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Reward Charts for Young Children

Reward Charts for Young Children

Shop bought or free incentives for children's reward charts? We spoke to Sally an experienced parenting programme facilitator:

Whilst facilitating a parenting programme session recently, I had just explained the reward chart and sticker process, when a parent asked what kind of rewards were they supposed to give their children, as they can’t afford lots of stuff, and this could get expensive.

I explained that the stickers were the reward and that we do not have to buy anything to reward our children, this started a big discussion. Some of the parents said that their children would not be happy with just some ‘stupid stickers’, whilst others accepted that the stickers would be enough or some other form of inexpensive treat would suffice.

I am writing about this is because I have found that this is a familiar response from parents: When talking about reward charts or rewarding good behaviour, parents will nearly always feel that they have to buy the child something or do an activity that costs a fortune.

I was wondering how and why parents have gotten into this trap of rewarding children. We seem to have to buy them the latest this or that, trainers, MP3 players, mobile phone, consoles and games,. When I was a child, a biscuit or a picnic in the garden worked well enough! But times have changed and there is pressure on parents to spend money on kids so that they don’t feel left out.

I have been guilty of rewarding my children with bought rewards that they wanted, though this does not happen all the time. Rewards are not usually expensive and the children would have to have tried really hard to accomplish a task to gain a bigger than usual reward.

On the odd occasion I have used 'a wanted item', like the proverbial carrot to get them to change behaviour, it had only been after trying the ‘sticker’ chart and not having any luck even though I was consistent and I did it by the book (well I would wouldn’t I, I am a facilitator!)

For example I had problems getting my three year old to go to sleep in her own bed and stay there. I tried a sticker chart for a couple of weeks, and wasn’t having much luck and the problem continued, even though I was being consistent.

So I offered an incentive (a Peppa Pig umbrella). She had to stay in her bed for five nights to earn the umbrella, and she desperately wanted the Peppa pig umbrella! It worked! I got to enjoy my evenings and sleep with out being kicked all night. By that time she had got used to sleeping in her bed and didn’t come back to mine.

When a problem occurs and other methods of discipline have not been successful, I have tried some of the things on the list below that I have put together with parents on parenting programmes - rewards and activities that can be inexpensive or free. I have to mention that these activities are more for younger children and it seems that as they get older the pressure to ‘buy’ becomes harder to resist.

I hope you find the following list of free or make rewards useful for your parents.

Rewards to buy or make

Treasure Hunt – indoors or outside
Dressing up – you keep the dressing up box
Potato printing
Make–up – Lip gloss, paint nails (before bath time!)
Drumming - band practice (on pots and pans with wooden spoons)
Trying shoes on (mum’s high heels or dad's wellies?)
Face packs – made with porridge oats
Kite flying
Daisy chains
Splodging – wellies and raincoats
Crabbing if you live by or travel to the coast
Nature table – ladybird house – wormery – bird feeder
Christmas cards/ crackers/paper chains
Toasted marshmallows
Tents and picnic (clothes horse and sheets/blankets)
Dolly hospital – toilet roll bandages
Snakes and ladders
Tiddley winks
Playing shops – buy and sell tinned food for 1ps and 2ps
Make cake/biscuits
Plant seeds – including apple pips, avocado seed, cress etc
Sleepovers – sleeping bags, torches, DVD, popcorn
Playing post office
Dens/boats from cardboard boxes
Shows – rope or string and blankets to make curtains
Go to park – feed ducks, roll down the hill
Visit the library
Have a tea party
Visit local museum (most are free, but check before you go)
Have a friend round to play
Go swimming (it’s free for under 16’s)
Hopscotch – need chalk
Make puppets from old socks
Go on an adventure/mystery walk/trip
Build snowman (depending on weather)
Make an obstacle course
Collect shells at the beach (if you live close to one)
Family capsule – put photos, colouring pictures, poems etc in a Tupperware box.

If you have activities to add or some ideas for older children send me a message ( and I’ll add them to the list. 

Have a look at these great Reward Charts that you can print out and the children can colour in

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