Food is Not a Reward

Part of teaching kids about nutrition is as simple as not setting up “sometimes foods” as a reward for good behavior. Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD makes a convincing case for why we should not use food to reward our kids, pointing out that if kids see food as a reward while they’re kids, they’ll be more likely to seek food rewards as adults, which can contribute to unhealthy eating choices. Treats like sweets and junk food, however, are ubiquitous and convenient tools for positive reinforcement, so tuck a few of these ideas into your back pocket as alternatives to offer.

Family / Photon_de / CC BY 2.0

Create a Treasure Box.

Game On! offers a great set of non-food ideas for teachers to reward students for good behavior, and their idea of creating a treasure box would work equally well at home. Pick up small toys, stickers and fun art supplies when you see them on sale to fill a “treasure box” that a child can pick from to reward good behavior.

Who’s the Boss?

20 Years and Counting has a great set of family-oriented non-food rewards ideas, most of which involve being active and spending time together. Our favorite is setting a timer and letting your child call the shots for a little while.

Get Out of Chores Free.’s Family Fitness Blog has a long list of specific, non-food rewards. We’re guessing that yours kids would be particularly excited at the prospect of earning a “Get Out of Chores Free” card.