I love LEGOs, and I’m so happy that my kids (now aged 4, 6 and 8 ) are getting into them. The time has come to make the LEGO a mainstay of the creative toys in our house, which means moving them to the family room.

But have you ever stepped on a LEGO? It hurts! They need to be in a common family area but corralled in such a way they they are never on the floor.

We’ve got a train table that Justin has outgrown – not that he’s given up on trains, on the contrary – he never builds track setups small enough to fit on a table. It has a 1/2″ rim around the edge so the LEGOs don’t fall off onto the floor, and its a good size for two kids to comfortably play at once. This solves half of the problem.

Storage of the LEGOs is a bigger headache. We’ve got so many LEGOs that dumping them on the table won’t leave any space to play. Here’s what I need:

  • Bins. Figure about 7 in all.
  • They must be of various sizes for organizing by type of LEGO.
  • They must have tall enough sides so a kid can rummage around and not spill over the sides.
  • The bins should have a lower edge in the front so little hands can reach in easily.
  • At least the front side should be transparent so kids can see while they search for a particular piece and hopefully not pull out handfuls of LEGOs to dump on the table.
  • The bins must all be connected so a kid won’t pick up a bin and “accidentally” dump it.

Behold, my solution!
Its made entirely from left over wood and supplies from the garage. The outer-most sides are a bit taller and have handles, making it a heavy unit but liftable by an adult.

I also made sure the depth allows two standard baseplates to fit in front of the bins (64 studs total for 2 32-stud baseplates), and the width of the train table happens to fit well too (144 studs, which is 3 32-stud baseplates and one super sized 48-stud gray baseplate, or 3 super sized 48-stud baseplates and 9 mini 16-stud baseplates at the top, or 4 32-stud baseplates two deep plus a row of 4 16-stud baseplates on one side). The baseplates then get connected together with a few standard green or gray plates. We will be going to the LEGO Store this week to acquire the last couple of baseplates.

In a few years we will be moving on to the robotic LEGOs. I don’t think it will require the same level of thought to avoid foot pain, but it needs its own design. It will be a workbench, complete with computer, testing equipment, build space, test track, and of course LEGO compartments. That is definitely a future ToDo list item.

Postscript / some additional thoughts (a.k.a: apparently I wrote this post too early and can’t leave it alone):

  • One early possibility was to sink the bins in at table level or peaking up slightly. Having just been at the LEGO store in King of Prussia and seen their one single massive inset bin for 3 workstations, I’m convinced that inset is not the way to go.
  • About DUPLO blocks: In my experience young kids just go for what is in arm’s reach and this type of setup would be overkill. Also small kids are happier on the floor.
  • The bins could be built to run down the center of the table with a row of 32-stud baseplaces on either side. It aids in the reach of the younger kids and it creates more front-facing working space, i.e., more kids. I find that even three kids sitting side-by-side the arguments are minimal so double sided may be overkill anyway. It doesn’t work for our family room but I like the idea.
  • I don’t think any configuration of more than 2 sides would work since it would severely limit access to the bins. It would be nice to have 3 or four symmetrical sides, as I noted before the example at the LEGO store was a disaster.
  • A different depth table would be good, ours is too deep for the 4-year-old but OK for the 8-year-old. It could be built for a single row of 32-stud baseplates or 48-stud baseplates, and it could be built as single or double sided.
  • Along the same lines, differing heights of tables would be good where the more shallow version for younger kids would be lower and the deeper version would be higher. Mine is a deep design but a very low table, so my kids generally kneel.
  • The table length is good and I wouldn’t change it. (Mine is 144 studs wide; You could go down to 128 if you wanted a multiple of 32-stud baseplates). The most common pieces are centrally located and a kid can stand to reach across to get further away bins without too much inconvenience. any shorter and you loose the number of bins. I’d like more bins but any longer and you have to go too far to get your LEGOs or your bins start getting too narrow.

My organization, from right to left is:

  • Minifigs, accessories, cars, plants, and animals
  • Plates 3×3 or larger
  • Plates 2x? and 1x?
  • Classic bricks 2×2 and larger
  • Bricks 1x?
  • Door, windows, arches, and roofs
  • Everything else (studs, custom set pieces, etc).

I’d love to break out these some more. Ideally I’d have 12 bins but I can’t see how make make work without resorting to odd ideas (front/back bins, dual level bins, extra drawers, etc). I can see getting up to 9, especially with more narrow partitions, but that’s about it.

In particular, people and cars should be distinct. Doors and windows can be together but arches should have their own slot as should roof pieces. The “Everything Else” category works OK for us at the moment, but we don’t have many Bionicle or other overly custom sets mixed in yet. Ideally “Everything Else” would be broken into special functional pieces (spinners, 90 degree turns, etc.) and fancy pieces (gems, studs, flat topped plates, etc). In several years once we move on to the robotics the “special functional pieces” will dominate (gears, shafts, etc) and I’ll have to build a whole new list then.