15 non-food rewards for children…

15 non-food rewards for children…

When was the last time you promised your child to go for an ice cream after he finishes his homework or because your child is obedient at school or home? 

Using food as a positive reinforcement or withholding food for punishment can lead to learned behaviors that may lead to disordered eating. When children are rewarded with food, they associate “junk food” with being good or feeling happy. Soon, they learn to eat every time they want to reward themselves or to cheer themselves up rather than eating to satisfy hunger. Eventually, they become adults who reward themselves with food. 

Fortunately, there are alternatives! We can reward children in more meaningful, lasting ways that will not cause any disordered behaviors in the future. 

Make a coupon book with a variety of rewards that your child can choose from. You could make it together, allowing your child to choose some of the rewards that he would prefer to receive. Set limits regarding cost and try to avoid rewarding with very expensive items such as tablets or video games. 

Either you are a parent, a grandparent or a teacher, below we present you some non-food rewards alternatives to embrace and motivate your children:


Time: The gift of your time can make a tremendous impact on the life of a child.

1.Take a bike ride 

2. Play your child’s favorite game

3. Call a grandparent or other loved one on the phone

4. Take a trip to the park

5. Have a friend over to play

6. Go to the movies together


Responsibility: Children love to be put in charge or to be given extra responsibilities that indicate their maturity. Finding ways to help your child feel like a “grown-up” will motivate even the most reluctant child.

7. Let them check the mailbox

8. Let them feed the pet

9. Let them supervise their younger sibling

10. Let them sleep late for one night


Service: Young children love to help out at home or in a community. 

11. Bake bread or another healthy treat to take to a neighbor or teacher

12. Take vegetables or flowers from your garden to a neighbor or teacher

13. Make a greeting card to send to a grandparent or other loved one

14. Make a thank you card for a teacher or someone who has help your child or family

15 Help make dinner for the family


Eleana Liasidou

Clinical Dietitian- Nutritionist, MSc



1. Rigby, S. (2008). How to Reward and Motivate Kids Without Using Food. [ebook] National Governor’s Association to the Utah Department of Health in association with Gold Medal Schools and Utah PTA. Available at: http://www.cr.k12.ia.us/assets/1/6/Reward___Motivate_without_Food.pdf  [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

2. Actionforhealthykids.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Healthy-Non-Food-Rewards-Tip-Sheet_English.pdf  [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].