Teaching Our Children Responsibility for Their Things. Why Toy Jail Works for Us.

Toy Jail!!  This is where those left out toys go when not claimed....and the "bail" is a chore!!!!!

If your house looks anything like mine, you look around and see electronics, stuffed animals, blankets and toys.   It wasn’t even just toys.  It was food wrappers.   It is not that my kids don’t know they need to pick up after themselves.  They just don’t do it.  They choose to just drop things and leave them were they end up.  The only time they pick up is when I finally have to tell them to do so.

Well, that use to be the case.  One snow day last year, I had had it.  I had told them to pick up their things more than once.  I had threatened them that if they didn’t pick up their things, they were heading off to toy jail.  They didn’t think I was serious.  Imagine their surprise when all of their toys were suddenly gone.

That day, when they came back inside, they saw the house was picked up.  They saw a note on the table explaining that their items has been place in toy jail.  I also explained to them how they could get them back (see below).  The toys were in a box, in my closet, waiting for them to be bailed out.

They quickly learned that Mom was serious.  Now, they know that I will tell them to pick up their items only one time.  After that, it is off to toy jail.  I don’t remind them time and time again.  After all, they are old enough to pick up after themselves.  After losing blankets, stuffed animals, Nintendos, Minecraft toys (and more), they’ve learned their lesson.  

I chuckled to myself the first time I did this, as I had one of those “I’m just like my mother” moments.  I can recall my mom saying she was going to throw away our shoes if we did not pick them up.  It only took it happening to my sister one time for us both to know that she was serious (as I recall my sister digging through the trash to look for them — when mom had set them on her closet shelf).  She taught me well and I now get the pleasure of passing this along to my own kids.

You might be wondering how they get those toys back.  Well, if they want to bail something out of jail, they have to do something good in return for me, or they can pay me one of their tickets (see my Ticket Reward System).   They can do chores (outside of the normal ones we require of them).   The idea is that if they don’t respect their toys enough to care for them, why should I?

Am I being tough?  Some may think so.  But with 3 kids leaving a tornado in their wake, something had to be done.   Since we started this last year, I’ve only had to put a handful of items into jail.  They learned their lesson quickly and they know that I am not bluffing.  I have no problems with toy tail.

I love my kids more than life itself, and I want them to have respect for not only their belongings, but our home and me as their mom.


  1. Erica says

    You’re not being too hard on them. You are doing what a mother is supposed to do. Good for you.

  2. Aleshia Klaus says

    This is absolutely brilliant I am going to try this with the minefield of Legos that end up all over the house.

  3. says

    Not mean! My daughter was the worst! I used to have an “Emily bag”. All toys that weren’t picked up were put in that bag. At the end of the week, Britt could prove she was responsible and get her toys back. If she couldn’t, the toys went to “Emily down the street”. Britt picked her toys up. Emily got nothing. Britt is now 21 and living on her own. In a darling little bungalow. With clothes strewn all over the place. Giving toys to little kids. It works!