Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toy(box) for Overshadowed and Overwhelmed Sibs- Part 2

A real-live human performed this sorting job. Do you think it's mildly insane?
WHAT: Glis Box with Lid (by Ikea)
DOES: Stackable & compartmentalized storage box for loose pieces of building sets like Lego, K'nex, and Erector; excellent way to surprise any Lego fan
INVEST: $3.99 per box
TOOLS: Think Like A Scientist/Engineer, Social Scene Helper, Family Fix-it, More Make Believe Please

Yesterday I posted about how a younger sibling might not feel confident about building Hot Wheels tracks because his older sibling was always better at building and the large amount of hand-me-down tracks was overwhelming.

In our home, this natural occurrence is best evident by the use (or non-use) of Lego blocks.   And while I used a tactic of storing away some of our Hot Wheels tracks so that it can be less overwhelming, I can't do that with Legos.  Number 1 is seven and still likes Legos very much and if you saw my post on surviving holiday frenzy, you know I have a whole lotta Legos and he loves each and every one of them.

Just like the Hot Wheels tracks, Number 2 didn't get a chance to know Legos a little bit at a time as a first born child usually would.  But unlike the Legos, the idea of getting a small thing to build did not work.  Number 2 is rigid and doesn't like it when a piece is missing but with Legos, you know what happens, one piece, two pieces, and then three pieces fall off and then eventually it morphs into a pile of loose pieces waiting to become something unique.  There are some kids who build a Lego model and will never let it be touched again, I think Number 1 may be headed that direction.

Number 1 sorted Erector pieces using a step stool turned upside down!
To make sure that Number 2 took advantage of the many loose Lego pieces we had at home, I decided to use sorting boxes.  I think I got the idea after watching a Youtube video of high school kids working on Lego robotics projects (click for example) You can probably find such boxes in an arts and crafts store like Michael's and probably in a Lego store too but my favorite box is the Glis.  It is cheap but sturdy, has removable lids and adjustable compartments.  It is also translucent and even stackable!  What more could you ask for at a price of $3.99 per box?

This is the best solution I have found to tackle the competing needs of two siblings who have different skill levels but must share one set of Legos.   I know it is a little insane but it is my best shot at getting my youngest child to imagine and make out what he imagined with his hands instead of playing with whatever has been made for him.

Basically, what I did with the boxes was to start separating all of our Lego pieces into clearly defined compartments. (foursies, twosies, foursie flat plates, single line flat plates, tires, axels, doors, people, etc.)  I think that when people want to make things, whether it is putting an outfit together, baking, cooking, painting,... we can all use our imaginations better when everything we need is neatly displayed.
sorted pieces makes building faster & easier & QUIETER
I think the Glis box helps both boys. Number 1 is just able to really soar with his building when everything is organized.  Likewise, when Number 2 saw the Legos organized again this past weekend, he instantly began building a train.

Additionally, sorting and classifying in itself is an excellent activity.  When they are young, the sorting activities are easier, reds go here, blues goes there, triangles go here, squares go there..etc..  However, as Number 1's world gets more complex, he really needs to sharpen those sorting/classifying skills so that he can better organize his time and his things. As I see it, sorting involves recognizing features and patterns (math) and then making decisions (should this piece go with this piece? or should I make a new section altogether?).  Making a decision is hard because if you don't do it wisely, you may have to do it change it as you go along or do over parts of it.  That can be frustrating.

However, this is an exercise worth pursuing since I feel that sorting and classifying will continue to be necessary in life, right?  It is required in virtually every job including professions involving subjects such archaeology, biology, geology, zoology, and the most challenging of sciences: Clutter Clearology (still remember all those Oprah shows with Peter Walsh reminding me how much of a mess I was).  Even now, if I ask Number 1 to sort the Legos with me, he gets frustrated within 60 seconds which just tells me that I need to be asking him to sort more of Legos.

The end product of sorted Legos will not only give you a little peace from the noisy search of a needed Lego piece in a big bin, but it is my greater hope that more Lego play will lead to more cooperative play - my favorite feature of Legos.  Kids can sit together as they build their own models and show them to each other or they can build one creation together or maybe even connect their individual creations together.  This is a skill they'll use in the workplace someday.  There is even something called Lego Serious Play, in which Legos are used to enhance creativity and encourage individual contributions to shared goals from each member of a workplace team (yes, that means it's for grown-ups) - fabulous!

final tips:
  • You might find that the adjustable compartments in the Glis might slightly become misaligned over time, the plastic can stretch a little and so the divider may shift a little.  This doesn't bother me.  Remember it is only $4 dollars and some shoe box-sized containers  with no compartments can be $4. Use glue if you need to keep it steady and permanent.
  • If you do decide to categorize all your Legos then create a "To-Sort-Later" Box so that you can put your Legos away without feeling you must sort right away.  We have never have sorted out ALL of our Legos (because we have thousands of pieces).  That would surely cause repetitive stress injuries on our necks, backs, arms, and brains.
  • If you are buying a lot of Legos by the piece (100, 300, 1000) or by the pound, do a little research before you buy.  It is not as cheap as one might think.  You must also make sure that the seller is giving you 100% Lego blocks to ensure you are not getting imitations or Lego bionicle pieces.   Click here for a useful guide on buying Lego on eBay.  If you have any at home, count or weigh them to get a visual picture of the amount so you can avoid disappointment.  I did buy Legos from eBay seller once and couldn't believe how little I received, even after all my research.  But I think I am a little spoiled after my craigslist jackpot- a once in a lifetime find that I'll never ever get again.

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion for the publication of this post by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the products mentioned here . 

1 comment:

  1. I clicked on your family fix its link to find this one and like that you not only talk about the boxe sher e- which i am going to have to look for next time we are at Ikea, but gave some Lego buying/using/sorting tips and startegies. My dkisa re just hitting this stage and I so want to keep the house less cluttered, not more - as well as keep them enjoying. This post encouraged such things. Thx!