They’re every parent’s dream when a new set keeps your child occupied for a few blissful hours (or minutes) of silence, but every parent’s nightmare when that “it costs HOW MUCH?!” set soon gets crumbled into 520 anonymous pieces, lost forever in the Lego abyss of all your other destroyed Lego sets.
So, how do you deal with the Lego madness?
You could take the Lord Business approach and Kragle the sets once they’re complete so they will live together in perfect, unmovable, tidy, harmony. Or perhaps you could spend an entire weekend sorting Lego pieces by size and color, only to have the system completely destroyed the first time your child attempts to have any non-color coded fun with them.
On the other extreme, you could take the Wyldstyle approach and have your child immediately dump all the pieces from your new $89 set right out of the box into your existing giant multi-color mountain of Legos because you don’t believe in your creativity being limited to the corporate instructions sent down by ‘the man.’
I have to admit, I lean more toward the Lord Business approach. For years, I tried to play it cool, like I was a Master Builder like the rest of my family. Until one day, my son had the bad timing of asking for a new Lego set while I was staring at a pile of un-partnered instruction booklets for previously destroyed Lego sets. I went full crazy, Angry Unikitty.
“THERE IS NO WAY THAT YOU ARE GETTING A SINGLE NEW LEGO UNTIL YOU PUT ALL THE SETS YOU ALREADY OWN BACK TOGETHER!”
My husband tried to back up our six year old by repeating the Master Builder motto that Legos are for being creative and mixing and matching.
I agreed, yes, Legos are for being creative and building your own masterpieces, (that’s why I bought twenty pounds of bargain bulk Legos off Craigslist,) but the overpriced Lego sets that grandparents send for birthdays require special treatment: Some kind of system less extreme than Kragle, but less eye-twitch inducing than our current, ‘drawer full of Lego’ method.
And that’s how we (okay, I) invented Lord Business Lego Camp.
Lord Business Lego Camp ™ was the six-week ‘camp’ that my then five-year-old son and I ‘attended’ in our play room last summer, where we hunted down the pieces and reassembled over thirty Lego sets. It was a very exclusive camp, mostly because no one else wanted to even come near the insanity. It lasted for anywhere between 3-8 hours a day, seven days a week. My fellow camper gave glowing reviews, such as, “I don’t even want that new set anymore!” and “I can’t feel my legs.”
Too late kid. We’re on a mission.
As you can imagine, sorting through thousands of Lego pieces for one #606900 piece can be pretty time consuming, let alone every single piece for each set. Around the second day, we both decided we needed to refine our system. We worked together to sort piles based on the main types of Legos:
- Buttons (round 1x1s)
- Sticks & Connectors
It took almost a full day, and all of my Tupperware containers, for us to finish categorizing all his Legos, but I’m confident that it saved us weeks of hunting time in the long run. Plus, it was fun to listen to my five-year-old come up with rationale for his sorting criteria. (If a piece is a 1×1 but also a ramp AND flat, which group should it go in? Answer: the 1x1s obviously, because it’s so tiny it will get lost in all the big ramps!)
We started methodically reassembling each set, step by step, prioritizing the ones that he wanted to play with the most. It took us almost two full days to complete the first set, with 95% of the time dedicated to sifting and searching for pieces. We celebrated its completion with an enthusiastic high five and march around the playroom. We placed the completed set, with its instructions into a gallon Ziploc bag and put it in my office for safe keeping. We were excited to keep the momentum going and immediately started on the next set.
Only 29 more to go!
By the second week, my five-year-old took on the aura of Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. At any given time, he had at least seven sets laid out all over the floor and instead of looking for the individual pieces he needed for a given set, he would just go to the giant pile of anonymous Legos, pick up a seemingly random piece and then walk it over to one of the sets, somehow knowing that they belonged together.
He had achieved Lego Nirvana.
After almost two months of Lord Business Lego Camp, we had finally reassembled all thirty sets. As much as we felt a sense of achievement (and I felt a Type A thrill of having everything in its place,) the resulting pile of Gallon Ziploc bags full of completed Lego sets felt even too Lord Business-y for me.
But how does one house that many Lego sets?
It took a couple months to figure it out and you can read all about it in Part 2.
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