Babies and toddlers make having Legos around the house a dangerous proposition. Without little ones Legos are still pretty harmful. We've all seen those memes about how painful stepping on one can be. And as I know from experience, they are accurate. However, when there are children present who put everything they find into their mouths, Legos can go from painful to deadly.
This is a problem we faced when Tres became mobile. No matter how diligent we were about trying to keep the Legos away from her, they would somehow manage to find their way to her tiny hands. The Boy loves (that word isn't strong enough) his Legos, and I didn't want him to feel punished by getting rid of them, but after many failed solutions, we came to the conclusion that they just couldn't stay in the house. This was not an issue when Little Mama was in the mouthy phase. She is so close to The Boy in age that he was just becoming interested in Legos when she stopped putting things in her mouth.
*This post contains affiliate links via an image and text. If you click on them and ultimately make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This costs you nothing and helps keep this site running. You can read my full disclosure policy here.*
Since we live in a pretty warm climate and have a large covered porch, I put our small KidKraft train and Lego table outside.
This is the little table we had. The Boy received it from Santa several years ago and was super pleased with it. The top lifts off and flips over to become a large Lego plate. You can see there is some storage space under the lid. This set comes with the train tracks and figures shown, as well as about 200 Legos.
The area of the porch housing the table instantly became covered in Legos, but I was okay with it. For one thing, the porch is so large I was able to designate this area as a kid space and still leave plenty of room for adult relaxation and entertainment. Secondly, I know the Legos will be gone one day, so I try not to begrudge them now. Savor the moments, right?
In time though, a new problem presented itself. The Lego collection outgrew the table and storage it offered. Though the area stayed messy, a good deal of Legos had manage to stay stored in the table. Eventually, though, the mess went from "the kids are making memories" to Sanford and Son. If everything were indoors, I could just assign some buckets or tubs or something to hold all the tiny parts and pieces. But what do you do about storage on a porch (and keep it classy)?
About the time that I was trying to solve this conundrum, some friends had a ginormous, hand-made train table they were trying to give away. I saw this behemoth and knew it would work.
This table is much taller than the previous little table we had, so The Boy can stand and easily move around while playing. Plus, it is tall enough and long enough that I could put some (decent looking) buckets underneath to hold extra pieces without them being too noticeable. Lastly, the large surface area is an excellent preventative to keep the Legos off the porch floor. Right?
Well... It is great for accessibility while playing and the Legos tend to stay on the table, but my bucket storage idea was naïve. You can probably guess how well the Lego bits actually stayed in the buckets when they weren't being used. The porch floor remained smothered in a sea of colorful, tiny bricks. Meanwhile, the Lego collection grew.
As I've mentioned, I don't mind some degree of messiness in this corner of the porch, but it had turned into crazy town once again. I don't even know how The Boy and Little Mama maneuvered it. I need to add that there were more than Legos contributing to the mayhem at this point. Train tracks, marble runs, balls, gloves, binoculars, and all manner of outdoor toys were also occupying this crowded space.
At my wit's end, I decided we needed something with drawers. Each category of toy needed it's own space and it's own home. The open buckets weren't cutting it. The idea came to me to get a large, old dresser. I figured I could paint it to not look so dresser-y and put some cute somethings on top. After many unsuccessful trips to Goodwill (not for lack of choice but because my local Goodwill has recently lost their mind in pricing the items DONATED to them for FREE...don't get me started), I started scouring Craigslist. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I negotiated this humongous, wooden dresser (and a wooden bookshelf for use elsewhere) for $50.
The top isn't finished. I have a large mirror I'm going to attach and paint with chalkboard paint so I can change messages and drawings on it seasonally. I also have some plans for turning those candelabras into mini-flower pot holders. I purchased those white knobs to replace the wonky ones which were original to the piece. However, they're not working out (as evidenced from the slightly open drawers in the picture...because of those knobs we can't currently close the drawers all the way). I'm going to remove them and just string some rope through the holes for some homemade pulls. Stay tuned! I'll update when it's all done. It's kinda of ho hum right now; in my head the finished product will be quite appealing. But as it is, it's still functional.
This system has been in place for several months now and it has worked the best. Buckets don't get kicked over, and everything stays where it's supposed to (for the most part). It's also much more attractive than what we had going on before. Between the train table and the dresser, there's plenty of play and storage space. I've drilled this into The Boy's head, so he doesn't put up a fuss if things do get out of hand and I tell him to go tidy up.
Keeping our Legos outside has been a great way to solve the problems we had. They're not scattered all over the house and Tres isn't getting them (and neither will the new baby). As an added benefit, the ridiculous amount of time The Boy spends with his Legos is outdoors. Therefore, he's at least getting fresh air while playing, and he has his own, dedicated work space for his creations (which is important to a nine-year-old, I think).
Here's a full view of this area of the porch. You can see that's there is plenty of room to move around the table. This works out well when we have lots of friends over. I know it's hard to believe there can be much more stored in the drawers of the dresser, but trust me. They are full! One sad day when the Legos and other toys are gone, I suppose this will become a sitting area and the dresser can hold seasonal porch décor. But I don't like to think about that time.
As the porch is pretty deep and covered, rain doesn't interrupt play time. There's also a large motion-sensor light offering plenty of illumination, so darkness is also not a problem. There have been a few days here and there where it's been too cold (for us) to be outside, even with jackets and proper winter wear. On those occasions, I do allow The Boy to bring in a few Legos and play at the table, but he has to take them back outside when he's done.
I realize this solution won't work for everybody. A lot of people live in areas where the climate is not conducive to year-round outdoor play and/or don't have a sheltered area like a covered porch. But for those of you who do and are facing the same problem I was with trying not to mix Legos and babies, maybe the solution I've offered is something you can replicate or one from which you can draw inspiration. If so, please let me know in comments. If you've faced a similar problem and found a way to tackle it, I'd also love to hear your alternate ideas.
If you read my recent article, Why I Don't Keep Lego Instruction Books, you now know why all the pictures from that article were on my porch.