Rethinking Rewards

Food is commonly used to reward students at school. It’s easy and inexpensive however, using food as reward can be harmful. Choose food-free rewards and prizes instead!

 Using food as a reward:

  • Connects food to mood by teaching children to eat even when they are not hungry
  • Confuses children by contradicting the classroom lessons about healthy eating
  • Discourages positive attitudes towards food and lifelong healthy eating habits
  • Encourages eating outside of meal or snack times, which interferes with natural internal hunger and satiety cues
  • Harms children’s dental health since frequent sugary treats can lead to cavities
  • Promotes a preference for sweets, teaching children to prefer them over more nutritious foods that don’t taste sweet (eg, vegetables, plain milk, unsweetened cereal)
  • Puts individuals who struggle with food and eating (e.g. eating disorders) at risk
  • Puts children with food allergies or other dietary constraints at risk, or else excludes them

Non-Food Rewards and Incentives:

Elementary school:

  • Social praise – attention, verbal praise, thanks, pats on the shoulder, high five
  • Recognition – trophy plaque, ribbon, certificate or sticker with affirming message, name on morning announcements
  • Sit by friends
  • Read to a younger class
  • Going first
  • Make deliveries to the office
  • Extra art, music, reading or computer time
  • Walk with a teacher during lunch
  • Be a helper in another classroom
  • Extra gym time
  • Preferred activity (play time inside or extra outdoor time)
  • Time to play at the park
  • Time on the roller racer in the hallway
  • Time to jump on the trampoline in the resource room
  • Dojo points
  • Taking care of the class animal for a day
  • Design a class or hall bulletin board
  • Recognition cards or earn points or play money
  • Fun movie
  • Assemblies
  • Field trips
  • Brainteaser puzzles, group activities or games
  • Reduced homework or ‘no homework’ pass
  • Treasure box of items such as:

Stickers ∙ Erasers ∙ Colouring books ∙ Markers ∙ Highlighters ∙ Stencils ∙ Note pads ∙ Rulers ∙ Bouncy balls ∙ Fancy paperclips ∙ Playing cards ∙ Marbles ∙ Jacks ∙ Bookmarks ∙ Magnifying glass ∙ Slinkies ∙ Hacky sacks ∙ Skipping ropes ∙ Frisbees ∙ Paddleballs ∙ Hair accessories ∙ Bubbles

High School:

  • Social praise – attention, verbal praise, thanks, pats on the shoulder, high five
  • Recognition – trophy plaque, ribbon, certificate or sticker with affirming message, name on morning announcements
  • Extra credit
  • Fun movie
  • Reduced homework
  • Last homework pass
  • Donated coupons for music or movies
  • Drawings for donated prizes
  • Pep rally
  • Tickets for school events eg. dances