Ways to reward your kids without using food

Missouri Extension has put together a packet to guide parents and teachers.

Whether it’s a huge bag of chips, a bowl of ice cream, or even an extra slice of pizza — we don’t have to look very far to understand why desserts and junk food can be so motivating.

“We get that a lot from the environment we’re in,” said Eden Stewart, Nutrition & Health Expert. “And we make those associations and how we look at food as children.

That’s why Eden and her team at Missouri Extension made this packet — a packet full of other ways that both parents and teachers can reward the kids in their lives — either individually or as a group.

Classroom Rewards - Missouri Extension

“So elementary school kids really like being special, the leader, or they want to be the ones that picket. They pick the book or they pick the animal to explore or the class is looking up to them in that way.”

Junior high kids, they might not want to be the center of attention, but they like certain privileges,” Stewart tells us. “They might want to be able to make up an assignment they didn’t do the day before, they want to take a break, they want to be a TA in that class for that hour. So they might not want the spotlight on them, but they still want something as acknowledgment that might not be a spotlight of everyone in the classroom.

For the adults at home, Eden says it’s a little different. While teacher can impact the big picture, parents are the ones in it.

Eden: Some of my favorite things are those that help parents grow some skills. So obviously reading together is one, including physical activity like a dance party — that’s pretty simple. You can throw on your favorite music, their favorite, it’s getting everybody up and moving.

Eden: Another thing I love about these ideas is that it’s something that helps build families. Playing board games together, painting together, doing those things helps the parents create a stronger relationship with their children and really get to know their children and their personalities.

Clinical Psychologist Jeffrey Burch agrees, and says while your kids may not realize it now, what they ultimately value more than food or presents… is your presence.

Dr. Burch: Well when we think back to our childhood, we may remember a gift that we got, but we’re much more liely to remember those experiences, those memories we have of doing this or doing that with our parents and I think so many kids thrive on that quality time.

Eden: Because we’re really creating an association of moments, right? The greatest reward we feel is with people’s times, and we create these memories of positive things in our lives. So an example is most of us will remember an event longer than we’ll remember a cookie.