LEGOs. I tried everything to organize them. I tried everything to get my son to organize them. I searched Pinterest for tips, tricks, and hacks. The LEGO head that sorts them. Under the bed boxes that spread them out for easy viewing. IKEA storage drawers. Organize LEGOs by color. Organize LEGOs by size. Organize LEGOs by project. Organize LEGOs by how complete the project is. Display LEGOs that have been built. I was going about this all wrong and I’ll tell you why.
Your feet have been brutally assaulted by them, you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about the room that’s covered in them, you made yourself hoarse to
force encourage your children to clean up their LEGOs, spent countless hours helping to search for that one super special piece. That can’t be found. You’ve looked on the floor. You’ve looked under the bed. You’ve even looked in the dog’s fur – well, ya’ never know…
So here’s the lead in to my ah-ha moment: I asked my son “If you explain to all the parents out there why you have so many LEGOs out at the same time, what would you say?” This was his answer:
My game doesn’t really have a name yet. But I’m hoping to think of one. One of my favorite characters is the leader who I have named after myself. He is still training. He likes fighting. His soldiers are pretty strong. I have to upgrade some of them. I’ve just picked up a random one right now – and all he has is a sword – so I’ll really have to upgrade that! He has a bunch of helmets and I haven’t even put all of them on him yet!
Right now he has on a LEGO Nindroid helmet, a Mr. Freeze face, a Star Wars Clone body and some legs that are white in the middle and the leg part is gray. I’m not sure which set those came from but he looks pretty cool.
He’s holding a weapon I’ve made out of a LEGO Ninjago ghost blade, a black handle piece, and a long golden stick. I’ve called this weapon the staff of elements because you can add different things onto the top like lightning, water, ice, and fire. And I also chose 4 different swords. These are all theme swords that the ninja would use from the Ninjago set except for one that a Screamer used in the Titan Mech battle set.
He has six pets: a robotic dragon, a bear, a spider, 2 sharks, and a dog.
I’ve been working on this game for a long time. I really like all the characters I’ve made. The last time my mom cleaned up I even found some of my characters in the bin where I keep all my LEGOs that I’m not using. One of the pieces on the floor is a really cool piece. I might want to build something with it; I could also easily add it to one of the pieces that I’m playing with now.
If it’s cleaned up I’m going to forget where I last was in the story. If I forget where I am in the story – I don’t know what I’ll have to do. That hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t want it to. I would like to be in charge of what goes away and what stays. The last time, I found some of my guys in the bin and I am still missing some and have no idea where they are.
I’ve turned this into Steve’s garage. It has traps everywhere. If you go in there’s water. So he has to have lots of potions so that he can breathe under water. If he forgets to take them – he’s dead.
And I learned so much from his answer. It was a lightbulb moment – an ah-ha moment. The moment has forced me to put my actual parenting where my parenting theory is – so to speak.
So here’s the thing. To my son – his LEGOs are organized. They are beautifully, perfectly, meticulously, and creatively organized. In the midst of what I perceive as crazy clutter lies his story, his play, his work, and his imagination. Imagination!
Pretend play with these tiny plastic beasts that batter adult feet leads to development of integration of separate content, divergent thinking, “self-regulation, reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy. When children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy.” (source)
I desperately believe that it is a child’s job to play for as long and as hard as possible. It’s beautiful to watch! And it’s how they learn some of the very most important skills that they will ever need! It may all look like chaos and clutter to us, but it comprises an entire world of play for them with stories, characters, friends, activities, conflict resolution, empathy, and so much more. The fact that it looks like clutter to us may just be our failing – not theirs. Join in their imaginary worlds with their imaginary guys, if you’re lucky enough to be invited in.
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I confess, there are times when we do clean up – but we very carefully preserve the story. We preserve his imagination, his play, his work, his game, and his development. And that’s worth all the chaos.