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!

Ontario’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge

It Takes a Community to Raise a Healthy Child


We all know that learning and practicing healthy eating behaviours and physical activity in schools help kids to grow up to be healthy adults. But it’s not just a message for school, or a singular message at home, it’s a message that should be reinforced in all environments that our kids experience. Children and youth should see and hear the same message no matter where they are, and that’s why the Ontario government is challenging communities to work together to help give children and youth a healthier start  by launching The Healthy Kids Community Challenge.


Communities can now submit applications to the Ontario government for funds and other supports (up to $1.5 million over four years) to implement local initiatives that increase activity levels, improve healthy food choices and promote appropriate amounts of sleep for children and youth.

The Challenge is encouraging communities to build partnerships with local organizations including schools, as well as the public, private and non-profit sectors in order to promote healthy eating and physical activity for kids.

Activities can include after-school cooking clubs with dieticians, healthy breakfast clubs for children living in poverty and walking school bus initiatives. Municipal partners could include schools, recreation centres, parents, private businesses, health care providers and other community organizations servicing children and youth.


About 30% of Ontario children and youth are considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity impacts health in childhood and beyond with 75% of obese children growing up to become obese adults. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases and conditions, and these conditions are estimate to cost Ontario $4.5 billion per year.


Through an application process, up to 30 communities will be chosen to participate in The Challenge. Selected communities will be eligible for up to $1.5 million over four years in funding to develop and build on community based programs promoting healthy living.


When kids see the concepts they are learning in school reflected and reinforced through healthy practices in their families and communities, their learning is validated and reinforced. Children and youth are then more likely to adopt healthy active living practices and maintain them throughout their lives.

For more information on the program and how you can get involved can be found at Ontario.ca/healthykids.