Positive Behavior Rewards That Aren’t Food


A classroom should focus on positivity, and creating an environment where positive student choices are celebrated. Classroom rewards can be an effective way to encourage positive behavior, and celebrate individuals or a group reaching their goals.

About halfway through my kindergarten teaching career, the school that I worked at decided that food would no longer be allowed in the classroom as a reward for positive behavior. Between food allergies, and an increasing awareness of childhood obesity, more and more schools are headed in this same direction.

After years of ice cream and popcorn parties, I needed to shift my focus, get creative, and come up with non-food rewards that students would look forward to. There have been quite a few studies done where students were asked what types of rewards they prefer, and non-food rewards were regularly chosen over food related ones. Below are 12 positive behavior rewards that don’t require food!

Movie and PJ’s

Let students wear their PJ’s and slippers to school, and put on a fun (school appropriate) movie!

Stinky feet

Let students kick off their shoes, and show off their silliest socks! This one is always a hit.

Extra outside time

Head outside for some extra fresh air, fun relay races, chalk and bubbles.

Treasure box trinkets

Fill a treasure box with trinkets or school supplies (smelly markers and pencils are always a hit!), and let students choose one to keep.

Hobby time

Let students bring in their favorite game or hobby activity (rock collection, Pokémon cards, etc.) from home to play with at school.

Planting party

Grab some seeds, cups and dirt, and head outside to let everyone plant a take home garden.

Hat day

Let students wear a fun hat to school.

Dance glow party

Put on some party music, turn down the lights, hand out some glow sticks, and have a classroom dance party!

Bubble party

Grab some party favor bubbles for each student and enjoy a bubble party!

Science experiments

Let students choose a science experiment (something larger or more messy than your regular experiments) to do together!

Stuffed friend day

Let students bring in their favorite stuffed animal from home to hang out with them all day in class.

Mustache party

Most party good or dollar stores sell packs of stick on mustaches. My students absolutely loved wearing them around school during a mustache party! If students don’t want to put the mustache on their face, they could also put the sticker on their finger and hold it up to their face when they wanted to show it off.

When setting up classroom rewards, you can either let students choose their reward before setting the goal, choose the reward yourself before setting the goal, or have students work towards an unknown reward. Any of these options work!

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