Last week, a mom wrote to me with a problem: At curriculum night, her son’s fifth grade teachers announced that students would be given soda as a weekly reward for good behavior. This mom was (understandably) upset. But she didn’t know what to do. She was worried about speaking up, worried about her son being pegged as “the boy with the mom who got rid of our soda”–and yet, worried about all the sugar her son would be getting at school if she didn’t step in.
I took her cause to my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook community, and you responded–big time. Most of you hated the idea of a soda reward idea. And many of you offered suggestions for non-food rewards that were working in your child’s classrooms. These ideas were so good, I had to share them!
So if you’re struggling with junk food rewards in your child’s classroom, pass this list on to parents, teachers, and administrators. They’re all ideal for elementary school. Some (like homework passes) may also motivate older kids too. Not all of these will work for every school or every classroom–but they’re all proof that kids can feel special and rewarded with things besides candy and soda!
Non-Food Ideas For Class Rewards
The Kind & Helpful Jar: Every time the teacher catches someone being kind or helpful, she puts a marble in a jar. When the jar is full, the class gets an extra recess, a movie, or another privilege.
Special Days: The class gets to wear their pajamas, bring a stuffed animal, wear hats to school, or do “free dress” if they normally wear uniforms.
Game Time: Students bring in their favorite board games and puzzles for the last period of the day.
A Mascot Visit: Students earn coupons for good behavior and deeds, and the class with the most coupons earns a visit from the school mascot.
Class Snow Party: Students bring in snow gear and sleds for outdoor fun.
Lunch Outside: The class brings their lunches outside to eat together on the lawn or playground.
Non-Food Rewards For Individual Students
King or Queen For the Day: The designated royalty gets to be line leader, choose the book to read, or be the teacher’s helper.
Bring a Guest to Lunch Day: A student gets to invite a special grown-up in their life to have lunch in the cafeteria with them.
Class Money: Construction paper coins are laminated and given to kids for good work and behavior. Kids shop with them at the class “store”, which has everything from small trinkets and school supplies to more expensive items. (This also teaches money management and the value of saving!)
Sports Dollars: The PE teacher gives “dollars” for showing good effort, helping other kids, and helping the teacher. Students redeem them for sports-related prizes like balls and jump ropes.
Coupons: Students can have lunch with a buddy (including someone from another classroom), bring a stuffed animal, have their parent bring in their pet, sit in the teachers’ chair for the day, or sit with a friend for the day.
Homework Pass: Redeem it for one homework-free day.
Praise Texts: Teacher sends texts to parents for their child’s achievement at school, whether for academics, sports, or behavior.
Sticker charts: Students earn stickers or stamps on a chart. When it’s all full, they get to choose something from a prize box and are entered into a school-wide raffle for a laptop.
No Shoes Day: The student gets to spend the day walking around the classroom in just socks!