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I need your advice on how to get my 4-year old son to play less with legos (or to play in a more controlled fashion) when his toddler brother is around.

Currently my son goes through a period where legos are his only toy. He takes them apart, builds something new, plays with it for a while and repeat the whole process all day long. This is fine and I encourage him to do it for now, but in a few months his toddler (6 month old) brother will begin to move around the house and will encounter the lego blocks. I am worried he might swallow them and I'm looking for a way around the problem. We can't keep them separated because we live in a small apartment.

Should I ban legos completely for the ~ 1year period when the toddler is prone to swallow small things? Should I introduce other types of toys (if yes, which types?) for my 4 year old to get him to play less with legos?

If you've had this problem, how did you manage it?

Thanks for the advice!

  • I'm with Hilmar on this. However, you forgot one thing: The toddler will inevitably do a lot of damage to your son's creations, and thereby to their relationship. I remember we put up a (removable) barrier in the kid's room. Those who were able to climb over it on their own were fit enough to join those playing with Lego without doing too much damage. That took away all the tension. – sbi Jun 21 '16 at 6:04
  • Yeah, I noticed the tension too. I'll think about the barrier, good idea. So far the older boy plays with lego on the table and the toddler can't reach the table yet. But I'm sure he'll think of something :) – Adrian Jun 21 '16 at 10:02
  • Should I ban legos completely for the ~ 1year period recoils in horror. I have to say, as I kid I would have resented my parents and my brother a lot for that. Limitations are one thing, but a complete ban just sounds terrible. – André Paramés Aug 18 '17 at 8:45
  • Fortunately, the toddler is no longer a toddler and currently enjoys playing with his brother's legos. – Adrian Aug 18 '17 at 12:46
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With a bit of luck, this may remain a hypothetical problem - the "Lego phase" might dwindle down soon or your younger one might turn out to be a child that actually doesn't "eat" every crumb he finds on the floor. (We were lucky in the latter sense.)

But it's always better to be prepared.

The first meassure is always to separate the toddler and the pile of Legos - while I'm usually all in favour of playing on the floor, in this case the Lego should be built on a table. This buys you at least a few more months until the toddler can reach them on his own.
Your elder son will very quickly figure out that keeping his models out of the reach of his brother is important if he wants to keep them intact.
Loose pieces go into closed1 boxes or other storage units on shelves the toddler can't reach - as you would do with other items he shouldn't get into.

For single stray pieces the same rules apply as for every other "floor finds" - keep your floor swept and clean and an eye on the toddler. And remember that the majority of small non-food items pass the digestive tract without any trouble. Legos are made of ABS, a plastic considered harmless. Unless your child shows signs of gagging or abdominal pain or swallowed a dangerous object like a battery or a magnet, assume the object will travel the "natural route" and show up in the diaper or toilet bowl.

What I don't recommend is taking the Lego away from your elder child.


1 Speaking from experience, closed boxes are important, cleaning dust or spiderwebs from very small legos is a nightmare...

  • I'm a bit worried about swallowing blocks because some of them are relatively sharp and I fear they might cause internal scratches or small tears. – Adrian Jan 20 '16 at 10:39
  • @Adrian Legos aren't that sharp and the digestive tract is covered with a kind of tissue that is actually quite resistant and with cells that are replaced on a very short cycle. Even in the very unlikely case of a scratch it should heal very, very quickly and probably be unnoticed. The Lego bit doesn't "travel" alone, but is embedded in mushy food in various states of digestion, which will actually prevent it from doing real damage. – Stephie Jan 20 '16 at 10:45
  • Adrian, thanks for the accept. Feel free to wait a bit before accepting an answer - you never know what other ideas might come up. More about accepting over at ELL Meta. – Stephie Jan 20 '16 at 11:54
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A friend of ours solved this by having a play pen, and putting the bigger kid in it. Of course he could climb out at any time, but in the pen his little brother couldn't get at his toys.

0

While some common sense care and supervision is always a good thing, Lego doesn't seem to be particularly dangerous.

I coulnd't find any reliable information of a confirmed fatality with choking on Lego. There was a babysitter that claimed a child's severe injury to be Lego related but that seems more like defense (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/richardson-lake-highlands/headlines/20130618-sitter-13-month-old-richardson-girl-with-head-injury-in-2008-choked-on-lego.ece)

And there is a random post claiming 57 deaths without any sources. http://www.chacha.com/question/how-many-people-have-died-chocking-on-a-lego

Choking is indeed a real danger (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100226212559.htm) but it's mostly food related.

So Lego is clearly a thing to watch for but it should be done proportional to the actual risk.

  • Thanks for this voice of reason amidst ask the angst (+1 from me). The world is full of small things toddlers can try to swallow. You just cannot put away ask of them. OTOH, nobody sells their cars — despite the fact that (at least here in Germany) most kids die in traffic accidents, and most of those in their parents' car. That is a very real danger your child is likely to die of. A piece of Lego is very unlikely compared to that. – sbi Jun 21 '16 at 6:09

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