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AFOL organise sons' lego. General ideas

joeejoee Member Posts: 42
edited January 2017 in Everything else LEGO
I'm an AFOL who collects mainly Castle sets with some 80s space/town sets.  I myself keep a pretty decent track of sets, parts, and keep a very organized lot of castle minifig parts, weapons etc.

However I have two sons ages 9 and 6 and they have been playing/collecting Lego sets for about the past 5-6 years.  It's to the point where we have bins upon bins of lego. (the nicer 4x2 bricks that stack, along with usual clear storage bins).  Some bins have remains of sets in them, some just pieces, there was once a minifigs only bin, but now the minifigs are somewhat scattered throughout everything.  At one point I was able to keep sets and figures together but now it's just out of control.    My ideas were to do as follows:
  1. Organize parts by color and place in bins
  2. Just take apart all the partial bins as it's at the point they sets cannot be completed anyway.
  3. Minifigs organize them into one bin and then break down the bin into parts say, heads, torsos, legs, helmets, hair weapons etc.  Even a section for completed figures (eg franchise minifigs)
  4. Should I even try to organize things by theme (eg super heros, minecraft, etc) or is it just a loss at this point?
For me I find that since many sets are still somewhat together and placed away in bins that they are really never played with again.  It seems like if they were all apart an organized they would be used more often. 
Does anyone else have this type of problem? Or a good way of organizing things?  Not all the sets are this way over the past year or two my oldest son has kept most of his bigger sets in tact and minifigs. (to the point he doesn't want his brother to sneak them out of his room).  But for me I just feel they could build more things were more easily accessible.

Thoughts? Advice?


  • HokieJoe99HokieJoe99 Member Posts: 345
    edited January 2017
    I prefer to organize by the type of piece rather than by color. It is a lot easier to find a black 1x4 plate in a pile of 1x4 plates of every color than it is to find one in a pile of black parts. Of course this requires more sorting up front and more groups of parts than if you sorted by color. With your larger storage containers, you could use plastic bags to divide up the pieces by type and put them in the larger containers. 

    Not sure how well this organization method would survive two young boys though. 
  • Glacierfalls265Glacierfalls265 USAMember Posts: 204
    I know my extended family sorts it by color. So do I, it's easier to find and you can surprise yourself with finding pieces in different places you didn't know you had! Sorting can be a nightmare though. I'm not as fancy or have enough room as some people do though, which is why I don't sort by piece. 
  • LuLegoLuLego UKMember Posts: 657
    I agree with @Shib
    my daughter has her built sets in storage boxes and I got upset when pieces get moved or disorganised. The friends sets in particular seem to come in little sections (ie a separate table and chair section to the main build) which are impossible to keep all together and keep track of.

    It got to the point where she hardly played with her Lego. And that was my fault for insisting she keep things organised.

    Lego is to be played with after all although I still find it very hard to turn a blind eye when expensive sets get smashed. I will cry when the Grande Hotel ends up as just parts!

    i can't expect my child to keep her sets organised to afol standards!
  • AllBrickAllBrick UKMember Posts: 1,356
    edited January 2017
    I've tried organising my nephews (9 and 11) Lego with not much success. They get the point, i just don't think they care enough. Some has been sorted (by them without my input) into colour and minifigs + bits, nowhere near my standards though. The other problem I have is that they seem to enjoy my stuff more because of the way its looked after. I'm sure something will click soon, either that or they will head into their dark ages and it will all be mine B)....

    I tried to sell it to them like this, if it's sorted, building becomes easier and faster because you don't spend time searching for parts as they are all in one *insert type of container here*.

    Thing is, Lego is just a toy to youngsters and is more than a toy to us AFsOL.
  • RedbullgivesuwindRedbullgivesuwind Brickset's Secret HeadquatersMember Posts: 1,620
    Personally, I would take it away from them completely and explain that in the coming nuclear holocaust, when our Chinese overlords are confidently jackbooting across the world. It wont matter anyway as they will have to scavenge for food or play with Lepin. Now is the time to train them for this life.
  • Rainstorm26Rainstorm26 Chicago Burbs USA (and sometimes Ireland)Member Posts: 967
    I probably have sorted and resorted many times.  I like doing it.  The kids still play.  I sort by color and then piece type in zip locks for basic bricks/plates/tiles.  Then have divided clear plastic trays for other more specialized pieces.  If I have too many for one section of a tray I will put all of those types into a pic-a-brick cup.  It does get annoying when they empty an entire piece type and I don't know what was in it.  I guess I should label the slots, but I like the flexibility of rearranging if needed.  I've tried to get them to help sort, but no luck.  In the end it's fine.  Someday they'll see the value of organizing,
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 15,694
    Our neighbour always sorts her kids' lego into colours. Then when her kids play with it, they just take the drawers out and dump all the lego on the floor, mixing it up. I don't know why she bothers.

    For my kids, it all goes in stackable boxes, unsorted*. *It is actually slightly sorted. The grey / brown  / blacks / tans get used for castle building so go in one tub, train track and parts go in another and the rest of the bricks into the remaining boxes.
  • catwranglercatwrangler Northern IrelandMember Posts: 1,655
    It might be worth breaking down the "remains of sets" (I'm picturing half-vehicles and chunks of castle; I've still got half a Model Team F1 car somewhere) to free up the parts. But ask the kids first, in case they're being kept together for some arcane purpose.

    It might also be worth giving them a couple of old ice-cream tubs to fill with any minifigure parts and accessories they come across next time they're playing with the Lego. Those bits are a pain to dig for, but if they're filtering them out casually as they go, they might find it useful for later when they can more easily find parts to build figures with. It's also really satisfying to see all the minifigures you own piling up in one place! 

    If it works for them, they'll stick to it, or maybe they'll come up with their own way of sorting. But I'd imagine a lot of kids are more inspired by a mixture of parts than by part- or colour-specific bins...
  • MaffyDMaffyD West YorkshireMember Posts: 2,061
    edited January 2017

    When we were young, me and my brother just had a big sack of Lego all mixed up into one. It was part of the fun finding the right piece (until it took too long, then it got frustrating, but we persevered - there's probably a life lesson there somewhere).

    For my children, I keep the minifigs separate (but not assembled, it's very much a mix and match body parts/accessories situation) as my 6 year old plays with minifigs more than with sets, and everything else goes into one big box as it's impossible to keep them sorted without time I do not have, and the kids don't appear to mind (until my youngest wants a set "back how we made it first Dad please?").

    Seems to work.

    PS: We still have that sack...

  • bookmumbookmum londonMember Posts: 1,041
    That sound of the bricks when you are rummaging around a giant tub of mixed bricks and bits... I love that sound. And then when you give up rummaging and just tip it out.. fantastic sound. 
  • SirKevbagsSirKevbags Fairy Land Member Posts: 4,007
    @bookmum you should get yourself to a Brickish Event when there is a member rummage if you like that kind of thing. It's a sight to behold and fly's round shit doesn't even come close....... 

  • bookmumbookmum londonMember Posts: 1,041
    Is it like the best ball pit ever? Can you belly flop into it? 
  • masterX244masterX244 GermanyMember Posts: 430
    bookmum said:
    That sound of the bricks when you are rummaging around a giant tub of mixed bricks and bits... I love that sound. And then when you give up rummaging and just tip it out.. fantastic sound. 
    i still get that rummaging thru parts, too. (unsorted parts box. that is somehow impossible to keep empty for longer times for me. it somehow instantly re-fills when some st00f needs to get stored quickly)
  • joeejoee Member Posts: 42
    Thanks for all the advice.  I think I was mainly aiming at what Catwrangler was getting to.  Taking apart the broken castles, cars, batcave etc.   To me it just seems since the half-sets  are connected they won't be taken apart by either of them.  I think if they are all just pieces they will be played with. 
    I like the ice cream container idea for minifigs too. 
    When I was a child though I did organize my lego in order to build things though. (bricks, plates, small pieces, useful pieces and minifigs)

  • AndyPolAndyPol UKMember Posts: 331
    edited January 2017
    As an AFOL with a 10 and 13 year old, like others have mentioned, give up. You will push them towards entering their dark age sooner and may never come out.

    I cry when my 10 year old gets his sets out and there are bits missing that he then asks me to search in the "box of bits" which is getting bigger everyday! But the plus side is that he still plays, he still uses his imagination, and he still loves LEGO. I cry even more when the pile of instructions we have do not relate at all anymore to the sets both of them have.

    My 13 year old is a bit more organised, but not much, although she is starting to like displaying sets rather than play with them, although she also has a huge box to rustle through.

    It's the pain that comes from being an AFOL parent, but be patient and eventually all we can hope is that they, at some point in the future, become AFOLs with you and all your troubles will be over......

  • Speedman29Speedman29 Brickswell CloseMember Posts: 796
     a member rummage


    When I was a kid I had loads of ice cream tubs in a big box with everything dumped in there. Half the fun was tipping it all out and rummaging through to find what you needed.

    My daughter is not massivly into LEGO, she has a few bits and bobs, but is currently in a Playmobil phase. She has a few sets built in her room and then some scattered through the Playmobil stuff too, along with plastic animals and dolls the whole lot gets used together.

    Too much restriction and adult control crushes imagination.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,331
    edited January 2017
    Organising by colour works well for kids, it's what we did alongside a box of figs and accessories. Whilst for AFOLs it's rightly looked down on kids don't mind searching through an upturned pile of bricks and by limiting to two or three colours for a build their models generally look better. Want to build blackthorn get the black and yellow, and red, out. Castle? Light Grey, dark grey and black. Etc etc.

    That said every situation is different, depending on how they play, how much lego etc.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,331
    @bookmum you should get yourself to a Brickish Event when there is a member rummage if you like that kind of thing. It's a sight to behold and fly's round shit doesn't even come close....... 

    @Legoboy once gave me a remarkably vivid description of just such an occasion. A strange mixture of horror and comedy would be the short version.
  • MrShinyAndNewMrShinyAndNew Member Posts: 220
    When I was a kid we sorted by colour into ziplock bags. There were fewer colours then so it was easier. Putting the pieces away by colour is pretty quick and it's easy to tell when it's not sorted. But unless you want to do the work yourself on an ongoing basis, I'd just ask your kids what they want. I wouldn't bother breaking down minifigs though. They'll break down as needed.
  • LegoboyLegoboy 100km furtherMember Posts: 8,405
    @bookmum you should get yourself to a Brickish Event when there is a member rummage if you like that kind of thing. It's a sight to behold and fly's round shit doesn't even come close....... 

    @Legoboy once gave me a remarkably vivid description of just such an occasion. A strange mixture of horror and comedy would be the short version.
    I wish I were brave enough to upload photos and video footage.  Not for the faint hearted.
  • eggsheneggshen Middleton, WIMember Posts: 460
    I think it is a matter of trial and error and depends on how your kids play. I have an 11 year old and 7 year old that like to build (plus a 3 year old that likes to destroy - er, play - with his brothers' creations). 

    My kids like to keep their sets in ziplock bags when they aren't assembled (i.e. not mixed with the free build stuff) and then we have a bunch of pieces that we have gotten for free build. We used to keep the free build stuff in one big tote that we would dump out during free build time. A while back I noticed that they would start building a set or a MOC and only build half before moving to something else whenever I wasn't home to build with them. After a while of this I asked them why they were doing that and they told me that it was too hard to find the pieces they needed in the free build stuff. They were quickly losing they interest in LEGO because it was too hard to find stuff. When I was home I was able to find stuff pretty quickly for them, but for younger kids it's a little harder and frustrating. It was almost like I was causing my kids to go into a dark age. Not cool! So after a minor mental panic attack I knew it was definitely time to reorganize.

    We tried a couple of methods. First we bought a bunch of "shoebox" size totes and separated by color, but that didn't work. They still had a hard time finding stuff they wanted, and would pretty much just build from one tote at a time. Blah! Second we tried bins of similar bricks (all bricks in one bin, all plates in another, etc), with a couple of bins for all the crazy pieces. Again, that didn't work. So then I got a bunch of clear organizers with movable dividers from Walmart (sold in the fishing section, they are mostly used as tackle boxes) and separated EVERYTHING. Anything that I had a large quantity of went into a "shoebox" tote (2 x 2 bricks, 2 x 4 bricks, etc). So now we have 8 or so totes and 15 or so organizers, and that seems to work. Now if they are missing a piece from a set they can find it all by themselves in the organizers, and when they freebuild they know where to find what they want. 

    So really we tried four different methods - all lumped together, separated by color, kind of separated by type, then finally micromanaged "the man upstairs" style. 

    Sorry for the long post, I guess my main point is that you will probably have to try a couple of different methods before you find one that will work for you guys. And definitely get feedback from your kids. I let my kids decide how to organize after we did a bunch of research, I feel that they felt empowered by making the decisions themselves and that we ended up with the best result (for now, anyway).

    Good luck!
  • bookmumbookmum londonMember Posts: 1,041
    As much as I love the sound of bricks, I expect the time I dropped a massive bucket of my precious Fabuland down the stairs circa age 10 - my parents probably weren't that impressed! 
  • JudgeChuckJudgeChuck UKMember Posts: 983
    edited January 2017
    I'd agree with people who say "let them get on with it in their own way". :-)

    My twin 6 year old daughters have a large, low play table, which was originally for one of those wooden train sets which has all their LEGO sets and MOCs on it. It has a single drawer which holds all their "special "pieces and they have nine plastic containers to store their bricks and plates in, which are very simply sorted by colour type (all green, all blue, all red, all yellow, all orange, all pink & purple, all black & grey, all white, all brown & tan).

    They have some favourite sets still built in their original form, but most are fairly quickly broken down and added to the general stash. This lets them build away to their hearts' content, but also keeps some level of sanity in the proceedings, but I do try to not interfere much.

    I think I'm really just saying "keep the organisation to the very minimum".

    All that said, they are always in my room commenting about my sets, storage and playing with my not-quite-President-Business-style (small) modular city street.

    Good luck! :-)
  • vizzitorvizzitor IrelandMember Posts: 188
    I'd agree with @Shib on the drawstring bag/playmat combination since that's how I grew up building Lego stuff. Everything was spread out so I could scan over all the pieces so even if I didn't immediately find the "right" piece, I might find an even better piece and the creation took a right turn into something different. So for me, it expanded my imagination and increased the possibilities of what I could make.

    I didn't have a whole lot of Lego sets so it might be different if there's a ton of bricks and plates 10 or 12 deep on a mat.

    A separate container or lunchbox just for fig parts and accessories like @catwrangler mentioned would make sense too so the castle/boat/house/digger-spaceship hybrid can have a few people on board quickly with the right helmets and equipment to begin playing.
  • masterX244masterX244 GermanyMember Posts: 430
    ^+1. Back when i started sorting it was small parts out first. That split still got some traces left in my storage since all small parts are in the box labeled #1. It got subboxes over the time though. Somehow i got used to that order over time... 
  • TheOriginalSimonBTheOriginalSimonB Felixstowe Member Posts: 916
    We used to keep ours in a long thin box from a projector screen. Had a few bits of card stuck in as dividers to separate wheels, doors and windows, technic bits, bricks and plates. But no colour differentials.

    Regular build technique involved tipping it all out on my bed to rummage through. And more than once I ended up pulling my sleeping bag out of the wardrobe and sleeping on the floor rather than putting it all away at night.
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,035
    I have found that the quickest way to get my grandson to lose interest in toys is "helping" organize them. If he's having trouble finding stuff, he'll let it be known. If I move something he will either move it back or ignore the toy completely.
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Washington, USAMember Posts: 647

    I took an entire afternoon and organized my son's minifigs and minifig accessories. It took all but a day for them to be completely redistributed among his other bins.

    As OCD as my brain is, I've come to the realization that my love of Lego at this moment is to help inspire my son's creativity. I get the joy of just sitting down in a pile of bricks with him and watching his mind work. I think if I took the time to organize all of his pieces, he'd honestly be a bit lost. Just like I love finding a new set or getting a great deal, I think part of his enjoyment is sifting through hundreds of pieces until he finds the right one.

    However, if I were to organize them, I think I'd do it by color and color only. Maybe another system for larger items (plates, boats, burps, animals, etc...).

  • Boats75Boats75 IllinoisMember Posts: 23
    I tried organizing some of the some of my son's Legos once. After half an hour sorting pieces I decided it was a wasted effort. I do try to keep sets together using Zip lock bags of various sizes.
  • leemcgleemcg Member Posts: 607
    +1 to the sorted out my kids Lego, and it stopped them playing with it. Only now it's all mixed up again do they get involved. Something to do with the way they play.
  • omniumomnium Brickenham, UKMember Posts: 441
    edited January 2017
    A few of my friends have asked me about sorting for their kids. And I generally say not to. Kids seem to like rummaging through a pile of bricks. No matter how you sort it, they'll unsort it pretty quickly too.
    The one thing I said to sort: minifigs and printed parts, where possible, to stop them getting too scratched up.
    But if I were to sort, I'd try sorting approximately by type/size, not colour.
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomMember Posts: 1,195
    I don't really have much experience with sorting kid's bricks as the ones I know now are too young to actually build (they take apart my builds more) and my own experience was that I kept them in sets.  When I was a kid this was the easiest way for me to remember which pieces I had and I'd just raid the set.  When I took apart mocs pieces would be distributed back to the appropriate set unless they were from the free build (ie random homeless pieces) box.

    The best part tho was if I didn't have a piece.   It would be frustrating at first but then I'd find another way to build what I was after.  Or it turned into something better (probably not, but hey I was a kid).

    So I'm basically saying kids are weird and different and some frustration can be a good thing so go with their flow :)
  • BillyBricks84BillyBricks84 United StatesMember Posts: 276
    When I was a kid, I loved digging through bricks to find something that I was looking for or, better yet, that I didn't know I was looking for and would inspire me to do something. Now that I can no longer be considered a kid (at least physically), it pains me to think about digging through random parts. 

    I don't have any kids myself, but in working with children on a LEGO League team and seeing the children of some of my friends, it seems like the ol' "Dig and Pray" method works well for them. 
  • bookmumbookmum londonMember Posts: 1,041
    Apparently this counts as 'tidying the lego' 

  • MaffyDMaffyD West YorkshireMember Posts: 2,061
    ricecake said:
    Oh dear god, I think I'd be going mad before I got to step 7! But yet I can't see a way to avoid it. Help!?
  • AllBrickAllBrick UKMember Posts: 1,356
    ricecake said:
    So many parallels, so much truth.
    My sorted to unsorted ratio is approximately 15 / 85. 
    Whenever I buy storage it makes me sad, I just want to spend that money on more Lego :(.
  • scottdd2scottdd2 ADELAIDEMember Posts: 22

    I've organised my son's (7 yrs old) into 1x.. plates, 2x.. plates, 1x.. bricks, 2x.. bricks, larger plates, larger bricks, slopes/curves, people, trans parts, odds and ends. Spent ages on it, didn't last. Either the missus gets feed up with his Lego all over the floor that she just scoops it up or he does when he cleans up.

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