10 Ways to Reward Children Without Food

I will be the first to admit I reward my children with food on the occasion.  I love to find reasons to celebrate.  Ask my mother-in-law.  When she visits I find ways to spice up the day.  Anything and everything can be a reason.  You made it here in one piece – let’s celebrate! You recovered from jet lag – let’s celebrate! You survived our household for an entire week – let’s celebrate! Going for coffee (my mother-in-law) and tea (myself) is a primary example. And with the kids in tow, it may be a hot chocolate from our favorite chocolate store or an ice cream from our favorite chocolate store.  Yes, they are one in the same.  Because I like to frequently celebrate I have to find alternative ways to party with my children.  A cupcake every time they smile wouldn’t be conducive to healthy living so I opt out on the food and zero in on the quality time.


I think we live in a culture in America where instant gratification is met nearly every second.  Instant gratification is encouraged and adored.  I like it just as much as the next gal but I don’t think it goes well with growing emotionally stable small people.  So I try my very best to teach my children to quiet the constant wants especially when it comes to food.  It doesn’t mean we don’t love food.  We adore it.  And, in many ways, our family is centered around the breaking of bread.  However, I want each of my children to cultivate a healthy relationship with food because I truly believe it is one of the most important relationships they will ever keep.  I do not want to spawn emotional eaters, who look to food to calm stress or fill emotional holes.  I want to celebrate with food but I want them to understand food is fuel and nourishment and a path to a healthy and fulfilling life.

Keep the treats in their lane.  Say, “No,” to the daily indulgences.  Instead reward your children with:

  1. A trip to their favorite bookstore or library to listen to story time.
  2. A visit to the local park to fly kites.
  3. Special one-on-one time with mom or dad. The kiddo can pick the activity. *Hint: Most kids like this one the most!
  4. A family movie night.  Cuddle around the television and let them pick their favorite.  Actually watch the movie with them 😉
  5. Start a family game night and enjoy the play.
  6. Encouraging notes hidden under their pillows or around their room.
  7. A day trip to a local art museum or kid’s activity center.
  8. An afternoon at a trampoline park to burn energy.
  9. Rock climbing, hiking or skipping stones in a nearby creek.  Kids love the free time in nature while simultaneously meeting their physical need for exercise.
  10. An art activity.  Get down and dirty with them.  They will love it!

Celebrate with your children frequently.  Reward your children as you see fit.  Just remember it doesn’t always have to be centered around cupcakes and ice cream.  Now that I am finished working so hard on my article,  I am going to hit up Smallcakes.  Just kidding!  That would be really wrong.