Toy Jail – How and Why We Use This Awesome Parenting Tool!

Toy Jail - How and why we use this awesome parenting tool!

Toy Jail - How and why we use this awesome parenting tool!

Last week I shared with you about toy timeouts and why we love them so much. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post you can do so by clicking here. Today I wanted to share something we use just as much: Toy Jail.

(There are affiliate links in this post, meaning we may get a small commission from any purchases you make. . Click here to read our full disclosure policy.)

So what’s the difference between Toy Jail and a Toy Timeout?


Toy timeouts are meant to give kids time and space to process why they are losing the privilege of playing with that toy. Just like a kid timeout, it gives them time to think. A toy might end up in timeout for as little as 5 minutes, or as long as a week, but they’ll always get it back when the time is up. Toy jail is similar, but with one distinct difference: If a toy gets sent to toy jail the child will always have to do something to earn it back.

Related: Why Kids Need to be Bored

We use Toy Jail for the following situations:

  • If toys aren’t being cared for properly.
  • If toys are left out after the child’s been asked to put them away (and of course, has been given reasonable time to do so).
  • And sometimes if toys are being played with in an inappropriate way. (This is a scenario where sometimes we use a toy time out, but if the situation is more serious or is a recurring issue, the toy might actually go into Toy Jail and need to be earned back.)

How are toys earned back from Toy Jail?

Our kids can earn toys back from toy jail several different ways. At first we started just having them do an age appropriate chore in order to earn the toy back. Now we have a system of reward tickets that they earn throughout the day (more on that soon) and one of the ways our kids can choose to use those tickets to buy toys back out of toy jail.

So why do we love Toy Jail SO much?

Toy jail is an awesome parenting tool, because it’s a real life natural consequence. It just makes so much sense to lose the privilege of playing with a toy for a time if it hasn’t been cleaned up or cared for properly. And having to actually earn it back really solidifies that lesson in a child’s mind.


But my favorite thing about toy jail is that it has helped me to weed out toys that my kids say they care about, but really don’t.

You see when it’s time to sort through the toy basket for items to throw away or donate there can be so much drama. My kids turn into little hoarders and they don’t want to get rid of anything. But I’ve learned, if it toy ends up in toy jail it is a great test to see if they actually care enough to earn it back.

Related: Our Journey Towards Minimalism

If they’ve had the chance to earn a toy back several times and don’t decide to do so it’s automatically going in the donate box.

(They know this.) And that has been a great way for us to weed out toys without the normal drama and tears and gnashing of teeth. In fact, many times when given the choice between earning a toy back or donating it my girls have actually chosen to donate it and that is an awesome thing. It’s a win win for everyone!

Now, even though my kids get the opportunity to earn toys back from toy jail, they don’t always get to do so right away.

If the toy has been taken away because they were using it inappropriately, it might have to stay in jail for up to a month before they’ll even have the chance to earn it back. This is a great addition to the natural consequences of the toy being taken away in the first place and gives them a lot of time to think about what they might do differently next time.

Just like any parenting tool, this won’t work for every kid or every situation.

It works best when implemented with lots of love and respect for everyone involved. But it is a fabulous tool, and something that has helped us to gently provide real world consequences and (hopefully) equip our kids to succeed in the real challenges of life.

Love this article? Spread the love by sharing the link with your friends. For more practical parenting advice, click here.

Toy Jail - How and why we use this awesome parenting tool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.