Eco-friendly Reward Ideas for Young Kids

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If you aren’t a mom who rewards (or bribes) her kids to do chores, learn to potty, listen, etc., this isn’t the article for you.  But if rewards work for you family, you may have had a moment where you realized that rewards don’t always align with your other values– particularly in relation to living an eco-conscious life.  So, I have found myself thinking about eco-friendly reward ideas for young kids quite a bit lately and decided I would share that with you! 

Behavior Rewards

I use a behavior reward chart to recognize when my preschool-age children are showing good listening, sharing, communicating their needs appropriately, etc.  We use small stickers to recognize each of these small moments.  When the chart (which may vary in size) is full, they earn a reward.  I was comfortable with the idea of the charts– I print them on half a sheet of paper and place enough blank spaces for at least 2 weeks on it.  But I was initially STUMPED for how to reward them.

Considerations for Behavior Rewards:

  • While an occasional celebration with cupcakes or candy is fine, I don’t want the reward to constantly be food. I don’t want to create the association that food is a reward for a number of reasons.
  • We have a lot of STUFF. My children have a lot of lovely toys that we’ve purchased or have been gifted.  Therefore, I am not crazy about a trip to the store (even a thrift store) for a new gift every time. However, an occasional trip to the thrift store is also not the worst option, either.  It’s better than a NEW something every time.
  • I want to focus on catering to different love languages, as I haven’t identified which one each child resonates with most.
  • I don’t want to spend a lot of money on these rewards because I’m not made of money! 

Eco-Conscious Ideas to Recognize Good Behavior:

  • Movie Night. 
    We rented an inexpensive, family-friendly movie on Amazon and sat down as a family to watch it with some popcorn.  The girls looked forward to this time and a new movie.
  • Leftover Gift.
    So this one is probably not easily replicated, but we held back a few larger-sized, pre-loved gifts from our Christmas celebrations, since we were traveling.   We had the intention of gifting them to our girls when we came home. However, the girls had received so many thoughtful gifts from family that we didn’t see the need to add another.  We saved it for another time– and rewarding good behavior seems a good enough time as any!
  • Special Activity with a Parent or Caregiver
    I like to bake. The girls love to help almost as much as they like eating the baked goods.  So I use this baking time as a reward, too.  This concept could work with many different hobbies that you may have. Just including them in something they see you love can be rewarding for them!
  • Surprise Adventure
    We have taken the girls to some local venues that we haven’t experienced yet as rewards.  These are places that were (1) already on our radar or (2) were free experiences.  Therefore, I didn’t feel like this was an overly expensive option.
  • Give a Privilege
    Consider giving your child a privilege, like staying up late or using a special mug or going to a friend’s house.

Potty Training Rewards

When I was potty training my first child, I was at a different place in my parenting journey and my Eco journey.  I wasn’t thinking about how the rewards I was choosing impacted the environment.  And I don’t have any guilt over that.  I won’t regret choices I made when I was at that different place in my journey. But I am in a new place and have developed my eco-consciousness to a new level. 

Considerations for Potty Training Rewards

  • These are SMALL prizes given after increasingly long periods of successful potty time.  
  • I’d like to be able to offer Love bug choices.
  • I don’t want unsustainable, plastic toys from the dollar store or a party store that will immediately break and end up in the landfill.
  • I want more than just candy options.
  • The options need to be age-appropriate.

Eco-Friendly Reward Ideas:

  • Foil-wrapped candy
  • Coins for the piggy bank
  • Thrifted costume jewelry
  • Second hand die-cast cars
  • Pre-loved books

Image of a table top with three chore charts fanned across the surface. A pen, coffee, and paper clips are also on the table.

Buy your digital download Eco Chore Charts for the whole family right here

Eco Chores

In an effort to raise kids that care about the environment, I think it’s important to include the kids in pro-environmental behaviors.  Check out our eco chore charts to see age-appropriate suggestions and a cute template.

Considerations for Rewarding Pro-Environmental Behaviors

  • These are SMALL prizes given at the end of the week.
  • No small plastic trinkets.
  • Prizes should reinforce environmentalism when possible.

Eco-Conscious Reward Ideas for Raising Little Environmentalists:

  • Seeds to plant or go a step further and make them seed bombs
  • Nifty Reusable Straw
  • Upcycled Crayons
  • Coins to donate to an environmental organization
  • Upcycle Craft Activity

 

Would it be easier to grab a bunch of little items from the dollar store? Sure!  But is it incredibly difficult to come up with a more eco-friendly alternative? No, not really. It may take an extra moment here and there to add new ideas to my list, but I am pretty happy with these choices for eco-friendly reward ideas.  And so far, the kiddos have been, too! 

 

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