Non-food reward ideas
Positive reinforcement and rewards can be an effective way to bring about a desired behaviour. Children respond particularly well to this. However, as explained in the Food as a Reward pitfall section, this behaviour has been associated with negative consequences and the use of unhealthy food as a bargaining tool or as a bribe is not recommended.
Positive reinforcement works by rewarding the child for tasting a food. But it does not work by giving a punishment if the child refuses to taste it.
Instead of giving food-rewards, there are a range of alternatives that you can try:
- Each time your child tastes a refused food, give them a sticker, badge, or rubber stamp. This gives them an instant reward that can be proudly shown off.
- To keep children motivated, use a reward chart with a non-food prize at the end. Each time your child tastes a refused food, give them a star on their chart. After 5 stars, give them a prize. This can help them to associate the reward beyond the here and now.
- As an alternative to stickers, buy some small, inexpensive, non-food prizes (e.g., crayons, whistle, ball) that can be given out when a reward is needed. Consider making this even more fun by wrapping the prizes and doing this as a lucky dip.
- A favourite activity can be a reward. Let your child choose what they would like to do and give them your undivided attention.
- Outings can be rewards. A trip to the park, library, shops, or other favourite place.
- Simple praise. Children love to be told ‘well done’ and simple words can go a long way.