Take a look around your house. If it is anything like mine used to be, it might be cluttered. You may see toys, electronics, stuffed animals….the list goes on and on! At least it was until toy jail moved in.
It is not that my kids don’t know they need to pick up after themselves. They don’t do it. They choose just to drop things and leave them where they end up. The only time they pick up is when I finally have to tell them to do so.
Well, at least, that used to be the case. One snowy afternoon, I’d had it. I hit my breaking point. After having had told them to pick up items more than once, I threatened them that if they did not pick up their things, then they would all be headed off to toy jail. The funny thing is that they didn’t think I was serious. Imagine their surprise when all of their toys were suddenly gone.
When they returned from playing outside, they noticed the house was picked up. But there, on the kitchen table, was a note telling them what had happened. Their toys had landed themselves in toy jail.
TEACH KIDS TO PICK UP USING TOY JAIL
The concept is simple. You pick up your toys, or they go to jail. Period. We told our kids that if they wanted their toys back, they had to bail them out of jail.
And what was the cost for bail? One chore.
For each toy in jail, one household chore must be completed. And, not just regular chores such as setting the table or taking out the trash. These are random chores like vacuum the living room floor, rake up the leaves, etc.
When they finished, we sat down and talked. We discussed how we needed to respect the home where we live. Leaving items where they felt like that was not the way to do that. I told them that I would give one warning about reminding them to pick up (I mean, they are kids after all and will forget). However, that is it. After that, it is off to toy jail.
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 kids.
Is this too tough? Maybe. Maybe not. But with three kids leaving a tornado in their wake, something had to be done. Since we implemented this system, only a handful of items have landed in jail. They learned their lesson quickly, and they know that I am not bluffing. I have no problems with toy jail.
It is essential that kids learn to respect not only their space but our home and me. When they leave items out, it tells me they don’t care. They feel no responsibility for their things, nor do they care how they disrespect me and our house when doing so.
Fortunately for us, toy jail did not last long. They learned their lessons quickly and started picking items up when asked – and even before they were asked.
Respect goes both ways. And it is a lesson kids absolutely must learn.