Before Christmas, I mentioned that our kids (ages 3 and almost 2 at that point) were really into LEGO and I did a roundup of LEGO-related gifts. Lion received this awesome Fire Patrol LEGO Suitcase for his 3rd birthday in August and since then our LEGO collection has seriously exploded. While Panda isn’t quite as proficient at building as Lion, he loves minifigures. I love watching the kids play with LEGO pieces because it works their fine motor skills and teaches them to follow instructions (for sets) but also encourages imaginative building and play. Here are some tips on building and organizing a LEGO collection.
Our growing LEGO collection.
Building a collection:
I’m a huge fan of buying used when possible, both for the cost-savings as well as for environmental reasons. I didn’t want to go exclusively with sets because I love the freedom of imagination. I was worried that with sets, the kids would only want to use them exactly as pictured and wouldn’t experience using their imagination to build whatever their minds could invent. As it turned out, the kids actually love modifying the sets we do have, but I’m glad we have a variety.
My first LEGO purchases were minifigures after seeing Panda play with them at a LEGO store when we visited California last November. He ran into the store and starting putting together minifigures and didn’t want to put it back when it was time to leave. Panda never reacts that way about toys, so I was a bit taken aback. I ended up purchasing a lot of random minifigures on eBay and he fell in love with them. He loves taking them apart and rearranging them, or stacking ten heads on one minifigure body. The lot we purchased was $20 for 20 minifigures, which came with accessories and hats.
I purchased LEGO pieces off eBay, first purchasing a 2 pound lot that came with 2 sets of wheels. You’ll find quite a few lots on eBay sold by the pound and I will caution that a pound of LEGO pieces sounds like a lot, but 2 pounds fit into a padded envelope. Many sites suggest that you should not pay more than $7 per pound (including shipping). I think I paid a slightly higher price for ones that were already cleaned and sorted (meaning that any broken pieces were removed and non-LEGO-branded bricks removed). I have to say, we loved what we got and it was really fun sorting through it to see what pieces we got. Yes, we got tons of standard bricks in different colors, but also some specialty pieces mixed in, such as jet pieces, Star Wars themed wings, a Nexo knight piece, and others. The next time we decide to add to our LEGO collection, we’ll definitely go this route again. We also got some from our nearby consignment store, but there were tons of non-LEGO pieces mixed in.
Fire patrol car plus a Ninjago minifigure.
We also purchased some new LEGO sets, focusing on the LEGO Junior series because they’re easier to build than other sets. They have fewer pieces, sometimes larger pieces, with easy to follow directions. In addition to the Fire Patrol suitcase that started the whole LEGO craze in the Dolphin household, we have a couple of the Pixar Cars series since both kids are a huge fan of the movie and a couple of Ninjago ones, since the kids also like that theme. We also purchased quite a few of the Mighty Micro series (which are not part of LEGO Junior) because the kids love superheroes, but they aren’t our favorites. For the parents, they can be frustrating because the cars fall apart more than other sets do and, at least for our kids, they get frustrated because the legs don’t move like with full size minifigures. The latter problem is easily rectified by swapping the legs out with full size legs, but then the minifigures are too tall for the vehicle.
One of Lion’s “Ninjago Robot Vehicle” creations.
Every LEGO set we’ve purchased, we’ve done so on sale because LEGO is rather expensive. I’ve noticed that Target has sets on sell fairly frequently and Amazon also often sells them below list price. If there’s a Toys ‘R’ Us near you that hasn’t closed, they may have some deals; the one by us has LEGO sets at 30% off. By far, the best source for new LEGO sets for us has been Amazon Warehouse Deals. The boxes for LEGO sets get damaged really easily, so they often make their way onto Amazon Warehouse Deals at much lower prices, even for some discontinued sets. For example, one of the most loved sets in the Dolphin household is this LEGO Junior Ninjago Lost Temple one which was going for $40+ on most sites because it’s a discontinued set, but we scored it for $15.
I know that a lot of people purchase Megaconstrux or other brands because they are much cheaper, but I haven’t been a fan. Honestly, they’re not as sturdy, especially compared to LEGO which seems to be virtually indestructible. I bought a few Ninja Turtle Megaconstrux minifigures as stocking stuffers at Christmas and the legs broke the first day. Even Lion notices the difference and complains that these blocks are harder to push together or will fall off more easily. We have actually removed almost all non-LEGO pieces from our collection. So, at least for the Dolphin household, we won’t be purchasing any more non-LEGO branded pieces.
As far as organization, I searched the Internet for suggestions that would keep all those tiny pieces off the floor when the kids are done building, in a way that would provide some actual form of organization, but with a system the kids could actually understand. These criteria ruled out the swoop bags that are pretty popular.
Ultimately, I was inspired by someone who had drawers full of LEGO pieces and went with a toolbox with lots of different compartments, choosing to sort the LEGO pieces by color. I figured the kids would be able to understand color sorting and that it would be easier for them to find the pieces they were looking for. For example, Lion will remember that the jet tail piece he owns is blue, so he can reach into the blue bin to find it. I initially purchased some craft organizers with drawers, but their size didn’t work well so I checked out the toolbox section at Home Depot instead.
Sorted by color.
We absolutely love this toolbox by Husky for several reasons. First, it had a significant number of compartments, with larger ones down below and smaller ones up top. We put tiny pieces and all the minifigures on the top section, with a separate compartment for minifigure accessories, one for hats, one for wheels, etc. There’s also a fairly large space on the top either for bigger pieces or for things that the kids have constructed that they don’t want to take apart yet. Another big reason that I like this toolbox is that the compartments are removable. The kids don’t have to dig around inside each compartment to find what they want, but can take out the blue bin and dump it all on the floor if they want. I think we’ll need to get another one pretty soon as their collection grows, and these toolboxes are stackable, which is nice.
We keep all of the manuals in a gallon sized ziploc bag, so that if the kids want to reconstruct a particular set, they can. I love that they’ll take a Ninjago dragon from a set and then decide that it needs extra wings or something, though.
So many mini-figures!
At some point, if their collection grows enough, I might use the Ikea Trofast unit that we were using as a shoebench to organize their LEGO pieces by color, instead. We already own this unit, plus the small drawers, meaning that there would be nine drawers for LEGO, and then we could use the top as a building space. That’s a project for down the road, though, depending on whether their love for LEGO continues to grow.
Do your kids love LEGO too? Please share your tips for building a LEGO collection and storing all those tiny bricks.