Why I Love Toy Jail
Disclaimer: Toy Jail is not my idea. I stole it from a friend who probably stole it from Pinterest.
First, a quick definition: Toy Jail is a bin or basket designated for any items your child refuses to pick up. Toys are then held in “jail” for a set period of time or earned back with good behaviour. For example, if I told my 3-year old to pick up her blocks and she didn’t, I would put those blocks into the Toy Jail tote and she wouldn’t be allowed to play with them again until she did something nice to free them from The Clink (tidy up another time, for example).
In short, Toy Jail is pure parenting genius.
I love Toy Jail because:
1. It works
Toy Jail was relatively successful in getting my kidlette to clean up after herself. It took her a few days to “get” it, but once she understood that the toys in the bin don’t come out of the bin, she got with the program. Now I’d say threatening Butterbean with Toy Jail works about 70% of the time, and I’ve noticed that she is more likely to tidy up after herself without any prompting from me (spontaneous clean-up doesn’t happen often – barely ever, if I’m honest – but it’s more than she was doing before). The 30% of the time Toy Jail doesn’t work to get Butterbean to pick up, it still works for me because…
2. I’m lazy
I am not stuck picking up my daughter’s toys, making sure all of the bits and bobs and tiny pieces for specific sets are accounted for, and tidying her shelves. In fact, it’s almost better when she doesn’t clean up because I can just throw all of her stuff in Toy Jail without following her around, telling her where things go, etc. I just dump it and leave it. What used to take me a half hour to clean up now takes about 2 minutes – throw toys in the tote, move tote back to its home in Sprout’s room, and walk away. It’s amazing.
3. It allows me to be totally neutral
Because clean-up is so easy for me now, I literally don’t care what Butterbean does with her toys, and I’m able to be completely neutral about it. I don’t get angry or frustrated and I’m never locked in a power struggle with my preschooler. If she doesn’t clean up, the consequence is Toy Jail. End of story, and neither of us get bent out of shape about it.
4. I think bribery is a perfectly acceptable parenting technique
Toy Jail provides me with a whole bin of currency for bribery that is a) good for my kid’s health (opposed to cookies or chocolate), b) effortless (opposed to reading an extra book before bed or playing baby for the millionth time), and c) free (opposed to a trip to the store or a visit to Starbucks). Did you clean your room? Bust Horace the Elephant from Toy Jail. Can you brush your teeth without whining about it? Grab your doll house from the Big House. Were you an exceptionally good listener? I see an alligator who can get out of the slammer early on good behaviour.
5. Fewer toys in rotation is a good thing
I’ve always wanted to do a toy rotation (where you hide half of your kid’s stuff for weeks at a time and then switch it out so they think they have new toys), but we never had the space to do it before. Toy Jail is basically a forced rotation system and it is awesome. When she has fewer items to play with, Butterbean enjoys her toys more. Also, it means easier, quicker clean-up of the toys that are “free”. The Bean’s room has never been so refreshingly clutter free.
I think the only thing I don’t like about our Toy Jail is the fact that it’s obviously too small. I really do need a bigger bin.
[Original “Operation Clean-Up-After-Your-Own-Damn-Self” post here.]