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Non-Food Rewards


I was able to go to a training yesterday for  Gold Medal Schools, a program designed to implement healthy activities and policies into our elementary school.   Our school had not been involved with this state funded program, so I asked the principal if I could start it at our school.  She was very supportive.

One of the requirements to get state funding is to implement a non-food reward system at the school.  They said, “When treats are offered as a reward for daily activities, children quickly learn to prefer “junk food” over healthier food.”  Kids then end up associating junk food, with being good or feeling happy.  Some studies actually show children PREFER non-food rewards. I think it’s US sometimes that think food rewards are the best.

This definitely applies to raising kids.  Instead of food rewards, here are some alternatives.
  • Charts using stickers, points, tally’s, stamps, etc.  Once chart is full, child chosen activity follows.
  • Buckets to be filled with beans, pebbles, etc. Once jar or bucket is full, turn in for a new toy.
  • Extra play time or privileges (I admit I use this one almost exclusively.  My kids get 30 minutes of video game time per day.  If they do something extra special or really good, I let them have a few extra minutes of game time! It works for the boys.)
  • Use play money they can turn in for a privilege or toy.
  • Pajama party with mom or dad!
  • Choose something from a “treasure box”
  • Coupon for a movie night.
  • Extra story read at night
  • Raffle tickets
  • Books, stickers, pencils, bouncy balls, jump ropes, erasers

Here is another post I wrote about non-food rewards.  Can you think of any other non-food rewards?

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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Gina, that would work for my kids too. I’m always in such a rush and we drive past a park and they are begging to make a stop. I really need to say yes more often.
Tatiana, great idea! We have the scholastic warehouse by our home with great clearance sales twice a year so I always tell my kids to wait for the sale. But then they never get the thrill of getting the book during class like some other kids. They would be excited if I let them place an order once in a while.

My kids favorite reward is to sleep in their sleeping bags on the floor. They also like to invite their brother or sister over to their room for a sleep over. Of course extra t.v., computer time, and stay up 30 min. late are good choices too. We also have a play game with mom or dad (this means only parent and child play. They love having us to themselves for a while). We don’t like to have them “pay us” for individual time, so we don’t have many of these. My kids get play money for chores and good behavior. They buy priviledges for $2 each. This give them a chance to feel successful.

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