5 Sweet Classroom Rewards that Aren’t Food

This post was originally shared on Ophea’s blog. View the original post here.

Rewards can be an effective way to encourage positive student behaviour in the classroom and around the school. When enforcing or revisiting desired behaviours, small rewards can often help students establish the activity and encourage maintenance of the new behaviour, with self-motivation eventually taking over, and outside reinforcement no longer being necessary.


Last week I was asked by a Hamilton elementary school’s Health Action Team to support their “Random Acts of Kindness Challenge” by teaching Kids Yoga to the classes which had demonstrated the most acts of kindness during their school wide challenge. This creative reward was suggested by their Public Health Nurse and selected by the students on the team. The day was fun for all and this creative idea aligned with the schools focus on healthy, active living, and mental health promotion.

While food rewards, specifically candy and other treats, are often used because they are inexpensive and easy to come by, these types of rewards can reinforce unhealthy eating habits, and undermine children’s diets and health. Providing food based on performance or behavior undermines Health and Physical Education curriculum instruction related to the healthy eating topic area. This includes expectations on making healthy food choices, as well as internal hunger and thirst cues, by encouraging children to eat treats even when they are not hungry.

Countless alternative rewards can be used to provide positive reinforcement for student’s behavior and performance. Consider these fun ideas when thinking of options for non-food rewards in your classroom.

1. Pick a different seat for a day. Students change desk locations with another student in their class. Consider letting students decide the arrangement of the desks for the day – who knows, you might like what they suggest and keep it!

2. Join another class. Individual student winners join a friends class for one special subject area (e.g., Phys.Ed., Art, Science).

3. Treasure box of fun school supplies. Individual students pick an item out of a treasure box with prizes that would support them during their school day including stickers, pencils, erasers, markers etc.

4. Theme dress day. If students wear uniforms consider a “no uniform for the day” pass for individual students or the entire class. Consider other theme days for the entire class including safari, favourite musician, sport star, or story book character.

5. Family night activity bag. Individual students take home for the weekend their choice of a “Family night” bag borrowed from the teacher including “sport night” (contains various balls and athletic games), “lego night” (containing various lego pieces and kits), and “movie night” (containing age and message appropriate movies).

So Teachers, how do you keep your classroom rewards healthy?
Share your thoughts in the comments below or send me a tweet @CatchingHeather!

Staying Motivated Over the Holidays


The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can really destroy your motivation to get a move on. But over this time of  food and stress (and maybe some joy and love), exercise is exactly what the body (and the mind) is asking for!

Here are five ways to stay motivated and keep moving over the holiday season.

  1. Schedule Time For You. Just like you’re writing your gatherings with friends and family on your calendar you need to write time for you in as well. And just like you wouldn’t bail on your girls, keep your promise to yourself and hit the weights before the eggnog.
  2. Make a Date of It. Rather than setting up another dinner date; why not get together for an activity date? Hit a local skating rink, walk (or run) your neighbourhood to check out the holiday lights, or raise the heart rate with some high impact shopping! Catch up with friends in creative and healthy holiday ways that allow you to swap stories and sneak in a sweat at the same time.
  3. Join a Holiday Themed Fitness Event. Check in with your local studios, clubs, or stores to see what holiday themed fitness events are happening in your own community. A holiday themed run, a rocking reindeer ride, or maybe a longest night themed yoga class, whatever it is, shake up your regular workout with a fun seasonal theme and get out and active in the community.
  4. Work Out at Home. Maybe you don’t have time for your typical workouts. You’ve over booked yourself and now have no time for you, so accept it and get your sweat on at home instead. If you don’t have a program or own any of the many videos available for home fitness, there are a ton of great workout videos of varying lengths and varying genres available on YouTube, so find one that works with your space, equipment, and time and move! (Looking for Santa to add to your home fitness collection? Check out my two BeachBody favourites Chalean Extreme and Turbo Fire)
  5. Be Realistic. Don’t set yourself up with any giant, out of this world, fitness goal for the end of this month. Accept what is doable for you and stick to it. Whether your plan is to sweat once a day or 3 times a week, when you create a realistic goal you’ll be more likely to stick to it and  you’ll feel great once you have.

Hope these ideas help you to stay motivated and active! Do you have a tip that helps you stay motivated? Post it in the comments and  have a happy and healthy holidays!