our everyday life

Ways to Reward a Five Year Old

by Debra Pachucki, studioD

Throughout all stages of life, rewards serve as effective motivators that encourage people to behave a certain way or perform to a specific level. This is especially true for young children. Your five-year-old understands that specific behaviors and actions are linked to different outcomes and consequences. Healthy, age-appropriate rewards, for a job well done, encourage desirable behaviors and reinforces cognitive development in your youngster.


Prizes are a special way to reward your child for good behavior. Since every child is different, the type of prize that works best as a reward will depend on your youngster’s individual interests. In order for a prize reward to be truly effective in reinforcing good behavior, it must be something your child truly likes and desires. Has she been drawing your attention to a particular commercial that features a specific toy? Perhaps your little boy has talked excitedly about his schoolmate’s amazing 140-count crayon box. Use your child’s particular interests to determine a prize that he would truly enjoy and be motivated to work toward obtaining.


Privileges make effective incentives because they allow your child the opportunity to do something special, outside of their regular routine and permitted activities. The next time you want to reward your child for good behavior or a job well done, allow her to choose from a short, simple list of special privileges. Again, be sure that it is something your child would truly desire doing for the reward to be effective. Good options for a five-year-old includes taking a trip to the park, going for a picnic, choosing a video to rent or another special choice or activity that isn’t part of your child’s normal routine, but won’t disrupt it, either.

Reward Charts

Reward charts serve as a tangible, visual reminder that the goal is to work toward gaining a special prize or privilege through a specific behavior or action. Keep the time it takes to earn a reward short, and give your youngster a tangible way to track his progress toward the goal. To encourage your child to brush his teeth daily, for example, create a small chart that lists the days of the week. Assist your child in placing a sticker beneath each day he remembered to brush his teeth on his own. At the end of the week, or when he reaches a certain number of stickers, reward him with the prize or privilege established at the beginning of the duration cycle.

Healthy Food Rewards

Food rewards have been heavily criticized as a poor incentive for children because they can encourage children to eat when they aren’t hungry, teach children to reward themselves through eating, and have the potential to encourage unhealthy food choices -- all of which can lead to obesity and poor nutritional health. Rewarding children with food can, however, have the opposite effect and promote healthy eating habits if done properly. To use food as a reward in a healthy and beneficial way, give your five-year-old the option to choose a food reward from a list of healthy options. Fresh fruit slices, whole grain crackers spread with peanut butter or topped with low-fat cheese, a small cup of yogurt or other healthy snack as recommended by the USDA make for nutritious food rewards. Allow your youngster to choose her reward immediately, but incorporate the treat at a regular mealtime, such as snack time or lunch. These simple guidelines will allow you to use food as a reward in a way that promotes healthy eating habits and good nutritional choices.

About the Author

Debra Pachucki has been writing in the journalistic, scholastic and educational sectors since 2003. Pachucki holds a Bachelor's degree in education and currently teaches in New Jersey. She has worked professionally with children of all ages and is pursuing a second Masters degree in education from Monmouth University.

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