Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Great LEGO Storage Ideas Inspire Creativity

Could this be the final phase?

WHAT: IRIS 6-Case Craft Storage System and The LEGO Build-It Book Vol. 1 (actually many of the No Starch Press LEGO books are awesome for kids)
INVENTOR: LEGO Build-It Book: Nathanaƫl Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni
DOES: peace and quiet; more building and better building
INVEST:  $14 - 61 (Book is 19.95 with free e-book if purchased at No-Starch Press)
  3+ but material and needs are more geared for 6+, I would say
TOOLS: Express Yourself, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Family Fix-It, I Can Take Care of Myself

Once upon a time, a mother who knew little about LEGO happened to stumble upon a Craigslist ad that would increase her children's current LEGO collection by the ten-fold. (No kidding)

This only cost her $25.  

For a long time, she and her son were very very happy but eventually problems set in........

Skrish, nope, not there, SKrish, nope, that ain't it, SKRish, ugh, where is that piece! SKRIsh, SKRISh, SKRISHHHHHH.....

 It's just too much to sort by function so I had to give up on this system but sorting for him really did help him make more interesting creations.
All I can say is.... please don't ever do this to yourself.  It's not worth it. You will go mad. And look at the shoddy job I did.

Reduce LEGO Noise in Your Home


Ever listen to incessant LEGO skrishing in your home?  I have been doing so for years and I still can't get used to it.  It literally drives me insane.  I need quiet.  I love quiet. LEGO playtime is supposed to me MY TIME when they are busy doing something that doesn't make me feel guilty (like screen-based entertainment).  But the exact opposite happens. I get nothing done because of the noise they make as they search for that one piece. I know I am very sound-sensitive but still, that SKRISHING!

Thanks to Christine for sending me this photo. I love those Minifig heads.

I knew that if I could just get their pieces sorted, then there would be much less skrishing.  But eventually, the pieces would get disorganized (because they never sorted it- only I did).  Thus, I was always due to hear the noise come back because they will keep playing with LEGO until who knows when?

So I decided to ask for help and I turned to you  and your suggestions were awesome.  I also loved hearing that people were looking ahead because they knew they'd be encountering this issue eventually so in the name of self-preservation and good toy review editorial, I set out to find the best way to store our LEGO.

Someone told me to sort by color and so I put all the yellow LEGOs in one box but something still wasn't right.

But really, you will immediately see changes in building when you sort by color!  Thanks Amy and Christine!

Christine and Amy: Sort By Color

I thought about that.  It didn't make sense to me.  Wouldn't you be looking at pieces for their function and not their color?  Yes, but the truth was, when a kid starts amassing lots of pieces, I think it is also around the same time that he starts getting a bit more artistic.  Gone are the multi-colored brick homes from the days of kindergarten.  Instead, your child is making smaller creations that show symmetry in color, shape of bricks, and overall design.  

I say your child is making smaller creations because well, what else can he do when you look at his collection and you see that 80 percent of his pieces are not bricks! If you've been buying set after set like most people, I bet that is what you'll have.  (That is what I inherited too since the used lot of bricks that I bought are mostly comprised of old Star Wars sets.)  Children want to make beautiful things.  I believe that.  For years #1 only made small things and I finally figured it out this year that he didn't make larger things because he didn't have enough of basic bricks of the same color when he was building.  

Who says you have to use scrapbooking storage for scrapbooking?  I don't even know how to scrapbook anyway.

So I bought one and then the next day, I bought another.  It's one of the best ideas I've had yet.  Totally worth the money. I love the way my home looks now.

It's good and not good to have pockets on top.  You always end up with stuff on it that belongs somewhere else..  Oh well.
I just love how easily I can detach them into two trays.

Melanie: Spread Pieces Out So He Can See Them

Melanie used Iris storage drawers and laid them out on the floor for her child so that he could see everything he had when he was building.  Then I listened to Christine who told me that she sorted things out by color.  Then I heard from Amy who also sorted her son's LEGOs by the color- into 16 shoe boxes!  Wow.

Finally I decided to mesh the women's ideas and I came up with using the IRIS 6 -case craft storage drawer system.  I bought two of them and sorted bricks by color. There is even a light grey LEGO box and dark LEGO grey box! (Told you we had too many Star Wars stuff) Overall, it is working out great, here's why:
  • Storing by color is easier clean-up for kids.  If they help in organizing, it benefits everyone, especially them.
  • Everything is translucent and so no labeling or re-labeling needed. The biggest obstacle to organizing is the fear of having to re-organize but once you accept the truth (you will re-organize eventually)- you become a better organizer.
  • The craft trays open into two trays if you want.  You can use it as another tray or just take it off and put it to the side while working.
  • Trays are important because you can spread them out and see the pieces you want quickly.
  • If your craft tray/drawer breaks, you can get a new one easily
  • The storage cart has wheels!  You can move the building to another room if needed. 

Easy for kids to open and close
Just open it and see that you have two trays to use.
Pour out half. The more spread out they are, the faster you can identify your piece.
I didn't take it apart here but you can!
Just pour it back in when you are done.
Push the hinges back on. Very easy.
Easier sliding in and out than a traditional drawer. No locks to keep them inside- a pain in the butt for younger ones.
Put Good LEGO Books Nearby

Regular readers here know I love Megan Rothrock's book: The LEGO Adventure Book.  However, there are others that really teach techniques, delight them with high quality detailed photos, and thus leads the kids to getting into a creative mood.  This requires a little courage, no?  

That is why the books are great. You need to have them right there at your building space if you want them to get used.  You can leave a couple in your reading space but definitely make sure that the favorites are near the LEGOs.   Here are some photos of one of our latest faves:
The LEGO Build-It Book Vol. 1

How cool is this stroller? I love it!
I love this book because it takes time to explain how to use it (but in a very simple way).
Directions are simple too. In this book, everything comes with explicit directions.

It's not like a bunch of directions slapped together. There is a teacher in there.

If you have LEGO Creator #5867 Super Speedster Set, you got everything you need.  If not, they tell you what parts you need.

He modified this one a bit but that is the whole point!  I love that!
Old faves next to new ones: Beautiful LEGO is really just simply beautiful. The Lego Adventure Book 2 is coming out soon!
Love these books especially The LEGO Builder's Guide

Books like the LEGO books from No Starch Press seem as if they all have teachers inside.  I believe kids get that sense as they turn the pages. In all the books that I have seen No Starch Press print, there is definitely a consistent pattern of communicating with the child reader that makes it conducive for learning. I think kids will appreciate that.  It's comforting to them.

Save Space for Show

I find that it is really important to show kids how to put up something that they made in a special place but also to teach them how to push that aside and make something new to put there instead.  Either way, even though space may be scarce in your home, giving them a place where their creations are respected, adored, and safe is a gift to the children.  I think it can only inspire even more creative thinking.  How could it not?

Number 1's friend has about twelve shelves dedicated to his building set ventures.  Unbelievable. 

The hearts were an anniversary gift from #1.
Obviously this is also from a set but he loves to enact scenes from the book here.  It used to be in the bedroom but I had to take it out because he wasn't doing his homework. 

Last minute tip: Amy tells me that she uses these trays from Lakeshore Learning to keep pieces of a specific set together.  How smart!  Thanks Amy and everyone else with your storage tips!

What a totally awesome idea!

It's so great to be able to sort by color.  I love this sculpture.

Can anyone tell me what this is? Just for fun- guess!

Someday, when they go off into the world to be adults, you can claim this cart back and actually use it for the true intended purpose of scrapbooking.  I have never done it before but Scrapbookers, Y'all have cool tools!

No Starch Press: One thing you should know about buying direct from them.  When you get one of their books, you will likely be able get a free e-Book from them as well. (you'll see the option if it is available)  That is really cool- why?  Because working off an iPad is great because you can leave it flat or prop it up easily and even zoom to look closely.  However, it still doesn't give the kind of comfort you get from sitting and turning pages and dreaming about what you want to do. So why choose? If you are going to get them, buy from No Starch Press and get both!

How cool would it be to zoom in on this on your tablet while you are building - from our first No Starch book- Simple Machines

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Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 



  1. I want Build Your Own Website

  2. Forbidden Lego looks fun! Who wouldn't want to build a paper plane launcher! My kids would LOVE that!

  3. Where do I leave my guess for what the blue colored creation is?? Here?

  4. We have the Lego Adventure Vol. 1 book and my daughter LOVES it! She has Vol. 2 on her wishlist for Christmas. I think an e-book is a fabulous idea!! Well, actually like you, I see the value in having both the actual book and an ebook. I hate "thumbing" through books on an iPad.

  5. I'll just leave my guess here I guess. I think it's a Lego map of the NYC subway system. I was there in April and it looks just like it! :-)

  6. you are right! now I am waiting to hear what part of the NYC subway system!

  7. Luv your comment!!!! thank you!!!

  8. I think Survive Inside the Human Body Vol 1, 2 and 3 look amazing! It looks like fun books to read and would help get my daugter interested in Science!

  9. Lego books! Oh my! Lots of them :) We are just staring our lego collection here so, yes, that's what is exciting.

  10. The blue colored lego: NYC subway Lower Manhattan?

  11. We do not own lego books; we use the library. I don't get ebooks for the most part because I have to use my laptop to read them; not kid friendly and very portable.