Wednesday, February 1, 2017

20 Lego Organization! A Follow-Up & Some New Tips!

I mentioned last week that I had some last minute travel come up. One of those trips was out to Texas to work with my girlfriend, Grace. While I was there, her little guys were asking my advice on Lego storage. They had a bit of a mess happening in their room and were overwhelmed by all of the pieces and builds and piles... And I have to say, I wasn't at all surprised. Lego organization is one of the most common topics I am asked about. Readers want to know, "Does the color system still work for you?" Parents want to know, "Is there anything I can do to prevent the middle-of-the-night Lego booby traps that attack my feet?" And the kids want to know, "Is this going to be easy to pick up? Because I ain't got time for anything complicated. I have worms to eat and my sister to color on and other toys that require my attention. Oh! And that leftover pepperoni and olive pizza to eat in the fridge. So let's keep this simple, OK?"

I never would have thought that Lego storage would be right up there with pantry cabinets, linen closets and paper piles, but if you think about it, they are quite the universal toy. It doesn't matter if you are a girl or boy, young or old, happy or sad; everyone loves playing with Lego pieces!

So today I thought I would do a little follow-up post about how our system is working, and what approach I took with Grace's cutie pie kids.


We shared our system quite a few years ago now, and it is still a very hot spot for our younger two boys. Even our oldest will get creative with the different sets from time to time. Right now we have half of our laundry room unloaded into the boy's hangout area, and they insisted we just move the Lego bins up to our son's bedroom temporarily. So we did.

To summarize, we used two Trofast towers paired with these bins, sorted everything by color, and created labels by cutting vinyl with my Silhouette.

I will be the first to admit I wasn't fully on board with the idea to organize our pieces by color. The first step in the process is always to interview the kids and get their ideas and input. My boys wanted color. I guess they figured it was the easiest way to identify pieces and find what they were looking for. Overall, it has worked out surprisingly well, with some very minor exceptions. In fact, the majority of their Lego pieces are still sorted by color today.



A few things that have helped the system succeed:

  • The boys have areas in their personal spaces to play with and display their Lego creations.
  • Each boy has a large, lidded bin for storing their "in-progress" work. The bins are clear, light weight, stackable and fit in a concealed cabinet when not in use.
  • Every 4-6 months we take an hour or so to sort their personal bins back down to the colored bins. Generally they are hurrying during pick-up time and then throw their current messes into their personal bins instead of sorting them down accordingly, which adds up over time. 
  • Sometimes I sit and sort with them (sorting is my therapy), but they are perfectly capable to do it on their own and the entire system is definitely easy enough for them to maintain.
  • I very recently picked up a couple of divided bins to further break down special pieces and people. That is a newer work-in-progress, but they boys seem to be digging the idea.



When it came to helping out Grace's youngsters, I took a slightly different approach. If I have learned anything over the years, it is that just because something works for us, doesn't mean it is going to work for everyone. So I sat down with her kids and asked a series of questions. Things like...
  • Where do you prefer to play with your Lego builds?
  • Do you build from the manuals or from your imagination? Or both?
  • What do you like to do with your completed projects? Do you ever take them back apart?
  • What is your favorite creation and why?
  • Show me what a typical Lego playing session looks like.
  • How are you currently organizing/sorting your pieces? What is working? What isn't?
  • What would make your Lego experience even better?


A few things the kids mentioned in response to these questions were:
  • They play with their Lego creations in their bedroom.
  • They like to build from manuals and from their imaginations.
  • They generally like to leave all of their builds together once finished.
  • They started to organize their pieces by color but they were not finding it to be super helpful. The remainder of their pieces were between an oversized canvas tote and a bin in their closet. 
  • They would take the large canvas tote out and sift through it, dumping piles of pieces on the floor to look for specific items.
  • They wanted more boards, they love to build on boards. 


Based on their responses, I suggested the following solutions:
  • Only store Lego pieces in clear bins so the kids can better see the pieces they are digging for (shallow bins work OK as well, as long as there are not too many pieces inside).
  • Set up a temporary or larger solid surface area for the kids to build and play on (vs. playing on their Lego eating rug on the floor). Something like our puzzle board that can be pulled out during play time and then tucked away between uses.
  • Simplify the sorting process. Based on how they use their pieces, I suggested they only sort down to the following four basic categories: People/Accessories, Solid Bricks, Specialty Pieces and Boards. The end goal is to make it easier to find things and to pick-up.
  • Grace already had purchased and added a tall adjustable shelf for the kids to display all of their creations in their bedroom (you can see the short version in their space here, she recently upgraded to a tall version for more display space).
  • Sort down the bulk of their current pieces and sets, and moving forward, begin storing the really important sets in their own stacking containers and bins. Or inside of labeled Ziploc type storage bags and then placed into a hard-sided bin. 
  • Select bins that are easily portable from the closet to the floor.
  • Create an easy place to organize current instruction manuals.

We started working on their new system while I was visiting, and Grace and her kids felt like they had a good start on things but still plan to take their final setup even further down the road.

To get them going, I taped a piece of paper to the front of each bin that clearly stated the bin's specific category, as well as a few descriptive words to offer some guidance during the sorting process. Because they were not sorting by color, there were a few gray areas and adding some specific terms to the sorting labels was quite helpful. Her kids took it from there.


These bins are awesome for stacking and tucking away in narrow closets and spaces. They are also clear which is a huge win for digging and searching.


The label holders are adhesive and clear, making it easy to update the contents down the road. They are also fairly heavy duty, and should stay on the bins even with a little wear and tear.

Bonus: They are so easy to use; just stick onto the face of the bin, fill out the included card, and done! No fancy equipement necessary.


These carrying cases are amazing for smaller pieces and people. Grace plans to add a couple more to their collection to further sort down some of the specialty pieces. I love that they are clear and the dividers are removable. I can also think of 101 other places I want to use these spiffy little cases.


And finally, a basic three ring binder paired with clear page sleeves (both found at Target) worked beautifully for organizing a stack of instruction manuals. Now they can easily flip through the binder to pick out their next creation or to find new ideas and inspiration.

__________

Hurray for a much overdue follow-up to our previous Lego post. Please feel free to chime in with additional questions, ideas and suggestions, this is a topic that will forever be popular!


20 comments:

  1. Great idea on sorting the Legos. Even better, asking the kids how they plan and like to use them. We are just starting with Legos and will be keeping this for later use.

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  2. I love this so much! Legos have been my nemesis for the 10 years I have been a mom to two boys. :) I especially love the binder for manuals, such a great idea. I'm definitely going to implement some of these in our play area. Thanks for the great tips!

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  3. Over the years we've discovered that my son likes to play with his Legos as sets, but not just one set at a time. So we store his Legos by theme; police, space, coast guard, etc. Then he can pull out one box with that theme, put together and play with those sets, then put them in the box to put them away without having to sort anything. His manuals are in plastic pockets, also by theme, in a paper file box. It's been working so far!

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  4. I'm strangely looking forward to needing to think about Lego storage and organization some day? Haha. Our son is only 3 (almost 4) and just has a few small sets and pieces he plays with but my husband and I both still love Legos so I know his collection is only going to keep growing!

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  5. This is a timely post for us! My son's Lego collection is growing and I really want to tackle organizing it! I already sort most of his sets in large Ziploc bags, so at least that! Great idea to ask him questions and think about how he uses Lego! Can't wait to get started! :)

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  6. It's LEGO not LEGOS! Like sheep vs sheeps

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    1. Ah, yes! I was wondering if that would get brought up! Updated a few spots in the post, but it still sounds weird to me - I will forever say Legos...

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  7. Wow... Wish I had known this when my kids were younger! Just one dumb question: What is the font on the top box that says "special pieces"? Love everything you do, and wait patiently for your next blog post. :)

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    1. Not a dumb question. :) The font is Frontage. Thanks Sara!

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  8. Ours are sorted by color, and we also reorganize those about every six months. We also have a "people" box and a "jewel" box for all the tiny pieces. We have a clear bin of completed projects that my son doesn't want to disassemble and a box of loose pieces that are to be organized back into the color system. We have a small table in the play room that we glued 4 boards to, and that's where he creates. It's a pretty good system for us!

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  9. LOVE the binder idea for the manuals!! Gonna do that with ours ASAP!! Right now I have the manual in a zip-lock with all the extra pieces that came with the set. But, may as well throw the extra pieces in the mix with the rest so they can be used! Here's how we organize the legos themselves: http://diy4you.me/solutions-in-legoland/ THANKS for the great tips!!!!

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  10. My children play with Lego Duplo yet, we keep all the pieces in a big plastic bin. They're always complaining that they cannot find the boards, people and animals. Use different bin sizes can solve the problem! And I was thinking how it would be when the pieces were smaller... Now I'm not that afraid! ;-))
    Chelo

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  11. My son is 26 now, but I can still remember the crash every time he would up-end the large, clear bin all his Lego were stored in. It was definitely a head's up (or down, I guess!) to keep your feet away from stray pieces. Great ideas!

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  12. great post. Love the idea of the binder for the manuals!! The divided carrying cases for the lego people is great too. I definitely need to get a few of those. My main issue with the extreme amount of lego sets we have is that my daughter like to keep her instructed building intact and my son like to build freely. Where do you keep all the intact buildings, planes, trucks, houses? Do you keep them displayed on shelves? I need to have to accessible for her to take the off and play with them at the lego table but still have place for her to keep them. They are taking over my house!! Aaaahhh.

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  13. Brilliant ideas! I really like creating a binder for all of the manuals. We have lego manuals all over the place and it would be awesome to have them all in one place. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Nicole | The Professional Mom Project

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  14. Love that bin with the smaller inserts.
    We have reorganized our Lego pieces a few times as our son's collection grows. The storage solution that has worked well for us is the plastic cabinets that are usually used for storing nuts and bolts in a garage. Our son likes to sort very specifically, and this way, he can have every specialty part in its own bin. It works well for him so that he can quickly find what he needs for his creations. He also labeled each bin according to its part name.
    I agree that sorting can be therapeutic. He has a Lego "gator vacuum" that picks up the pieces as it is moved back and forth over them and every once in a while, I will dump it and sort. Then he puts them in his designated bins and he's ready to build again!
    Thanks for this update. We are always interested in Lego storage.

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  15. I like that you involved the children in the organizational planning process as it gets them exposed to the idea of thinking about organization and problem solving!

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  16. Any tips for dusting them? We keep several of the builds out but even though he plays with them regularly they still get so dusty. Nothing I've tried seems effective or efficient!

    Also would love for you to sell the silhouette drawer labels in your etsy shop!!! So many of us have copied this system! ❤️

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