Organizing and managing Lego with kids (long)

I'm not sure if RTL is still active, but here goes (please point me to another list if RTL is no loger active):
I know the subject of sorting, organizing, and storing Lego has been
discussed in numerous threads, but I haven't seen anything that talks about these issues as they specifically relate to kids and reducing Lego chaos. We have a modest collection of Lego sets (no repeats -- somewhere around 25 sets, some large, some smaller), and managing their use with and by our kids is an unending, time-consuming challenge. In particular, pieces get strewn about the house (within reach of very small hands and mouths), others are misplaced or lost (perhaps to the vacuum cleaner or down the heating ducts or brought to school never to return), and others are broken. I find myself constantly policing, managing, and doing inventory of Lego.
Perhaps our children are too young to play with Lego (but I doubt it; ages 9,7,5, not counting the newborn). I just hate to think that some of our sets might no longer be complete, and therefore not buildable in a strict sense. I know I'd be upset if I'd begin a model only to realize halfway through it that pieces are missing (especially when it's a cool Technic). I grew up playing Meccano, and I would store my parts in their original box, assemble complex models with many parts, play and experiment for a while, and then return all parts in their original box. Perhaps I'm trying to be too strict with the Lego, and I need to lighten up (what's a few missing pieces, really?)
On this note, I've found that organizing and storing Lego by sets works best in our house (keeping the above comments in mind). I keep each set in its own bag, with building instruction booklet(s) and a list of all pieces for that set, noting any that are missing -- and every single one of our sets has missing pieces. Web resources and a colour printer have been wonderful in this respect. Each child may take out one set at a time (two if I'm feeling particularly type-B that day!) I encourage my kids to count the pieces at the beginning to ensure they're getting all the required pieces (or as many as possible, or at least that they're OK with building with missing pieces). I also encourage them to count the pieces when they're done -- but this never actually happens, partly because they can't be bothered to do it, and partly because the projects wind up morphing and mating with others, including the Lego tub that's kept around for free play. The result is a handful of sets (or parts of sets) scattered throughout the house, and me having to do inventory every so often, and acting like the Lego dictator/police/librarian (and *no*, I don't enjoy that).
Organizing Lego by sets does have its drawbacks: the creative juices don't flow as well when limited to a set, as opposed to sitting in front of a wall of storage bins and letting your imagination soar (we're nowhere near having that many Lego -- yet). On the other hand, organizing by sets simplifies the set-by-set inventory. However, I do sort pieces by type and size when I do inventory and when redistributing parts in their respective sets.
If you have any suggestions on how to manage Lego with kids -- sorting, storing, use, misuse, preventing or dealing with loss of pieces, etc. -- I'd love to hear them. Yes, I know, the first suggestion (one I've already worked out) is to be less anal retentive, to chill out, and let kids be kids (not as easy as it sounds, believe you me! Especially when the broken/lost piece is an irreplaceable part).
I apologize for the wordiness, but it's been on my mind for a while now, with no workable solution in sight, and I just had to get it out there.
Cheers, and your suggestions and comments are much appreciated,
Patrick (who is oh-so-very type-A)
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Patrick Demets wrote:

www.lugnet.com is the place where most of RTL went. There are also other special forums on the net for ClassicCastle, Bionicles etc. just google for them.

In our home it goes/went like this (the kids are 20, 17 and 8 now, so it's not a big problem):
In general, Lego is only allowed in one room of the house (the 'hobby' room). When the kids got new sets, they of course built them in their own room, displayed the model on the shelfs there, but sooner or later the parts wander down to the Lego room, and are not kept together as a set any more. All instructions are kept in plastic pockets and put in a binder.
Some sets are kept intact 'forever', my Technic 8880 SuperCar and Space Shuttle, the Milennium Falcon are some examples.
Some parts may have gone missing, but there is very seldom only one source for a certain part, so the models are still buildable (although not all at once). If a critical, single source, part had gone missing, I suppose I would have tried to find a replacement at www.bricklink.com but it hasn't happened yet.
We have a lot of bins for sorting the different parts (mainly by shape, seldom by color). Sorting is mostly my concern (our collection isn't so large as to make it into a chore, instead I find it quite relaxing to sort), although all three kids have learned to mostly put parts back in the bin where they should be.
I don't think there exists a 'one solution for all people', but this is how it has worked out for us.
--
Anders Isaksson, Sweden
BlockCAD: http://web.telia.com/~u16122508/proglego.htm
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SNIP A LOT
I really feel sorry for the kids. Lego is fun! Lego collecting is not fun.
Play well!
Bob - http://www.ozbricks.com/bobfay
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says...

The first question that pops to mind is: Whose sets are they? If they are your sets, then you can decide how, when and where your kids can play with they, how they are stored, etc. If they are your kids' sets, let them decide how, when and where to play with them. However, avoidance of chaos is also an issue with kids and their playthings, so the idea of keeping everything in a single area is a good one. As for storing and sorting the parts, let the kids decide that. Let them be creative in their play and in the storage of the sets.
You could have two collections for Lego sets. One that you kept according to your tastes and guidelines, and one according to the kid's tastes and guidelines. You could even let each kid have their own special collection of sets that they didn't have to share with the others and could keep on their own terms.
Remember that this is not a black and white issue. There are 256 shades of gray.
--
Ken Rice -=:=- kennrice (AT) erols (DOT) com
http://users.erols.com/kennrice - Lego Compatible Flex Track,
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snipped-for-privacy@HATESPAMshaw.ca says...

We've taken the approach that after the set is built once, it's fair game to become something else.
For example, my son has several of the Lego 9V trains, and about 25' of track. We had fun building the sets, but once that's done, you have a train set, and as most train hobbyists will tell you, there's not much fun in having a train layout "finished". The trains rapidly got stripped apart, and made into new models, most of which are a lot more rugged and less top-heavy than the Lego originals. We have lots of wrecks, which are REALLY fun.
We now view sets as collections of unusual pieces, rather than an end unto themselves.
--Gene
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Back when I started into legos, they sold basically a round cloth with a drawstring. When playing, it would make a round surface for the legos to sit on about 3 foot in diameter. To store, you pull the string and hang it somewhere. We had two of these full of legos.
I am not sure my brother and I ever followed the instructions for a set, even when brand new. But this was back when sets were not made specific to a topic (Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc).
I would say limiting construction to one room would be a good idea. Maybe even try to keep the "models" in one room as much as possible.
I would also say throw away the instruction booklets (or put them away). Let the kids be creative. Legos are not models, they are blocks.
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my pieces are sorted as to parts each brick type in a different big bag 1x1 1x2 1x3 1x4 i keep all the 1x6 and above together 2x2 2x3 2x4 2x6 and above all together
the 2 wide 45deg slopes all together regardless of size with the inverted concave and convex ones same with the 3 wide 33 deg slopes
all the cylnders and cones together 1x1 2x2 4x4 and macaroni and rocket bits and sattelite dishes tempted to put the arches with them technic bricks gears and pins and things all together
wheels all together in a bin,the wheels with the technic x are seperated witht the technic stuff
all my men are on baseplates
random other pieces all together
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