I first came across this quote -- the key to maintaining one's sanity while dealing with toys that have multiple parts -- in this excellent piece that Dahlia Lithwick did for Parenting magazine. Until I read that article, I never quite understood why I would have a nervous visceral reaction when my kids would open certain new toys; say, the Strawberry Shortcake Raspberry Torte Baking Playset:
But not others, like say a Pillow Pet:
My kids have fun with both. I have no beef with Strawberry Shortcake. So why do I automatically tense up when I see one of her playsets? It's because I know that the minute that playset freed from its tidy packaging, it will cease to be a whole playset. The miniature berrylicious petit fors will get separated from the torte-eriffic baking pan, and the perfectly pink oven will wind up in the bottom of a pile of Barbie dolls, and it will no longer function as a cohesive "baking set." If Strawberry's hair is removeable, which it probably is, it's a goner too, and then I'm left with creepy bald baking Strawberry Shortcake with none of her associated parts. And this really bothers nobody but me. Months later, assuming that the tiny cherry that used to top the tiny berry parfait hasn't already gotten vacuumed up, the girls will discover it and know exactly what it is supposed to go with (even if they can't find any of those other tiny parts) but they don't seem remotely troubled by the fact that it may never be reunited with the parfait again. I've spent many hours trying to keep these sets together. I've implemented various storage systems (seriously, who needs a clear plastic Sterilite bin labeled "Squinkies?" But I have one.) and tried to institute nightly toy pickup sessions where we reunite toy families, so to speak, but really, it's hopeless. I was feeling kind of defeated by this until I read Lithwick's article, and then it all became clear. "The glass is already broken." "The Strawberry Shortcake Splash-N-Petal Pool is already slideless." And once I accepted that, a zen-like calm washed over me, and I accepted our partial-toy set reality.
I'm grateful that I achieved this kind of peace before we got heavy into legos in our house. Because wow, legos will challenge the most resigned-to-toy-chaos among us. The pieces are tiny:
And there are a lot of them. And they all come together to make large, elaborate structures/vehicles that nobody really knows what to do with once they're built. Is Plo Koon's Jedi Starfighter supposed to battle the General Grievous Starfighter? Are we supposed to take them apart and build them again? Are we supposed to display them in an acrylic display case? It's unclear. I decided to operate under the assumption that in my house, we'd come up with a hybrid solution that would involve pieces falling off the completed structure and getting vacuumed up. In any case, I felt like it was my motherly responsibility to at least give the Legos a fighting chance.
I thought about finding a Lego table, until I noticed the inexplicable inflated price tags on such things. Plus, after nine years and three kids we have managed to accumulate an alarming number of kid-sized tables, so I decided to turn one of them into a Lego table. I went with a 2007 Target selection:
Its main asset was that it was already in sorry shape:
So I couldn't really hurt it.
I then glued six of these lego base plates on to the top:
And brought it downstairs to anchor Legoland.
As far as storage of the actual Legos go, I turned our very first toy storage piece (bought when Jacob was still a baby) into a Lego storage center. And to think there was a day when ALL of our toys fit into this thing!
At the moment, the pieces are organized by color:
The theory being that if the kids want to rebuild something, they can at least narrow which bin they need to rummage through for the piece they need. Will it work? Highly unlikely. But I feel like I've done what I can do on the Lego front, and now I'm going to fade away and let the Legos do what they are going to do. Because to me, that Lego piece is already lost.