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Reward System Ideas for Toddlers

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

You know how difficult it is to teach your toddler to follow the rules, but focusing on his poor behavior is bound to backfire. While you need to correct negative behavior, focusing on the good things your child does can be equally as powerful at curbing unwanted behavior. Devising a reward system is one way to accomplish that goal.


Toddlers don't think abstractly, so they need a visual reminder of how to behave. A chart can encourage your toddler to behave appropriately. While your toddler won't understand a complex chart that outlines desired behaviors, a simple sticker or a smiley face on a piece of paper separated into days can deliver that message. When you see your toddler behaving, make a big deal about putting a sticker or drawing a happy face on the chart. Your toddler will enjoy all the positive attention and will likely strive to repeat that behavior in the future so she gets another reward on her chart.

Toddler Bucks

Just as charts serve as a visual reminder, toddler bucks can also serve as an incentive. No, toddlers don't understand the importance of money, but they do understand getting a reward. Cut colored construction paper into rectangles and let your toddler scribble on them or stick stickers all over one side. On the back, draw a picture of a certain reward, such as a cartoon or a bottle of bubbles. When you catch your toddler being good, reward him with a toddler buck. Show him how to turn it over to see what his prize is. For example, if it's a picture of bubbles, immediately take your child outside and blow bubbles together. Over time, your toddler will learn that behaving appropriately brings entertainment and he will be more likely to repeat those desirable behaviors.

Good Behavior Fairy

Magical creatures, such as Santa, the Easter Bunny and fairies, are quite intriguing to toddlers and you can use that to your advantage. Spin a tale about the "Clean-Up Fairy" or the "Sleepytime Fairy." The exact fairy should be based on the area of behavior your toddler is having a hard time with. Let your toddler know that every once in a while, the fairy will reward children who listen to their parents and do what they're supposed to. Follow through by leaving your child a prize occasionally. For example, if your toddler goes to bed without getting up several times, leave a small prize, such as a bouncy ball or a sheet of stickers, under her pillow. The promise of a prize is often the only incentive necessary to improve behavior.


If you're opposed to tangible rewards such as toys, praise is also powerful reward. When you notice your toddler playing quietly or putting his toys away the first time you ask, praise him or give him a high five. Your toddler will be so proud of himself that he'll probably strive to behave in the future. Don't reward your toddler every time he behaves, however, because it can backfire on you if you forget to pass out a reward. Further, your toddler needs to learn how to behave without the promise of a reward since, as he gets older, he won't get a prize just for going to bed on time or for taking responsibility for his own toys.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

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