January 23, 2012

Toy Jail

I'm pretty sure I stole this idea from someone else's blog.  But being that I filed it away in the back of my mind as something I should someday get around to, and apparently failed to pin because it just seemed so obvious, I have no idea who to credit it to.  I Googled the term "toy jail" and got a bunch of results trying to sell me an actual toy.  So, if this is yours and I'm stealing your thunder, by all means, drop me a note and I'll link to you. 

Anyway, we have started using toy jail as an all around chore motivating tool and I have to say how awesome it has been!  I LOVE TOY JAIL!  Basically, toy jail is a card board box where I put toys that have been left out.  If I've asked the kids to clean their rooms and they've declared them clean, I'll go in and everything that wasn't put away goes in toy jail.  If I step on a toy in the bathroom floor, toy jail.  That pile of stuffed animals in the kitchen floor that had been part of a tea party, but were forgotten when the kids moved on to board games?  Toy jail.

To get a toy out of toy jail, the kids have to do a chore.  Not just any chore.  I have a list of possible chores on the jail itself, but the kids have to get approval first so that I know it's something that actually needs to be done.  If I just took out the bathroom trash, Haven can't make that his chore because it doesn't need to be done. 

On Fridays, any toy still in toy jail goes in the donation box.  This little fact is crucial to toy jail success.  I say, if you didn't love it enough to do the work to get it out, we should give it to someone who will.  The original rule was that anything left in jail for a week or more went to jail, but that meant I had to write down dates instead of recklessly tossing toys in jail.  That's too much work.  The point of toy jail is to make mom's life easier and her children more civilized.  It is NOT meant to make more work for mom.  So we came up with the Friday rule. 

This has been so awesome.  First it was funny to see the kids' reactions to the idea.  They all agreed that it wasn't fair for mom to clean up their toys all the time.  But jail?  So serious.  Hannah Jane actually said, "Mom, it's not fair to send the toys to jail because WE didn't pick them up.  They toys didn't do anything, yet still they are punished."  Nice try, kiddo.  But you're too smart to even buy that story yourself and I know it! 

The first few days of toy jail, there was so much stuff going in and being earned out that I ran out of chores to give the kids.  Everything was clean, plants watered,animals cared for and still there were toys needing to be liberated.  At first I thought this was a flaw in the toy jail system, but then I just said, "Hey, it's not my fault you left out more toys than there are chores.  You'll just have to wait until tomorrow when there are more chores to be done and get your toy then."  Whoa.  This felt serious.  And suddenly they were being very careful not to leave anything out because tomorrow's chores were going to be needed for today's toys. 

They got the hang of it pretty fast and things have stayed consistently tidier since we instated this plan on December 26th.  And there have been some unanticipated positive side effects of toy jail too!  The kids will do chores on each others' behalf and get a toy out for someone else.  It's darling.  Hannah Jane is innately more tidy than the boys when it come to toys.  Probably because if she doesn't put her toys up, the boys get them and break them.  So she's pretty careful.  The whole time we've had toy jail, she's only had maybe 4 items in jail.  But she still does chores to pull her own weight around the house and when she does them, she'll ask if she can transfer her toy credit to one of the boys if she can see that they have something particularly dear to them in jail.  The boys have both done this for each other too.  They tried to do it for Hannah Jane but she didn't have any toys to get.  So toy jail has become a way for the kids to give each other a little gift for no reason.  Such a great surprise! 

So I'm quite pleased with this little form of mommy manipulation.  There's more cooperation around the house and less things being left out.  It's a win all the way around!


  1. O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world.
    (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 26)

    go Skyla!

  2. Haha! You always have the perfect quote! Go Grandpa Darrell!!!

  3. What a neat idea! My boys are too young for this but I will definitely be thinking about implementing toy jail in the future :-)

  4. Friday Execution Day...GENIUS!! I saw the original post on Pinterest, too, and did the exact same thing as you. Your post came up on my "Toy Jail" search (along with all those actual toy "jails," and I LOVE the way you have implemented this!! I'm getting to work on my jail right now and am SO excited about the addition of Execution Day. Not because I want to donate their things, but because I see this as an essential part of the success of the system. Thank you!!!!

  5. Thanks, Princess and Tot friend! My goal was never to donate their things, but it has actually been a nice way to find out what they are truly over. If I say, "Hey, let's find some things to donate because we have too much junk," they cry and say how much they love each item I suggest. But when I rephrase that with "Would you like to do a chore to earn this out of toy jail so it doesn't get donated?" they sometimes say, "No, I never play with that anyway. It's not worth the chore." When they love it, they happily do the chore. When they're over it, they let it go. I'm happy either way.


Hit me with some comments!!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© At Home with Momma Skyla. Powered by