I bought big-boy LEGOs for a preschooler

The box for LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack says ages 6-12. The Joker’s Steamroller says 7-14. My son is 3.

LEGO’s age recommendations aren’t like the ones on other toys. Those numbers aren’t the minimum age at which child can play with the toy and not choke to death. LEGO’s master builders think a 6-year-old might have the necessary skills to build the Batcopter in Man-Bat Attack without help. That same 6-year-old, however, should require an extra year of LEGO practice to build the Batwing that comes with the Joker’s Steamroller.

I would like to tell you that my son Champ is so brilliant, so focused and so dexterous that he can follow LEGO instructions at a 7-year-old’s level. Nope. In fact, some of these models are so complicated that Mom can’t fix them quite right. Grandma and Grandpa? Also nope.

This is why a Dad has Rules for Big-Boy LEGOs.

The first rule of big-boy LEGOs is: You do not cry about big-boy LEGOs.
Toys are supposed to make kids feel happy, not sad. It seems obvious, but in my house, toys frustrate. Toys get lost, and it makes kids anxious. Toys start fights, especially when the 1-year-old wants to play and the Champ doesn’t want to share.

I don’t expect this LEGO rule to solve all our playtime problems. Really I just don’t want to spend my days rushing to the aid of a crying child only to find that the crisis is a loose missile launcher on the LEGO Batwing.

My policy is that I only repair LEGO sets for kids who ask politely and wait patiently for me to respond. Crying means we have to put the LEGOs away for a while.

The second rule of big-boy LEGOs is: LEGOs stay on the table.
LEGOs might be a choking hazard for the aforementioned one-year-old. They definitely are a stepping-on hazard for parents. And LEGOs that leave the table might roll or skitter away and get lost.

Yeah, a Champ might cry if we lose some pieces (see Rule 1), but I have another problem. I’m a completist. Right now, we’re missing the hair piece to the Nightwing minifig from Man-Bat Attack. The baby pulled it off Christmas morning, and it disappeared. Maybe we should have combed through her dirty diapers. Thing is, it bugs me every time I think about a missing piece.

It bugs me enough that I’ll crawl on the floor and root under the couch way more than I should. Maybe more than the kids demand. So — for the sake of my knees, my back and my mental health — keep the LEGOs on the table.

The last rule of big-boy LEGOs is: LEGOs stay at home.
Rule 2 maybe covers this, but I cringe at the idea of rooting around the car for a lost Batarang or chasing down a helmet that popped off in a Target aisle. These toys are too dang expensive to go losing them all over town.

LEGOs are special toys. They build fine motor skills. They develop creativity and nudge kids toward engineering and architecture. Their worldwide appeal transcends age and gender. The future could hold countless hours of building, playing and learning, and that doesn’t even include the theme parks, movies and video games.

So don’t make me regret the decision to get these for you early, Champ. Follow the freakin’ rules.

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