Finding the motivated with Toddler Reward Ideas.
I worked as a Real Estate coach for most of my early adult career, and if there is one thing similar to herding cats, it’s getting independent contracting adults to do anything.
Much like managing adults, parenting, especially with toddlers, is a delightful yet challenging journey marked by countless decisions. Among these, finding the perfect reward system for encouraging positive behavior in toddlers stands out as a common struggle for many. As parents, we often grapple with questions such as:
What motivates my child?
How can I reinforce good behavior effectively?
When will they clean up their own messes? (oh no, just me…)
We will delve into the diverse world of toddler reward ideas, offering a comprehensive guide to help parents navigate through the maze of options.
Whether you’re seeking non-material gestures, tangible treats, or memorable experiences, this post aims to provide valuable insights and creative ideas to make the rewarding journey of parenting a little smoother.
Our Top Reward Ideas for Toddlers
Here is a list of some of our favorite toddler reward ideas
Think of something your children always ask for but always get the no, not today. If that’s a stop at ice cream or Starbucks, kids are motivated by sweets and treats. Make it fun and allow them to decide what they want as a treat, as long as its something you are ok with them having. Here are a few easy treats as toddler reward ideas:
- Ice Cream
- Cake Pops
- Hot chocolate
- Junk food
A Toy or Game
This is a great way to get them something that they pick, or you can pick one out for them that you know they will like. As one of the most classic reward ideas for toddlers, a new game or toy is sure to please many. We like to find a local toy store or head to our local target.
It doesn’t always need to be extravagant. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked past the dollar spot section at target, and she has walked out with a $5 toy as her big “toy”. Make sure you set a reasonable budget for yourself for new toys and games.
Something else we know a lot go people do is implement a treasure chest concept. You can pick up 100 small toys for roughly $30 on amazon, fill the box with them, and allow your child to pick.
- Board game
- New video game
- Toys from Target Dollar section
- Coloring or Craft items
- Fidget toys (treasure box)
- Party favors (treasure box)
Extra Screen Time
This is a tough one in many households. Do you or do you not allow screen time? Like many people who didn’t have kids, we said we would not allow screen time. I now understand the importance of healthy screen time as a mom of 4 years.
I’m going out on a limb here and saying do as I say, not as I do in this category.
Don’t allow your toddlers or younger children on YouTube kids. That shit isn’t regulated. I don’t care how many times they say it is. Sorry, YouTube Kids, but I do love myself some YouTube.
There are MANY apps and shows for free that are great for kids that are educational, avoid controversial topics, and have good behavior displayed.
When it comes to time and how much to give toddlers, it shouldn’t be an unhealthy amount of time given, but it should be enough to make a difference to them.
According to AACAP a child from 2-5 should have roughly 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on the weekend days of non-educational screen time.
If you are a family similar to us, we allow educational apps and shows all day, every day. We are a very tech-forward family and love the thought of tech being something that enhances our lives in the future.
If you are not a traditional screen time family, you may want to explore something educational or fun as a reward if they are good.
Our daughter loves a trip to the bookstore. We don’t always walk away with a book, but the trip in and of itself is always a success. While I shouldn’t have to explain this, make sure you take your child to the appropriate section for their age and help them find a book they may love.
Talk about the front and even flip through a few pages to see if it is something they would enjoy.
Fun Time/Yes Day
If there is an activity that costs money, like the waterpark, arcade or movies, these can be a great way to Incorporate family fun and fun time into one. As younger kids grow and budgets for better experiences increase, you can create something like a Disneyland trip or other large activities for a specific number of points for good behavior.
We LOVE this category because it allows us to explore together and gives us the opportunity to learn something new. You never know what you will encounter in the real world, and having conversations with your child every step of the way is helpful to develop them into little beings.
- Go carts
- Amusement park
- Splash pad
- Trampoline park
- or the Ferris wheel in Scheels if you have one
We put this last on our list for toddler reward ideas because we find some toddlers too young to understand money, but think it is a really important skill to teach our children.
We will break down how to use this system currently and grow the money system as a toddler reward idea as they age.
Since this is a list of toddler reward ideas, we are not talking about a significant amount of money: $1 or $2 for each year of their age is more than enough. For example, a 4-year-old would receive $4 – $8 for a weekly allowance.
Incorporating Actual Money
We find this option to be the most difficult to achieve at a young age as a reward system motivation. So, we say proceed with caution on this one.
First, you need to account for your budget when setting the dollar amount for allowance, and then you have to think about what they are required to do to earn it. $4 for a week is not enough for them to earn something every day, and it would only work towards one job.
The final item is that not all toddlers understand the concept of money and might not be attached to the reward if they can’t do something immediately with it. They first receive money and then exchange it for their thing. While a good learning lesson, they may lose motivation along the way, and it could be a lost concept.
Instead of actual money, have your child think about what small toy, special treat, or fun idea they have that the money can go towards purchasing. Then, have your child “earn money” towards that item. The money is the middle exchange, similar to a sticker on a chore chart, but they are actually getting the small prize at the end, not money to purchase the small prize.
This is a good first step to incorporate money into the reward chart system but giving them the instant rewards their age has attention span for.
When Toddlers Get Older
When your toddler is a little older, you can begin teaching them how to earn and save money to work towards bigger rewards for their hard work. Then, give them the actual money, mom bucks, or kids money to hold and cash in when ready.
While starting out small now with your toddler, think about how you can incorporate great rewards and daily tasks appropriate for their age and how they will grow over time as they become older children. You can always come back to this toddler reward ideas list and find the motivated again.
Children change, and jobs grow as they get older; do not feel like this is set in stone forever. This is something that should be semi-structured but fluid for a child’s creative independence.
Now, we are going to discuss why children picking their favorite rewards is essential for buy-in and reward charts. Children need plenty of praise; picking a reward is just half the puzzle.
Picking Their Favorite Reward
It’s important to get buy-in from your toddler so that it will help drive both accountability and continued good behavior.
Go over the huge list of rewards with your child and help them pick what they want as their reward. You can continue to rotate the rewards by making a list of reward ideas you have next to your chore chart that you can swap out whenever.
You can download the free reward ideas list below. We have also included these Printable Reward Coupons as a big list of fun rewards that your child can swap out. We suggest cutting them out, laminating them, and gluing a magnet to the back so that your toddler can easily swap out their favorite rewards for the week.
Free Reward Ideas List
Download the Free Toddler Reward Ideas List
Rewards Charts and All The Things
We implemented sticker charts recently to help manage chore activities and rewards in our house.
Currently, we are working on a two-reward system.
A screen time option and a treat option.
Our daughter is HIGHLY motivated by Starbucks Cake Pops and YouTube Kids.
Having a good mixture of tangible rewards and monetary rewards helps teach and shape who your little one will become.
We like to make everything fun and educational, and while you can make the reward chart focused around points, our daughter loves stickers. She feels like she is earning a sticker to earn her rewards instead of earning a point on the point reward system chart. It gives her one extra thing to do while teaching the days of the week and counting.
She gets to pick the sticker and place the sticker on the chart in the coordinating job and day, then count up the stickers at the end of the week to total her points.
From there, we allow her to use her points towards minutes of YouTube Kids and Cake Pops.
We are slowly incorporating the idea of saving our points to earn more time on YouTube kids. Currently , each sticker she earns is worth 5 min of YouTube kids.
With earning points, you can put a maximum on what can be earned in that category. I am not the biggest fan of YouTube kids but if it’s a massive motivator for our daughter and something we can monitor it would be silly to not include it.
We put an hour limit on the YouTube kids category and asked that she put her points towards something else as well.
Now we will talk more about reward charts and how to incorporate your toddler reward ideas on your chart.
Kids are often driven by positive reinforcement, but most of the time, we are so focused on bad behavior and disciplining in our style.
Good behaviour and specific behavior should receive plenty of praise. Verbal praise is important, but we don’t want to mistake verbal praise for pleasing.
Let me explain. I am so proud of you, should sound more like; great job, well done, that’s awesome. Try to remove the “I” statements and make it more about their behavior and a job well done, not about your approval or ownership in the outcome.
Take as many opportunities to tell your toddler you noticed what a great job they did, that they were using nice words, and address any other good habits you see.
Negative behaviors should be addressed every time so that an established routine will occur.
Keep negative consequences similar and grow with their age.
A minute per age has been the standard for a long time.
We add an extra minute per age with an opportunity to change our attitude and take away a minute.
For example. Sometimes, she is in the middle of screaming at us, and if we say 5 minutes, she can continue to scream and go straight to time out for 5 minutes, or stop screaming immediately and earn back a minute but still need to go for the 4 minutes.
We use this as a chip often. It helps her take accountability and have control over the situation: minor control but buy-in.
Punishments for bad behavior should be appropriate for their age and who they are as children. Some children do really well with gentle parenting and talking things out, while others need the time out or the removal of something to get attention.
Something even as simple as a timeout in another room can be a huge game-changer. Don’t stress if you need to switch things up. Kids are smart and know how to test boundaries.
Last, don’t feel like they can only earn stickers or points on their chart for the things on it. If you feel they went above and beyond, have your child pick a special reward from the toddler reward ideas list and make it a big deal.
Things to put on the Chore Chart
As your child grows, so will the jobs on their chore chart. While picking up dog poop might be great for a 10-year-old, having a 5-year-old do it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
I cannot remember what show I was watching, but the family had all the chores in a hat, and each child picked something out of the hat for their weekly chore.
Completely at random, and it seemed always to alternate so one person wasn’t stuck doing the same job all the time.
Make it simple and fun, and attempt to get buy-in wherever you can.
Here is a list of jobs for a Chore Chart
Here’s a list of 40+ age-appropriate toddler household chores that can help instill a sense of responsibility and contribute to their development:
- Cleaning up Toys: Putting toys in designated bins or baskets.
- Making the Bed: Arranging stuffed animals or decorative pillows.
- Wiping Surfaces: Using a damp cloth to wipe tables, countertops, and low windows.
- Sweeping with a Small Broom: Assisting in sweeping small areas with a child-sized broom.
- Matching Socks: Pairing socks from the laundry.
- Watering Plants: Using a small watering can to water indoor plants.
- Sorting Laundry: Separating clothes into piles (lights, darks, etc.).
- Setting the Table: Place utensils, napkins, or unbreakable dishes on the table.
- Dusting Low Shelves: Dusting reachable shelves or surfaces.
- Feeding Pets: Assisting in pouring pet food into bowls, no medications though
- Folding Washcloths: Folding small washcloths or hand towels.
- Helping with Grocery Unpacking: Placing items in designated spots after grocery shopping.
- Matching Tupperware: Matching lids with corresponding containers.
- Putting Shoes Away: Placing shoes in their designated spot.
- Hanging Towels: Hanging towels on low hooks or racks.
- Organizing Books: Putting books back on shelves.
- Assisting in Meal Preparation: Simple tasks like washing vegetables or stirring.
- Putting Dirty Clothes in the Hamper: Teach them to toss dirty clothes into the hamper.
- Unloading Lightweight Items from the Dishwasher: Handing you plastic or non-breakable items.
- Wiping Spills: Using a damp cloth to clean up small spills.
- Sorting Utensils: Sorting forks, spoons, and knives after washing.
- Hanging Washed Clothes: Hanging clothes on low hooks or hangers.
- Matching Shoes: Pairing shoes and placing them in pairs.
- Putting Trash in the Bin: Encouraging them to dispose of small trash items.
- Watering Outdoor Plants with a Watering Can: Assisting in caring for outdoor plants.
- Assisting in Dish Drying: Drying dishes after they are clean.
- Picking Up Their Room: Putting away clothes and toys in their room.
- Stirring Ingredients: Helping with stirring simple ingredients in bowls.
- Turning Off Lights: Encouraging them to turn off lights when leaving a room.
- Matching Lids to Pots and Pans: Pairing lids with their corresponding pots.
- Sweeping with a Dustpan and Brush: Use a small dustpan and brush to help with sweeping.
- Placing Shoes in a Shoe Rack: Organizing shoes in a shoe rack.
- Hanging Up Their Own Coat: Using low hooks to hang up their coat.
- Setting Out Clothes for the Next Day: Choosing and laying out clothes for the next day.
- Putting Groceries in Low Cabinets: Assisting in putting away groceries in low cabinets.
- Scrubbing Vegetables: Using a brush to scrub vegetables under running water.
- Loading Lightweight Items into the Washing Machine: Placing clothes or small items into the washing machine.
- Handing Tools During Repairs: Assisting with handing you tools during simple repairs.
- Brushing Teeth: A good habit to create but not so much a “chore.” Another great thing to get excited about on their chart.
- Putting Away Plastic Dishes: Assisting in putting away plastic dishes in low cabinets.
- Carry Plates to the Sink After Dinner: Carry their plate to the sink after dinner
- Wipe Down the Table After Dinner: After plates are cleared, assist in wiping down the table of any messes
- Unpacking Backpack After School: Go through their backpack and put anything in the kitchen that parents will need
- Potty Training: While not a “chore,” it’s a great thing to put on the chart to get excited about.
Download Free Chore Chart Coupons
Good luck, and please share with us some of the fun things you have discovered along the way with your new toddler reward ideas.