination was to rip open the boxes, dump the contents on the floor and start building -- which was fine, except some of the parts are, like, 1 millimeter in diameter.

New process: the moment someone opens a Lego set, the bricks and instructions get dumped into a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag which I label with the set's name and number. When it's time to play, all the Legos get poured into a cookie sheet. No more tiny parts underfoot or under-couch, and they're easy to dump back into the bag.

Related: Shovel up the Legos

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I really need to make my own Lego films. It's an inspired artform, and I'll bet it would really be something that kids would love to be a part of.

My sisters and I were huge lego fans growing up (before all the 'sets'; we just had blocks of all sizes and some people). My folks fashioned a large drawstring bag - simply a big circle of fabric with a rope threaded around the circumference. It laid flat on the floor for a play space, and when we were done, we could pull the rope at a few places and the bag would close up with all legos inside! It all hung nicely in my closet for easy access.

Lego sets are meant to be mixed together in one big bucket! Sure, build the model suggested, but then mix that space ship with your medieval castle set along with the pirates and see what you can do.

Good ideas! And if they ever need more elegant Lego storage options, I've got 15 options listed.

http://jdorganizer.blogspot.com/2007/09/15-lego-storage-options.html

GREAT idea on the cookie sheet!

I agree with Jay. LEGO bricks are meant to be played with. A kid's creativity and learning are more important than a tidy living room.

Besides a single set in a ziplock bag won't let you build this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lights/1527423996/

Absolutely they have to be mixed together! How can you get creative if they're not?

But I use (for my Legos, which I've sort of half-passed down to my 4 year old....):
1) An old picnic tablecloth, laid out on the floor, played on, then drawn up carpetbagger style (no drawstring required) to contain them all, which I then place in the ginormous Rubbermaid "Lego" bin - keeps them from going missing, keeps them contained, and the bin fits on the floor of the closet.
2) The specialty pieces (you know the ones, the people, the plants, the tires, doors/windows, etc) that are tiny and hard to find, and crucial when building something - THEY go into plastic tackle boxes like the kind computer geeks buy at Fry's. Those are the only pieces kept separate, and those bins go on top of the pile in said Rubbermaid container.

It's the best of both worlds - organized enough that you can find what you're looking for, but jumbled a bit to inspire creativity!

Five gallon buckets with lift out trays (sold at the haqrdware store) work pretty good.

My husband LOVED legos growing up. Believe it or not he has kept every lego set he ever received and now they are happily mixed in with every lego set HIS two sons have ever received! We have about 5 large plastic bins and everything is mixed together. My 12 year old stepson STILL enjoys playing with them and a few times a year he and his dad will spend about a month every night building some large contraption - for example a castle two feet high with drawbridges, trap doors, dungeons, moving ladders, etc. They'll happily pit pirates against cowboys against ninjas in this castle.

A few months later those same ninjas, pirates, and cowboys will have to compete against jedis in a large space station. It's very creative, its fantastic bonding time, and it gives them both a feeling of artistic accomplishment. Sure we end up vacuuming up lots of pieces, and some inevitable end up down the heating duct, but its a small price to pay in my opinion.

Happy Lego-ing!

We do the ziplock bags at our house too. Works great!

Silly me, I'm talking to Parenthackers -- OF COURSE the Legos should be mixed together! Just so happens my kid has never been the mix-em-up sort though -- he like to do the thing like it says to do it. Control control control.

must. mix. legos!

My husband, too, was a lego freak growing up and inherited all his older brothers' sets. We now have a huge tupperware container full of nearly 40 years worth of Lego collecting. Our son is going to have a head start on the "Joneses" when he's old enough to play with them instead of sticking them up his nose.

I love the idea of using a tackle box for all the specialty parts. You can never find those when you really want them.

We just bought a big plastic tub (with lid and handle) for our L's Lego. I tried keeping them neatly separated, but gave up when he decided his dinosaur needed a steering wheel and spoiler.

Now the only rule is it all needs to go back in the bucket, because I'm not going to empty the vacuum looking for small parts.

My problem is that my boys want to keep a lot of their creations, most of which are mash-ups. So we can havae upwards of 30 creations which are much harder to store than the bits themselves. Any solutions of how to store or showcase little built things?

This would totally work for playmobil too! I bought drawers (sterlite) to hold the playmobil world we have going in our son's room. Great idea, I love it! Thanks!

I recently snagged several plastic pencil boxes for 25 cents each at my grocery store. My son got several lego sets for his birthday and so we put each set in it's own box and placed the instruction book in the lid so you can see which set it is. Of course, he has them mostly mixed up now so perhaps the large bin would have been the best idea!

I'm with the mixers. Why stunt creativity? Isn't that the point of legos?

Back up! I'm all for creativity too, but creativity isn't the only skill worth acquiring in this world. Following directions and learning to build something according to spec is a great thing to know too. No one's saying you don't *eventually* mix them! They're saying you CAN make the model a few times this way, especially if you have kids who enjoy that sort of thing.

My daughter is a natural organizer. She likes her toys all back together in sets even if she mixes them while she plays. We use this same system for Polly Pockets and it's helped us keep up with many a nearly microscopic shoe.

I knew someone once who actually went so far as to sort their child's lego in separate bins according to COLOR. Yes-all gazillion pieces! That is WAY too organized for me.

We keep ours in a giant "under the bed" box which works well for our 11 year old.

He never keeps the original model, and instead makes all new stuff anyway.

We use two of these: http://www.box4blox.com/ They're a gravity sorter (decreasing grid size) for lego, and they really work. Two of them contain an astonishing quantity of lego. Pour the mishmash all in the top, give it some shakes as you go, then separate the layers and dump each size category into bins (or just leave them in the layers, they work that way, too) - ta-da! Sorted by size.

Plus a set of open bins on a storage shelf (the kind where the bins are tipped at an angle for access).

Plus a train table. The edges keep the legos contained.

We have DH's lego from childhood plus scads of new ones. Our kids do want to do the 'plan' ... once. Then it is this with that, and look at the space ships I made!

I had all these great storage ideas for the Legos (of course, we had both the Duplo and the micromini sizes), but they all end up all over the apartment anyway. I did the tackle box for the Lego Guys, too, because I'd made a huge time and financial investment collecting them for my son... but they ended up scattered, as well. I used to say any Lego I found on the floor would get thrown away, but I can't stand wasting the money!

For the person wanting to keep Lego creations, check out the sports and memorabilia storage cases at The Container Store. We have the baseball ones, but I know they have other sizes, and they're not pricey. Simple acrylic cases would be very cool for the kids' sculptures!

My son wants the sets apart for now (its all pretty new) and so we use wet wipes boxes. I wish I hadn't gotten so many refill packages now b/c I don't have that many more plastic ones left. We might try the tackle box idea for special parts and see how he feels about mixing in others. Right now he "borrows" pieces from one set for another project and actually returns it to the right place later. Obsessive or organized?

And don't get me wrong, I'm all for organization as much as it enables fun play, and doesn't hinder it. It certainly depends on the child, or the adult. Here's how I organize MY LEGO bricks: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaronsneary/549608959/
But that's way to much for my son, and will be for a long time.

And I agree that building from the instructions is an important thing. After 27 years of building, I still build the set a few times before it gets sorted into that huge set of containers, because I still learn new techniques from the instructions.

I just don't want anyone to misunderstand that LEGO sets are like a model car - with only a single construction option.

But if older LEGO maniacs can handle sorting, Stack-On Brand hardware drawers are awesome. Stick with clear bins, for visual identification. And sort by shape NOT color. The human eye can more easily identify the color than the shape, and it keeps the little pieces from filtering to the bottom, where you can't reach them.

PS.

There are several LEGO creation conventions in the US each year, and they have public days that are great for kids and parents into LEGO.

Here's a calendar of events, listing when and where:
http://brickjournal-space.near-time.net/calendar

Another easy solution is to have the kids play with their legos on a big bedsheet. When it's time to clean up, just lift the bedsheet and tie it closed ... instant storage and instant setup for next time!

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