It's no secret that reward systems are valuable for kids, especially when it comes to children with ADHD. Having a reward system for your child can promote positive behavior, help kids implement routines, and encourage motivation. When discussing rewards for kids, however, affordability is a crucial factor that can't be overlooked. Thankfully, there are a ton of free and low-cost options out there.
In this article, we'll talk about when and why you should reward kids. Then, we'll share some of our favorite free and low-cost rewards for kids of all ages, including Joon.
Why and When Should I Reward My Child?
You may have heard mixed messages about using rewards for kids. So, what are the benefits? Here are some reasons to reward kids:
- Rewards help kids understand good behavior. When you use a reward system for kids, especially if rewards are immediate and you let them know why they are getting the reward, it helps kids learn and solidify positive behavior.
- Rewards help children learn new things. Take potty training young kids as an example; many parents use sticker charts or a reward chart to help kids learn how to use the toilet and wash their hands effectively.
- Rewards are a source of extrinsic motivation. While reward systems are still useful for kids without ADHD, people with ADHD in particular tend to face motivation deficits, which is why external rewards can be so beneficial for this population. Note that even kids without ADHD can benefit from a reward system.
As for when you should reward kids, it often comes down to whether or not they experience intrinsic rewards already when they complete an activity. If a child possesses intrinsic motivation to do something already - for example, a child may be naturally motivated to engage in team sports, sing, or read because they love it - an external reward might actually have the opposite effect. A child who doesn't like reading, on the other hand, could benefit from an external reward that motivates them to finish assigned reading for school and they may end up enjoying it.
In other words, it's ideal to use external rewards for kids when they need motivation - not when they already have it! The type of reward you use matters, too. Many experts say, for example, you shouldn't use food rewards or monetary rewards. They are not ideal for kids. So, what are some ideas?
Make The Reward System Fun With Joon
If you’re looking for a no-fuss reward system for your child, we can help. Joon is a new app for kids with ADHD and related disorders. It works by helping kids finish routine tasks while encouraging independence, self-esteem, and motivation.
To get started, parents download the Joon Parent App and create a custom task list for their child. Kids connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game. When kids finish real-life tasks (also called quests) their parents add, like doing homework or taking the dog for a walk, they get rewards in the game.
90% of children who use Joon finish all of their quests. Joon is rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the App Store, with a total of more than 3.9k reviews. Even better, it's backed by professionals such as occupational therapists and child psychologists.
We offer a one-week free trial. After your trial’s up, choose from one of our affordable monthly or yearly plans.
Click here to try Joon 7-days for free.
Low-Cost And Free Reward Ideas
Rewards don't have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, it's crucial that parents give kids realistic rewards so that they can follow through and help their children succeed without financial strain. With that in mind, here are some low-cost and free reward ideas for your family to try. We have included a range of rewards for kids of different ages so that every family can benefit.
Spending extra time together
Family rewards have the added benefit of giving you quality time together. Here are some great rewards for kids that promote family time:
- Play a board game or card game
- Go to the park
- Have a picnic lunch together
- Take a bike ride together
- Build a blanket fort
Even if they aren't necessarily family activities, experiences are a wholesome way to encourage kids. Taking a friend to the arcade, for example, is a fun option that is experiential rather than material.
In school, kids are sometimes given the opportunity to try a new art project or science experiment as a reward. Parents can use the same practice at home to encourage good behavior. Find a craft idea your child likes, and get affordable art supplies or use ones you already have. Oftentimes, craft ideas are easily accessible online and in parenting magazines. Examples include but aren't limited to candle or soap making, sand art, painting, or making slime.
Extra screen time
Giving kids extra screen time requires little effort, but in so many cases, it's a special treat that kids love. If your child is only allowed to play video games or watch TV for a certain amount of time per day, using an hour of screen time as a motivator when your child behaves has the potential to work well.
Going to bed later
First, it's vital to note that a regular sleep schedule is important. If your child tends toward trouble sleeping and a routine has helped, it's likely not something to disrupt. However, for those with a child who can stay up a bit later without disruption, this is an easy and motivating reward to use. If you use it, be specific about how much later they can go to bed (e.g., a half hour later, at 9:30 PM).
Verbal praise is an excellent form of positive reinforcement that shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to reward ideas to use for kids. Just like anyone else, kids want to feel appreciated. Be specific when you give a child verbal praise, detailing exactly what they did well. For example, "You did a great job communicating that" or "Thank you so much for putting your toys in the toy box; that was so helpful!"
Use token systems for bigger rewards
Younger kids may be enthused to receive stickers and small objects, but what about older kids or children who simply need something more to get motivated? You can't give a child a new bike for one chore, but what you might be able to do is let children save up tokens for a big reward. Perhaps, your child wants to attend a concert, get a new outfit, buy expensive shoes, or something else. In this instance, token systems are ideal.
To implement a token system, make a reward jar and use coins (or another small item, like marbles) to fill it until the child has enough tokens to get their big reward. Make sure that you tell your child how many tokens it'll take in advance. You can also use a reward chart or chore chart for this purpose.
An added bonus of using a reward jar or chart is that it's a visual way for kids to track their progress.
Take them to the dollar store
The dollar store is a fantastic place to go for tangible rewards that won't break the bank. It is also a fun opportunity for kids to pick out what they want. In most areas, you will be able to find a dollar store with an array of different toys and other fun rewards.
Ask your child what they'd like
If you're in a rut and don't know what'll motivate your child, let your child choose. Ask kids what they really want and keep an open mind. Once your child chooses something plausible for your family, create a token system or use a similar method and tell them how to earn it. In some cases, kids and teens tell their parents what they want unpromoted. Take note when your child expresses a desire for a specific item or experience, especially if it's more than once, and consider letting them earn it.
Offering rewards is a way to encourage wanted behaviors and help children learn new things. Rewards work by motivating children and can be particularly advantageous for kids with ADHD. Good rewards don't need to be expensive to serve their purpose, and there are a ton of free or inexpensive reward ideas for kids to choose from. For example, positive reinforcement in the form of verbal praise, token systems, and fun experiences. Be mindful that some rewards will be suitable for younger kids, whereas others will be more appropriate for older children. Use the ideas in this article or brainstorm your own to help your child succeed.