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We have a 4yo and a 1yo. The 4yo has been playing with Lego Duplo for a long time and it's safe for our 1yo because Duplo blocks are specifically made to be "too large to eat."

It's clear that the 4yo is ready to move on to "real" Lego. These pieces are smaller, and that's a problem because suddenly it's no longer safe to have Lego lying around in the home.

I don't think it's realistic to tell a 4yo to keep his Lego only on the dining table where the baby can't reach it. Lego is meant to be played on the floor, and no room is safe from both kids.

We don't want to keep the baby out of the 4yo's room just because of the Lego (which would then only be allowed in that room). We feel it would be unreasonable to the 4yo to forbid Lego in the rest of the house, and unreasonable to the baby to forbid access to his brother's room.

Is there a better solution that I am not seeing?

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6 Answers

Don't discount the restricting Lego to only one area! You really only have two options:

  • keep the baby away from the Lego
  • keep the Lego away from the baby

Your 4 year old should understand the concept of tidying up, so if you let him play with small kits (which is probably best at first) then the pieces should all end up as part of the finished toy, which he can then put on a table, mantelpiece or somewhere out of reach of the baby. Your riskiest times are at the start when all the pieces are laid out, so use a tray for this stage (it keeps them together) and ideally get him to play with it somewhere the baby doesn't go, and at the end, when you need to make sure the baby doesn't just try and eat the finished article.

You'll have the odd moment where the baby eats a piece of Lego, but generally you can just accept that that piece is gone for good, unless you fancy trying to retrieve it later...

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They make playzones (like baby gates but connected into a loop) that are designed to keep baby in. You could do this in reverse - use it to keep baby out - and make it a Lego zone. That way your older child can choose what room he wants to be in while he builds, baby can watch but not touch, and baby is free to explore the rest of the house. You could even post a cute sign on it, like "Construction Zone" or "No babies allowed," so it feels like a grown up space instead of a baby space.

A friend of mine used to put her Christmas tree in one every year while she had small children!

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Ha! My parents also put the Christmas tree in there :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 28 '13 at 16:07
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Do you have a kid's sized table? Something the four year old CAN do the legos on, but stand at so reaching higher towers and the like is possible. It works really well for the kids I baby sit. Small toys are played with only when an adult is watching and they are played with on the craft table. Then little brother can scoot around on the floor all he wants, but there are adult eyes watching just in case something gets dropped, or the baby starts to pull himself up or anything.

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One side of the living room is a kid-sized desk and drawers, but the 1yo can reach most of the desk surface. Maybe the dining table is the way to go. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 28 '13 at 16:09
    
You could use Mary Jo's idea around the desk area. Or, legos could be special for baby's nap-time only. –  balanced mama Nov 28 '13 at 16:52
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What is the reluctance to keeping the infant out of the 4 year old's room? I could see the problem if the house is such that they have to share a room, but it sounds like they already have separate rooms.

Having a place to go to get away from their sibling may become a benefit as they get older. You can start to develop the habit of these boundaries at a young age for safety reasons, but keep them in place as they age (i.e. siblings ask permission before entering the other's room).

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Reluctance: I don't want to have to put a gate in the door, or even close the door, just because one child shouldn't get too close to one kind of toy. I want the boys to have free access to safe areas in the house, and I want them to be able to play together and visit each other's rooms. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 17 at 14:14
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Another possibility is building a lego table. They do sell these commercially, but if you are up to the task it wouldn't be that difficult to build your own to your specifications. This way you could make sure it was baby proof, and your four-year-old will most likely think it is awesome!

I would sand down a sheet of plywood and add four legs (to be sturdy enough that it won't topple easily) and make sure the legs are tall enough that the baby can't reach the edge of the table. Then I would buy some large, flat lego baseplates and glue these to the plywood with super glue. From there it is really an open concept that you can do whatever you want with. There are lots of neat ideas online.

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This is a brilliant and fun idea! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Dec 3 '13 at 15:19
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When I was a kid, I had a Lego sack, a round piece of jeans cloth, about a meter in diameter, with a drawstring along the edge. When spread out, it was a round playing rug, when drawn closed, it was a sack holding the Lego. Mine was an official Lego® one, but I found a tutorial to make your own, in your preferred size, depending on the amount of Lego.

While this, in itself, doesn't keep the baby away from the Lego, it does provide a simple and quick way to put it out of reach – just draw the string to close it. And you can pick it up easily and move it to an area where the baby isn't.
Also, you can teach your eldest to not play with Lego outside of the rug.

You could also put the sack down in Mary Jo Finch's playzone.

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Thank you. Storing the Lego while not in use is not a big problem. Our challenge is to keep the little guy from eating the parts that the big guy is playing with :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 17 at 9:55
    
I understand, and the Lego sack isn't just about storing, it's also about storing quickly. –  SQB Jan 17 at 10:12
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