Sorting, Playing & Storing Lego – what has worked well for us

A friend of mine PMed me on Facebook the other day with a dilemma, her boys were getting into Lego and it was getting to be overwhelming. She asked me for suggestions and I gave her a bunch, and then realized that maybe I should write a blog post, so here is what has worked for us so far.

Your results may vary, mostly, be flexible as your children and the collection grows. Happy lego playing!

Playing with themIMG_3378

  • The boys love to play with Legos, but right now we don’t have the space for them to be out all the time. They currently get to play with Legos about twice a week and on the weekends (at most), and we actively encourage them to take breaks, and do other things (go play outside). When they start to play intensely for long periods of time, they get irritable.
  • We have a few rules, the biggest one being Legos must stay on the table, and if you can’t take them apart yourself, ask someone, do not use your teeth.

Sorting the bricks

glorious bins of lego!
  • We sort our bricks by color: red, yellow, blue, white, black, grey, orange, brown, green, etc. Each color has it’s own clear bin with a clear snap-on lid. We have a bin for people, and a bin for base plates. 
  • Animals have a bin of of their own as well. I’ve tried to separate out smaller items, food, dishes, weaponry, but really, a bin for that is usually fine for them to rummage through.
  • I’m partial to wide, shallow bins as they’re easier to sort through and find things. Get a few extra small bins for storing sets, small volumes of colors (orange has a small bin, white has a large bin, green has a medium sized bin).
  • There WILL BE a bin of random parts that will just get sorted every now & then, this is usually the “stuff we’re playing with now” bin and every now and then it gets full, so then we sort it out by color into and sometimes they want to play with a set so we find all the pieces and put them aside.
bin of parts, sorting tray, and ikea tray to build on
assembled people, all neatly lined up – this did not last long

Useful tips

  • Use junk-drawer (or similar) organizers, the kind with lots of little spaces to sort things while you’re building.
  • An old train table (or other play table with a lip around the edge) is perfect for Lego.
  • A play-tray is great for more limited space and longer-term building projects. Gavin built a 24 inch-square building tray (pre-cut plywood at Lowes) with a 1/2 inch lip (trim piece) that has worked perfectly to transfer partially-built projects from the dinner table to somewhere else. There are many variations of this all over the internet.
  • Do NOT glue the base plates to the table, use 3M poster adhesive or blue tack (or just leave them alone and put them on the board!) so you can re-arrange the plates at whim.
Gavin building the play-tray
Gavin building the play-tray
the building tray Gavin built
the building tray with interchangeable base plates

Directions/Instruction booklets

  • Directions go in page protectors in a 3-ring binder (or several binders). Do yourself a favor and buy sturdy binders and page protectors, these binders will get flipped through often.
  • I group directions by category, the City/System (and Juniors) binder is sub-divided into Cars & Trucks, Space, Fire, Coast Guard, Police, etc. The Hobbit and LOTR sets have their own small binder as there are no more sets we want.
  • We have most of the Lego City Arctic Explorers sets so they have their own binder of directions (and bin of sets).
  • Advanced sets (ages 12+) are in the Lego Directions binder and that’s not in active use.
  • I made the side-labels, and divider-pages with the help of Google Image search, the labels and dividers help the kids figure out what goes where.
  • I do not take the directions apart (although some have fallen apart from many years of use), I simply slide them into the sleeve as a booklet.

Find (& download) directions (or part lists) online!
This is useful if/when yours get lost/destroyed, or if you’re looking for inspiration. I’ll often print off the part list for the older sets that don’t list the parts to make it easier to find things (instead of looking for parts as I build).

If you can’t find it on one of those, you probably wont be able to find it.


I may come back and update this later, or do a second post in more detail on one of these issues, but this is a fairly decent overview of how we manage our legos.

Your results may vary, mostly, be flexible as your children and the collection grows. Happy lego playing!

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