What to do with Lego?

Lego is still one of my favourite toys, well except when my bare foot stands on a brick … ouch!

It just seems to be one of those classic toys that grown-ups can fiddle with while having a conversation with each other while playing with the kids at the same time (without your brain turning to mush). I know when my son was preschool age it was the one playtime item I could actually have a ‘zen’ moment with. I’d call it my ‘zone-out with Lego time’ at 3pm when my energy levels were low. In fact, I’m sure when my son grows up, Lego will be the one toy I keep to play with the grand-kids, just so I will have an excuse to play with it all over again.

My son is a teen now, and so these days, if we’re going to play anything together with ‘blocks’, it’s more likely to be a session of Minecraft (a different kind of interactive block building for big kids which has a massive worldwide cult-like following, which can either be played online or offline with or without friends – warning … very addictive!).

But back to Lego! Unfortunately, dear Lego is also one of those toys that (because of it’s hundreds of small components) can drive many family households crazy when it is under foot or not put away. When it is eventually assembled into amazing Star Wars models that took hours, days or months to construct – it then also becomes a valuable fragile dust collection taking up valuable shelving real estate.

So what to do with Lego? Luckily there are some great ideas and some great products on the market on what to do with Lego when one isn’t fiddling with it.

Storage For Loose Blocks

Solution 1: Have your kids play on a big sheet, then when it comes time to pick up Lego in a hurry, just draw the corners of the sheet together and dump the lot into a plastic crate. When playtime comes around again, lift the sheet by the corners out of the box and lay it flat on the floor again. If you want to spend the money for a fantastic version of this or want the perfect gift, check out Swoop Bags. For a similar boxable play-mat option refer to my article on bagged storage for Kid’s Toys.

Solution 2: A product I found on the market recently is Box4Blox. It is a stackable storage system, that sorts the blocks into sizes. A system similar to that used in banks to sort coins. Blocks go in the top and fall through a system of 4 trays with different sized grids, helping to sort similar sized pieces together.  The trays then all fit together in a stack. Be sure to check their FAQ section with regard to shipping to Australia as this may change.

Solution 3: Another product on the market I came across on Amazon is the Iris Lego Project Case Chest the beauty of this one is that the idea could be easily copied using cheaper items on the market such as these from Officeworks that you can find at any bargain store, hardware, stationery, craft shop or major retailer. I particularly like the idea of removable shelves on a trolley with wheels, so that play can ‘move‘ with the child and not isolate the child to one play area.

Solution 4: If a workstation idea is more to your way of thinking. Check out this range of Lego Tables on the market. If you find these a bit too expensive for your taste, then think about how some of the ideas could be adapted to a desk or play table you already have. For example, could you cut a hole out of the centre of a play table and hammer into place a big fabric pocket (think large billiard table pocket) that Lego could be swept into. Or attach fabric pockets to the sides of a table (using a hot glue gun or staple gun) for sweeping blocks into?

Solution 5: Lego Storage Boxes shaped like large Lego pieces from Howards Storage World. Funky, colourful and quite a range, including Lego Man Storage Heads.

Solution 6: When it comes to storing Lego instruction books and packs, I was thrilled to find that someone already had a blog with photos of the way I have helped clients with Lego over the years to save me reinventing the wheel. Applause to Cherie of I Am Momma Hear Me Roar. Who not only shows you how to label your bins, but is also a fan of keeping a folder for all the instruction books and box covers. Incidentally the Ikea bins she used are from the Trofast Series.

Solution 7: If you’re after a roll-out drawer idea with partitions for under the bed, look no further than this idea from Storage Geek which comes with DIY instructions. I would suggest taking this idea a step further by cutting a piece of thin ply or MDF and hot gluing sheets of Lego building mats to it to form a cover for the drawer, that the children could then take off and build on. It would also stop dust going into the drawer. Of course if you’re not that handy, any plastic or fabric under drawer box, could easily be partition inside with purchased drawer dividers; shoeboxes or plastic lunch-boxes to achieve the same result for less money.

Solution 8: Need safe passage for an already constructed Millennium Falcon? Then check out this Lego Star Wars Zip Bin from Toyworld which are very reasonably priced in my opinion. They zip up, are sturdy and durable, are shaped as Star Wars space craft and some even open flat into a play mat, a bit like this Neat-Oh! Lego Star Wars Medium Toybox that flattens out into a Playmat which I found on fishpond.com.au.

Solution 9: Lastly, I recently came across the ULTIMATE idea for Lego storage on Pinterest by Geekologie.com. Basically covering a whole wall with Lego building mats, so that bricks can just ‘stay’ there. Imagine the art that could be created and not have to be picked up? Not sure how tall the towers could grow ‘out’ from the wall, but it’s sure a great idea for clean-ups because it would be ‘fun’ to put it away. Spell out the words ‘Tidy Up Time!”.

Storing Completed Lego Models

  • Now depending on whether or not you want to ‘display’ your models or simply keep them assembled and out of harms way will determine how you want to solve this problem. Ikea have some great options, in both shelving, display cabinets and plastic boxes, although again there are always cheaper options around. Whatever way you decide to go, go for the option that will keep the dust off and prevent damage and that will assist with keeping bit’s and pieces together.
  • Another idea that appears to be catching on, is to again glue the Lego building mats either directly onto shelves or onto pieces of ply or MDF cut to size to fit on top of shelves. This enables the ‘constructed’ pieces a stage that they can attach to. As seen here and in this freestanding converter baker’s rack from Omahaha.
     The pros are that the ‘shelf mats’ can be removed and brought down off the shelf for playing and then put back again for display. The con being that dust will still accumulate and it may not be suitable for the more intricate ‘Star Wars’ constructions; robotic or larger pieces.
  • What I recommend to most of my clients is that they do get a good display cabinet, possibly one that encases each model or models (depending on size and how many will fit on a shelf). This keeps the models free from dust and gives them the ‘display’ respect they deserve for all the hours put into them. Usually something with five shelves is enough, and then the rest of the models can go into clear plastic boxes with lids, suitable to the size of the model. Inside this box sit the model on bubble wrap to avoid pieces breaking off when moving. Again, depending on how large the collection is, it is then a case of rotating those on display with the ones in the boxes to keep the display cabinet new and to give every piece a turn at being on show. I suggest this method for most collections. Those items not being displayed can then easily be labelled, stacked and put away. Currently in our home my son has his few prized Star Wars constructions contained into 4 Expedit (now Kallax) shelves which we have inserted glass doors into. We’ve also purchased a few battery operated lights that sit in the back of the shelves that can illuminate them at the touch of a button.
  • Again, if you don’t want to purchase a new ‘display’ case for your models, adapt a standard bookshelf. Prevent dust from settling on the models by attaching a curtain to the front that can be drawn apart and/or tied back. If you don’t want to use a curtain and still want to be able to see the objects of desire, go for something along the lines of a clear plastic shower curtain.
  • Some people use glues to permanently stick their Lego models together, however, you will really need to check on what glue is suitable as some either discolour the plastic pieces over time, and others can actually melt the plastic.  Personally, I’m not a fan of sticking Lego together as I feel if you ever want to sell it, it is more ‘buyable’ as something that can be put together. With that in mind, use the plastic boxes to also house the construction instruction manuals along with a picture of the final result for reference. For some great clear plastic boxes I recommend Ikea’s Samla range, which come in a range of stackable sizes. Lids can be purchased separately, but the best parts are the accessories there are extra clip locks for the lids and insert/dividers of various sizes for inside the boxes. If you do this, I’m pretty sure your Lego will be easier to sell.

Cleaning Dusty Lego Models

For info on how to … (let me rephrase that) how to ‘teach’ your Lego enthusiast how to dust and clean those creations that took forever to perfect, check out this ehow article on how to Recycle Lego for cleaning instructions.

Lego Theme Party Ideas

Please share any other ideas you have, and also check out my other article on ‘How Do We Help Our Kids to Be Tidy?’

In the meantime, you might want to try and figure out this puzzle doing the rounds on the internet at the moment. Hint: think ‘animated series’. See if you can work out what each set of Lego represents. I managed to work out all but one. Let me know how you go!

 

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