How could I change this sentence in order for it to sound more natural and easier to be understood by a toddler?

I've been using 'unassailable' or 'take them apart' but both sound strange.


10 Answers 10


There's nothing wrong with saying "Take apart your legos*† before putting them back into the box." (Or, equivalently, "Take your legos apart before putting them back into the box.") "Take apart" is a fairly common phrasal verb, and it's about as simple and straightforward a phrase as you can get to express this to a toddler — or anyone, really: it's not baby talk or otherwise condescending, it's just a simple phrase for a simple concept.

*American English usage considers the "lego" to primarily be the block itself, and only by normal pluralization (etc) to be the collection of such blocks. British English is the reverse. Since you put "Legos" in the title of your question, I assume you're using American English, which conveniently is my native dialect.
As a generic term for a type of block toy, there's no need to capitalize it. The trademark is in all-caps anyway: LEGO®.

  • 18
    I'm surprised this got a downvote. When I looked up "Take apart the Legos" on Google, it had more hit results than disassemble or undo combined. More often than not, this is how I'd say it.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 19:40
  • @J.R.: I figure I got my random downvote quota in for the week, at least? Maybe the month, if I'm lucky! :P Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 19:51
  • @j.r. I'm very surprised, too. For some reason I think it's mostly non-native speakers who downvote answers like this. This is absolutely the most common way of saying this.
    – user428517
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 23:41
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    @J.R. - At a guess the downvote is the pluralisation of "legos". If I hadn't already read Nathan's comment on the question itself explaining that it's common in the US, I'd have been horrified to see this from a native speaker.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 10:55
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    "Take your lego(s) apart ..." works, too. Although personally I'd say "Take apart [the thing you just built]", since you don't actually build Lego unless you work at the Lego factory, and you don't take them apart unless you work at a recycling facility.
    – Jason C
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 14:43

Another option is to dismantle your Legos.

  1. to disassemble or pull down; take apart:

    They dismantled the machine and shipped it in pieces.


"Disassemble your Legos" sounds appropriate, but talking to a toddler probably "undo your Legos" sounds easier.

  • 11
    I think "take apart" would be much more likely to be understood by a toddler. I can't imagine anyone saying "undo your Legos" to a toddler.
    – user428517
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 23:42
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    Undo is poor phrasing. The opposite is do, and so "Do your lego" doesn't work. You assemble, or you put together lego. So disassemble is correct, or take apart for simplicity.
    – i-CONICA
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 9:03
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    @i-CONICA: Your logic is flawed. We do say "undo your laces" and "undo the gate", although "do your laces" and "do the gate" don't work.
    – TonyK
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 9:32
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    @TonyK that's interesting - I'd say that "do your laces" sounds completely natural to me whereas I've never heard anyone say "do/undo the gate"! (British English speaker)
    – Tom Fenech
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 9:52
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    Given all comments posted so far, it appears that the correct/common usage of "do and undo" could be the subject for a new question :).
    – user5267
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:49

Put them together and take them apart

Construct them and then de-constuct them

Assemble and disassemble

Make and break

Connect and disconnect

Build and destroy

Create and start again

  • 2
    I'd feel it'd go more like Create/Destroy and Build/tear down but that's just me Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 1:03
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    "Destroy" and "Tear down" sounds a bit drastic. The special case with lego is that the building blocks can be used again -they are not broken. Specially for a toddler, it will be less drastic to "take apart" than "destroy".
    – awe
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 7:53
  • 1
    To make Lego bricks you'd need an injection moulding machine. Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 14:47

No one has thought of explaining why the expression unbuild is inappropriate.

After all, if we do a belt up, (fasten) we can also undo it.

Likewise, you can fix your hair into a bun or ponytail, and later unfix it.

We lock the car door when we leave, and unlock it when we come back.

Yet, to build and unbuild lego (or legos) will sound weird to many native speakers.

If we can assemble an Ikea wardrobe, i.e. we fix the pieces together; we ought to say: unassemble, when its time to move to a new home. But unassembled refers to the flat pack that we have bought at Ikea, the wardrobe that is in pieces and lies patiently in its box waiting to be assembled. Instead, the correct verb to use is disassemble.

English is never 100% logical, why shouldn't a child's construction be unconstructed? The word exists, but unconstructed does not mean unbuild, it means "not (yet) constructed". Well blow me down...

I suppose to unbuild something would be like asking a partner to uncook dinner because it was unappetizing, once a meal has been cooked, it cannot be uncooked. In fact, uncooked food means food which is raw, or has not been cooked.

So, I think the same theory applies to building. For example, when a sandcastle is built, the action is completed. A sandcastle will not last for days, but it might survive for a few hours, until the heat from the sun dries the wet sand and the castle crumbles, or until it is washed away by the tide.

A different action must intervene, in order to reverse the process of building. And, by necessity, it must be destructive. Destruction, not uncreation, is the opposite of creation. The sandcastle must decay; crumble; disintegrate; be knocked down; collapse; or fall apart, in order for it to return to its original state.

A child's lego construction must therefore be destroyed, in some measure, i.e. taken apart if the lego bricks are to return to their original state.


Put away your Lego

You put away toys, and Lego is a toy like any other. Put away your bike, put away your paints, put away your screaming ninja turkey...

  • 4
    I suggested this partly because it sounds awfully micromanaging to make disassembly a condition of tidying up after or during play.
    – Rich
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 22:53
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    In a few days this webpage will be the only Google result for "screaming ninja turkey". At the moment there are none. Congrats.
    – Chro
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 10:43
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    This doesn't answer the main thrust of the question: the taking apart of the models before putting them away.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 10:53
  • @AndyT except that even a toddler (who is capable of assembling them in the first place) shouldn't have a problem grasping that the assembled model will not fit back where it belongs, and logically conclude that it should be disassembled first.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 3:49
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    This is ELL, not Parenting. The question is about the appropriate way to phrase the specific request, not whether a more generic request would be better. Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 20:16

In a similar vein to "take apart," "break up" works well (and, to me, feels more natural) in this context as you are breaking up the whole into its smaller parts.

  • That would be well understood, I think. But do you want to encourage young kids to "break" anything? ;-) I envisage "smashing" happening...
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:20
  • @Dan I don't think "breaking" necessarily has destructive connotations in all contexts and certainly "breaking up" is very different from just "breaking"... I think that's a non-issue.
    – Ant P
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:37
  • You're likely right; I was being light-hearted. But still, "break up" feels more destructive than "take apart," especially to a young hyper kid.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:44
  • I (an AmE native) would be inclined toward "break down" as more similar to "disassemble" or "dismantle" (preserving bricks or modules for reuse/reassembly). "Break up" connotes "destroy" (and thence dispose of or recycle plastic material), although I can accept it as applied to destroying the finished structure since the basic components (LEGO bricks) are inherently modular and explicitly intended for reuse. Or follow with the ever popular "You know what I mean!" "Tear down" would also work (but not "tear up").
    – BillR
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:16
  • @BillR interesting one - to me "break down" works well in certain contexts, where the process is systematic: breaking down a problem, breaking down an engine. For lego, though, "break up" feels more natural - possibly because it is somewhat destructive in nature: the process of taking the whole and breaking it up into pieces, where those pieces aren't really components... just pieces. "Break down" lego sounds more systematic than the process actually is - I don't break down a lego construction, I break it up.
    – Ant P
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:28

I've no idea if this is a Br Eng - only expression, or more regional than that - but I might say 'Take it to bits' for this kind of situation.

  • I believe it's more BrE, but it's fairly intelligible for most AmE as well. Not sure teaching a toddler that is the best idea in America, though; it might sound a bit strange. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 6:48

I agree take apart sounds the best for a toddler, but what I would say is "put your legos back in the tub/box".

The toddler legos come in a big plastic tub. If you bought several tubs then you likely store them all in a bit bin or box. Telling them, then showing them putting the legos back in the tub requires taking them apart, is probably better then trying to explain vocabulary to someone that is barely speaking.

That said, I would personally use disassemble in place of take apart. No reason not to start the vocabulary building with simple house hold tasks.

  • I would have voted this answer up but for suggesting to use disassemble to a toddler. It just sounds formal for everyday language.
    – learner
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 21:28
  • tomato/tomato. It's how I was thought when I was that young. My grandparents, especially, always used formal or odd words for everyday tasks. Works better then a word a day.
    – coteyr
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 0:42

I think the word "dismantle" might do, as you are not actually 'breaking' the Lego pieces. The Lego assembly may not involve assemblies that we perceive as being "built", e.g., would placing a brick under a Lego's man count as building? What about placing an screens obj its helmet?

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