Why reward your kids?
Rewards help motivate and inspire. They provide positive reinforcement for good behaviour while helping encourage your child to complete a difficult task. Rewards are recognition for a job well done.
And while descriptive praise and attention are the most effective form of reward a parent can offer a child, tangible rewards such as an activity or a privilege have their place too.
Progress, not perfection.
A reward must be of value. There is no point offering rewards your child isn’t interested in achieving. So if your child likes a particular magazine, make that the reward on offer. And while rewards should never be given out haphazardly, they shouldn’t be impossible to achieve either. Rather, rewards should reflect the effort your child put in to achieve them.
Reward the effort, not the achievement itself. Progress, not perfection.
– Cynthia Crossley, Habyts
When starting out with rewards, ensure your child can achieve them easily before you consider moving the goalposts. This is especially important with young kids. As they grasp the concept, move the goalposts further. For example, if your child started out with brushing their teeth before school, move the goal post to require them to get ready for school without fuss too.
Introducing reward charts
Many parents – especially those with young kids – keep track of rewards with a reward chart – a tool which helps parent and child track their progress to reaching a reward. Reward charts can take many forms, from marble jars to sticker charts to posters stuck on the refrigerator.
See them as a score chart. When your child behaves, you award them a point. When a certain number of points are achieved, you award your child with their reward. Some parents remove a point for bad behaviour. If you do, ensure you explain to your child exactly why you are removing the point so that they understand the consequences.
Kids can have their own reward chart, but if you have a large family, why not consider a joint chart too? Joint reward charts encourage teamwork and cooperation among your kids while helping dispell sibling rivalry and jealousy. Instead of working towards individual rewards, siblings team up to earn family rewards such as a family outing or trip to the cinema.
For some great ideas for reward charts, click here.
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Rewards aren’t bribes.
Put simply, rewards are planned, bribes are spontaneous. Bribes are – more often than not – a last-minute plea by parents to encourage their kids to behave appropriately in a given situation. For example, a child throwing a tantrum in a shop. Bribes are not premeditated – the parent has no prior intention of offering the bribe until the situation arose. So in this example, a parent may unintentionally bribe your child by promising candy if they behave.
With a reward system, the child would already know what is expected of their behaviour in public (the supermarket), and what they stand to lose if they misbehave (the tantrum). If they still choose to play up, they already know the consequences – the might lose a point towards their reward, or at the very least, delay receiving it – and you follow through with this action.
Having an agreed reward system helps avoid emotional blackmail. And your child won’t expect to receive a reward for every single activity, which could result in a false sense of entitlement. So, now you know all about rewards for kids, here are 51 reward ideas to get you started:
Rewards at home.
- Praise. It costs nothing. Zilch. Praise their effort, not the achievement.
- Hi-5. Acknowledge your child’s achievement with this simple, fun action.
- Read a book. Their favourite. And let them choose the time and place.
- Play a Video clip. One you both like. And save it just for these occasions.
- Candy. Enough said. A favourite with kids [and parents] for a reason.
- Stay up late. But not too late! 5-15 minutes extra depending on your child’s accomplishment and whether it’s a school night or not.
- Hot chocolate…or their favourite hot drink. Especially good in Winter.
- Do a puzzle. Together, or as a family. But make sure you finish it!
- What’s for dinner? Let them choose, not just for them but the whole family.
- Bonus screen time. Just a little extra. 15 mins more to say ‘good job’.
- Build an obstacle course. Indoor or out. Let your kids turn a part of your house or garden into their own temporary obstacle course.
- Lick the icing bowl. One for kids young and old…when you’re baking.
- Choose a film…for you to sit down and watch together as a family.
- Be the ‘only child’. Send their siblings away to the grandparents, friends or relatives for the day and make your child the centre of attention.
- Bake together. Let them chose the recipe. The messier, the better!
- Take and print photos. Grab a camera and have some photo fun. And when you’re done, get them printed. Creative, fun and cheap!
- Role reversal. Just for a day. Let your child be the parent and choose where you go, what you do, eat, watch and even go to bed!
- Donate old toys. Gather them up, give them a clean and donate to a children’s ward. Your child will see how their old toys benefit others.
- Make a pinata. Together. And let your child choose its contents.
- Camp out. In the garden. Let them choose where they pitch the tent.
- App or Magazine. Buy them their favourite magazine, or that app they’ve been forever pestering you for. They’ve earned it.
- Paint a feature wall. Preferably their room. Let them pick the colour.
- Save the change. Give your child your loose change – every day for a week – providing they save it for a rainy day.
- Choose the tune. In the car or the house. Whatever they choose, goes.
- Have a sleepover. Not to be given away lightly. Have your kids best friends stay over for a night of fun! An extra special reward.
- Earn art stuff for creative fun. Great for home or school. And no doubt they probably need them!
- Buy an ice cream. Another firm favourite with kids and parents alike.
- Surprise scavenger hunt. In the house or garden. Make the clues challenging and the prize worth it. A favourite tasty treat works well.
- TV Show. Let them have the remote for the evening or just the hour.
- Stickers. Works wonders for young children. But beware, those stickers get EVERYWHERE. That really is part of the fun.
- Extra responsibilities. Kids crave extra responsibility, like looking after the school hamster for a weekend. But make them earn it!
- Visit the Grandparents. Usually a win-win scenario for all involved.
- Earn an item. Just something small which promotes physical activity. A jump rope, football, hula hoop or frisbee all go down a treat.
- Day Off Chores. Reward them with a day off from their daily chores.
- Tie-dye-tastic. Take an old shirt and add a splash of colour. Or a lot!
- Choose a takeaway! Like picking dinner, only better. Your child chooses a takeaway the whole family can enjoy.
- Art session! Grab paints, PVA and get creative and messy together!
- Do a fun science experiment! The messier the experiment, the better of course.
- Give them a raise! Increase their allowance by $1 or £1 that week.
- Kickabout in the garden with Mum or Dad.
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…and for out and about
- Visit a friend. Simple. They’re already looking forward to it. You just repackage it. And you get much needed ‘me time’. Everyone wins.
- Go for a bike ride. Make time for your kids, the two-wheel kind.
- Visit an animal shelter…and if you’re child’s old enough, have them, volunteer! You’ll teach your kids about responsible pet ownership too!
- Plan a family day out. Your child must have done something extra special to earn this one. Let them choose the next family outing.
- Go to the movies. Can you guess who gets to choose the film?
- Go to the park…and make a beeline for the slides and swings!
- Go swimming. A fun activity that’s healthy for you and your kids too!
- Visit a garden centre. Perhaps your child can pick out a particular plant or pot?
- Visit a museum. It’s educational, free and feels like a day out!
- Visit the beach. Best in summer but can be fun all year around. And remember, no trip to the beach is complete without ice cream!
- Sports activity. Play soccer, tennis, baseball or whatever your kids favourite sporting activity. You could even play as a family.
So there you have it. Hopefully, these reward ideas for kids have parked your creative juices! But if you are craving more ideas, why not check out the Habyts Activity Finder. Or, if you have some tried-and-true reward ideas, share them with the community in the comments below.
Any great reward ideas to add? Let us know in the comments below!