There are times when I see something on Pinterest and I think, “Oh that’s a neat idea! I’m going to do that when I have kids!” And then a moment of panic rushes over me. Oh wait--I HAVE kids already! FOUR OF THEM!! It seems hilarious, but it’s true. Even the most well-intentioned of mothers can be blindsided with the duties, challenges, and blessings of parenting.
One such hit on my mothering has been the acquisition of Legos. It seemed so natural, my son was getting older. He was bright and creative. Legos were a clear choice for a birthday present. He played with that first, small set repeatedly and looked over the manual multiple times. We declared a “Lincoln Lego Zone” and put the tiny pieces in a place that would not be ambushed by little brothers.
And then there was another tiny set…
And then another…
And Lincoln learned how to get the pieces down by himself…
And then the neighbor boy started mixing the sets...
And of course these tiny mini-figures love to play in the imaginary worlds made of other toys…
And the little brothers weren’t really that much younger, so of course they wanted to join in...
And then the paper manuals started to tear…
Thankfully, we really didn’t have that many sets yet. Then Lincoln asked for the BIG set for Christmas. And he was intellectually ready for it. But with all the busyness of preparing for Christmas I didn’t think through the organization of it well enough.
Packages were torn open excitedly, the set was discovered, and my little boy begged to put the set together right away.
We cleared off a table, told his brothers it was off-limits (which was fine since they both had smaller sets to build at another table.) Lincoln worked all day on the giant set. We managed to keep it safe for a few days on the school room table, but of course we needed the surface eventually.
The set was moved to a cabinet in our guest bedroom. It is a very feminine cabinet, but it has glass doors, so it works well for showing off a little guy’s craftsmanship for the time being. (Eventually I would love to have a huge reclaimed wood, industrial bookshelf like my friend has, but this was fine in a pinch.) Well… if you have read my quiet time post (please link), you know I separate my kids for their daily thinking times, and put them in different bedrooms. I need that guest room for one of them to rest in… and one day the youngest brother--”The Climber”--happened to be in that room. Needless to say, the set was no longer in tact after that “rest time”. I consoled my eldest, telling him we would rebuild it together, but it’s difficult to find that much time to rebuild a large set that’s been destroyed. The process is harder than building it from scratch. We’ll get it done, but it’s going to take a lot of time. Anyway, I felt like a failure--my mother-in-law, the woman who still has her son’s Lego sets in boxes after 30 years, purchased this expensive set for us--and I let it get smashed. Someone show me the rewind button for life please.
What began as a Type A personality toy with methodical instructions was confronted with the endless creative possibilities they represent. The whole dilemma of The Lego Movie was playing out in my home. (If you haven’t seen it, the father in the movie follows the directions to a T, and would never even think of building connect blocks unless instructed to. His son wants to combine the sets and think, literally, outside the box. Eventually the father comes to see there is value in his way of playing, and they learn to carefully AND creatively play together.) Well, my boys are 3, 5, and 6… and their little sister will be roaming the halls before we know it. This constructive epiphany isn’t happening tomorrow.
Part of me wants to blame my sons for the chaos. Those little guys are darling, but they are DESTROYERS! Some days I hear my own mother’s voice ringing through my head, “Can’t I have anything nice?!” as I discover new stains, broken toys, and chipped furniture. I have been sent a mini-army to raise, and I can’t seem to find the balance between training them to be MEN and teaching them to have a semblance of self-control! People are more important than things, but we are called to be good stewards! “Balance Gentlemen! Balance!” Because I am wrestling with it, I know God will give me wisdom. But I’m not going to lie to you, these thoughts run through my head a lot.
Okay, back to my Lego conundrum! Since my personality is usually a battle between the creative and the organized, I’ve been challenged how Legos are going to work at our house. I can’t tell you exactly how it should look for you and your kids, but I want to pose a couple of questions for you to consider before you go purchasing these tiny people… or maybe if you’re feeling how I was this can help you get back on track. (Side note: I will continually be referring to Legos, but the concept and questions are the same for any collection of tiny toys.)
- Where are your kids going to play with Legos? Is this a permanent location, or will it need to be cleaned up at certain times?
- Where will the creations be displayed?
- Where will manuals go?
- Where will boxes go? Will they be recycled or kept for storing the individual sets?
- Will they be allowed to play with Legos in their bedroom? What about bedtimes or rest times? How will you stop them from playing with them at those times?
- When will your kids have building time?
- Is there a time when they can expect you to build with them?
- Will they be required to complete certain tasks before they can build?
- When do they get to build by themselves, and when will they need to share with siblings?
- When friends come over, are they allowed to play with the Legos? What rules will they need to follow with them?
- How are the Legos going to be stored?
- How will they be displayed?
- Will sets be separated and stored, or mixed together?
Now that your head is spinning with the management crises of these tiny toys, I do have a few tips…
- Buy a giant toy drawstring storage bag. These mats lay flat for play, but cinch up and contain the toys for storage. Instead of picking every transparent Lego light from the carpet each time your child plays, you can have the mat underneath them. If they can contain their play to the mat, it really is a cinch to clean up. Pun intended. We asked for one for Christmas, and it has transformed Lego time!
2. Get a three-ring binder and some pocket protectors. Every time you buy a set, safely store the manual in a sleeve. That way they are easily accessible and kept from certain ruin.
3. In hindsight, I wish I would have kept all the individual sets in their boxes and bought a few Lego Classic Creative Building Block Sets. I would put these in the drawstring bags for my boys to mix and build as they pleased. Or I’d store these pieces in a rainbow tower like this. Right now we keep our Legos in this. I wheel it into the boys bedroom for building time, and take it out before they go to bed.
4. Have a place to display their creations. Let them have some pride in their hard work! We are now using a bookshelf. Each boy has a shelf to display his Legos.
5. Look online at organizational options. Perhaps your kids are all old enough to have the Legos in a common play area. There are great ideas for that! Once you start searching, an idea that fits your situation is sure to pop up. I want to caution you though, just because an idea is the cutest, doesn’t mean it will be the most functional for your family. Think through the above questions as you evaluate an idea.
This may seem like a lot of thought for a toy. However, at the end of the day, toys aren’t just toys. They are training grounds. Training our children’s imaginations and growing their responsibility. This is an issue of character. And character counts! I am trying to train my kids to take care of what they have with the little investments so that they can take care of more costly gifts in the future. Hopefully I have helped you a little with this process… and perhaps spared your feet from the painful fate of stepping on the inevitably misplaced building block!