The Uh Oh Toy Ransom Box Experiment

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toy ransom box

I saw the cutest idea on Pinterest and Facebook floating around – an uh oh toy ransom box – and vowed to try it one day with my kids.

Well, as I was stomping around last week (very irritated), picking up stray toys, socks and soccer balls everywhere, I decided it was time.  I made my own “Uh Oh Toy Ransom Box.”

First of all, THANK you to the “Just Another Day in Paradise” blog for this fabulous idea. I found you on Pinterest, and I am so excited to try this idea for my family.

Here’s the basic concept:  you create a box or a bin where forgotten or “misplaced” toys go when your kids leave them strewn about the house.  In order for your kids to retrieve them, they have to complete a chore from the envelope and earn them back.

I am “pro” chores and “pro” earning the privilege for something, so this idea was right up my alley.

And yes, I have been slightly (ahem…maybe a little more than slightly) frustrated that I find the kids’ stuff EVERYWHERE.

If you’re playing with it, absolutely no problem.  If you race through a room like a tornado, dump toys everywhere, leave the room, and forget about it for hours…not okay in my book.

So, I decided to conduct this little experiment. I made the box, explained it to my kids, and thought I’d journal about our experience.  I’d like to share with you how this ransom box worked for my kiddos…

Choosing the Toy Ransom Box Chores 

I read through the “Just Another Day in Paradise” blog again, which gives some great chore ideas…but a handful of them didn’t really apply to us.  I brainstormed what would work for each of my kids, and here’s what I came up with (per the blog’s suggestion, a combination of chores and physical activities that were age-appropriate).

My 4-year-old’s chores:

Collect dirty clothes for the laundry
Wipe the baseboards of one room
Dust a shelf
Wipe off a cabinet (of my choosing)
Pick up the dog toys around the house
Soccer drills for two minutes
Play “Simon Says” with Mommy (which will include exercise!)
Clean under your bed
Do 30 Jumping Jacks

My 6-year-old’s chores:

Organize your homework station and art supplies
Clean out your doll bin
Do 30 Jumping Jacks
Hop on each foot 10 times
Soccer drills for two minutes
Organize the kid DVDs
Wipe down the kid’s bathroom sink
Dust shelves in the playroom
Write a thank you or friendship note to someone
Clean under your bed

Day 1:

ransom The kids were super excited to see a large plastic bin, with envelopes taped to the side.  With their names on it.  My little thought it was some sort of bizarre present.  My big read the instructions, and was tickled that mommy was introducing a new “game.”  Okay kids, let’s go with that.  It’s a “game.”

My big was happy!  Just look at that smile!

I decided to give my kids one verbal warning to pick up a random toy.  Just one.  No yelling. No nagging.  No getting frustrated and picking it up myself. One warning.  Then off to the bucket it would go.  I figured this was a fair way to start the experiment…since it was a brand new way to go about things.

First afternoon when they got home from school, they eyed the bucket and nagged each other to pick up toys.   Hmmmm.  This was an unexpected twist.  Pro:  toys were being picked up frequently – and not by me.  Con:  more bickering about who was going to pick up what.

My little said (let me see if I get this right) “Mommy, please don’t put any of my toys in the Uh Oh box.  That would make me so, so sad.  I want all of my toys.”

Interesting observation: neither kid has bothered to peek in their envelopes to see what the chores actually are.

Day 2:

Kids woke up, and were still discussing the Uh Oh Toy Ransom Box mongst themselves.  (This box is  making quite the impression.  Interesting).

My lawyer (i.e. my 6-year-old) asked me the following: “Mom, what if one of us accidentally left out Benny Bear and he couldn’t fit in the Uh Oh box?”

Me: Honey, Benny Bear is a 40-pound stuffed bear that is almost as tall as daddy.  I doubt he is accidentally going to be left anywhere. (Ha!  Stumped her on that one.) sadransombox

Later that day, my little had his first “Uh Oh.”  He left a train out in the hallway, and after one warning, I made good on my promise.  I put the train in the Uh Oh box.  Talk about devastated.  He cried and whined and begged for the train back.  I stayed strong and had him pick a chore from the chore envelope…which was to clean under his bed.

He did it…and whined the whole time…but he did it.  Hmmm, maybe I should make a “no whining rule” with the chores??

Here is my sad little.  Uh oh. –>

Day 3:

Now that the kids understand the concept, I stopped giving them that first warning.  Especially my big.  She’s such a rule follower, she has been super careful about picking up everything.  And bossing around my little about him picking things up.  Why didn’t I implement this concept earlier???

Day 4:

My big finally left something out!  There was her Twilight Sparkle pony, left on the stairs.  Off it went to the Uh Oh box!  And she dutifully (and dare I say, excitedly??) picked a chore…and wiped down the kid’s bathroom sink.  The difference between my big and little?  No whining from my big.  She got her pony back, and was happy as could be.  Let’s see how long this lasts…


This was a great little experiment with a great little idea for keeping toys and random kid items picked up.  My kids are having fun with the concept…although like with anything…I’m sure at some point it will lose its luster.  But at the moment, this mama is enjoying a less cluttered house!

Thank you again to the “Just Another Day in Paradise” blog for this great idea!

If you decide to try this idea, let me know how it goes. And, if you have a great way to have your kiddos pick up after themselves, let us know…we’re in this together!


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  1. 1
    jen says:

    I really love this idea. The timing is impeccable because my husband just about came to the end of his rope over the weekend with the amount of STUFF left in the wake when they move from one thing to another endlessly. I think we are going to give this a go! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. 2
    christy says:

    Jen – so glad you like the idea!!! I was really happy to try it out too, and so far, so good. I was definitely at the end of my rope with all of the kid stuff EVERYwhere in the house, and this has definitely helped (at least for the time being). Let me know how it goes!

  3. 3
    Sanjiv says:

    How clever! Heaven knows you can nag till you’re blue in the face about tidying up, but implementing a clear and simple system of consequences seems to really work.

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