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Toy Jail: An Approach to Teaching Children Responsibility


Toy jail is a great way to overcome one of parenting’s most difficult challenges: persuading your kids to put away their toys. The concept encourages kids to pack their toys after playing with them.

If you’re tired of stumbling over toys and Lego, why not create a toy jail and see if it works?

What Is Toy Jail?

Toy jail, as the name suggests, is a place where toys that are carelessly left lying around or thrown away are locked up in a container until your child finishes an assigned task.

The toy jail’s concept is really straightforward. A child’s toys will go into toy jail if they are left lying around after playtime. The child would have to do a chore in order to get the toy back.

Benefits of Toy Jail

A toy jail will not only teach your kids responsibility when they refuse to clean up after playing with their toys, but it will also promote good habits and help you get some extra chores done.

Toy jail teaches kids to take care of their possessions and respect their living space. It urges them to refrain from leaving their toys lying about the house.

How to Implement Toy Jail

Tell your child to put away their toys after playing with them. Any toys that are still lying around after then are collected into a container and placed somewhere your kid can’t access them.

All you need to do to make the task of collecting the toys simple is to get some specified containers and place the toys inside. Plastic containers with lids make for a terrific toy jail and a way to reduce the clutter in your living space.

Different parents have set up different methods of teaching children to bail their favourite toys. If their kids are better at putting away the rest of their toys, some parents return the toys to them after a few days. Other parents make their children earn the freedom of their toys by performing household chores.

Is a Toy Jail Harsh or Too Strict?

As a parent, if you understand how the toy jail system works, you wouldn’t think of it as being harsh on your kids.

Toy jail is an easy approach for kids to understand the consequences of not picking up their toys. They have to earn those toys back if they care about them.  If your child leaves a toy out, it is put in the toy jail until they earn it back.

Some of the ways kids can earn back their toys or break them out of the toy jail include doing a random act of kindness, completing a chore, or choosing a toy instead of dessert.

Toy jail is a great option for a busy household, as opposed to other cleanup solutions. Tossing  kid’s toys into a container requires hardly any time, and the practice may remain with your family and apply to other items after the toy years have passed.

Listen to toy jail with Luke, Susie, and Bonnie to learn more.



Susie: Luke and Susie with you for Faith family culture. And I saw something on Little Miss Organised social media recently. Yeah, I want to discuss it with her. 

Luke: And you got so excited. You got so excited by this concept, a bit of a theatrical way to consider applying parenting skills with their children and to make a point. 

Susie: Is it good or bad? That’s what I want to talk about. 


And it comes to there might be JAIL involved in this process, but in a less dramatic way than maybe you think on your frustrating parenting moments. More on this with Little Miss Organised Bonnie Black. Sometimes our children just leave their toys all over the floor. And the response we’re going to consider taking bad boys, bad boys, what you’re going to do? What you’re going to do when they come, boys, is we’re going to lock our children up. 

Susie: That song is bad toys. Bad toys. What are you going to do? It’s TOY JAIL. Bonnie Black, Little Miss Organised I’ve seen this concept sort of floating around for a little while where if toys are left out, they get collected up, put in a specific place, and they’re not returned until someone does a chore. So it’s like you earn back the toy that you left out. 


Yeah, it’s a great way to actually help kids learn to take responsibility for their things, because how often do kids just walk around the house leaving this trail of destruction behind them? And I find that in places and this is in my house too, when we have those five minute toys, the tambourine, that the kids love to bang around for a minute or two, and then they drop and they move on to the action figure that maybe says a couple of phrases and they press that a couple of times and they drop that, too. It just becomes this whole trail of destruction around the house. And as a parent, one of the worst things is feeling like you’re nagging your children to constantly clean up, because that’s what it feels like you’re doing. 

Luke: So when you release the toy from jail, is it like fully released or is it on parole and has to visit a parole? 

Bonnie: I love how you’re fixating on the jail thing. 

Luke: You’re fixating on the queen. I’m fixating on the game. 


Look, this is the strategy I actually do at home with my three kids, who are six, five, and nearly three, and we have a TOY JAIL that if a toy gets left out, we put it into the TOY JAIL and at the end of the week. So Sunday night is when TOY JAIL gets emptied and anything that’s left in there gets donated. But we have three ways that toys can get released from JAIL.

One of them is by doing a chore. So it might be something simple like wiping down the bench after breakfast. Another way is if you have finished your dinner and you would like to get a toy from TOY JAIL instead of having dessert. That’s the second way. And then the third way, which has actually been really good for our family, is if you’ve done an act of kindness that we’ve just spotted randomly, then we’ll come and say to our kids, you’ve just done this to that person. Well done. Would you like to go and get a toy out of toy jail? 

Luke: Which is really fascinating to wrap my head around how this would work potentially with our children. But when you put the toy in the TOY JAIL, do you read it? It’s Miranda rights. 

Bonnie: I don’t even know what they are.

Susie: So let me tell you, TOY JAIL is one concept, looking at the posts that you did on Facebook. So one family, they called it their oh-oh box, not a jail. Another had a suitcase that they put it in. They called the SUITCASE GAZ. So there’s different ways it doesn’t have to be called TOY JAIL. 

Luke: No, I’m with the JAIL and I could be the warden. 

Bonnie: It’s all about the power. 

Susie: What age do you think this starts to work most effectively, Bonnie? 


Well, as I said, we’re doing it with our two year old, and he really understands it. I feel that around the 15 months mark, when kids really start to get comprehension of what you as a parent are saying, I feel like you could probably start to introduce the concept around the age of two, and it would probably work okay.

It might work better for our two year old because he is the third and he sees how it works with the older two. But now that we’ve been implementing it for maybe six months, yeah, they’re very used to it. It’s not something I have to kind of reinforce the rules or anything like that.

So it’s just about introducing something slowly. And then, I guess, working up as they do get a bit older and increasing the knowledge about it. 

Luke: I would imagine that it’ll be difficult if you’ve got a 17 year old to put their car in their TOY JAIL. 

Bonnie: You know what? There are some 17 year olds who need to have their car keys in jail. 

Luke: Yes. No, I’m with you. 

Bonnie: On their phone or their phone. 


I can imagine as the kids get older, there will be a bit of a kickback to not treat them like little kids, but for different personalities, it could work really, really well. But the concept for me is to go, if you achieve what you want to achieve, does it mean that the kids are clean up because you’ve done this, or is it just that they act better in order to get it back? 

Bonnie: It’s actually not about the cleaning up so much as it’s about taking responsibility. So for parents who have got kids that lose their hat, their lunch box, their water bottle constantly at school, this is actually a good way at home to kind of reinforce that looking behind you and checking before you go to the next phase. Have I packed up everything behind me rather than losing things all the time? 

Luke: Okay, I’m going to start getting my stuff put in toy jail for the work. This is an interesting thing to explore. 

Susie: I was going to ask does it works for partners.

Luke: This is an interesting thing to explore Bonnie Black, Little Miss Organised, thank you so much for your time. 


Thanks for having me. Bye.


So, if you’re ready to reclaim your home from the toy tornado. It is time to take on the role of a warden and lock up all of those toys! You will appreciate your living space, and your kids will pick up some positive new habits and responsibilities.




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