Rewards jars motivate children to improve behavior or help them adjust to new behaviors or routines. You shouldn't use a reward jar as a bribe to get your little cutie pie to do as you say. Instead, use it to reinforce positive behavior and to motivate your child to follow family rules. For example, you can use a reward jar to help potty train your kiddo, or to get him to keep his room clean. What you put in the jar depends on your child's age and interests.
When you have little ones, it’s a good idea to have a plastic reward jar, large enough so you can put items inside that won’t pose a choking risk. Every time your kiddo earns a reward, you can put a small toy in the jar such as a beanbag, balls or a box of crayons. You can also fill the jar with stickers, determining beforehand that when your little one gets a certain number of stickers, he can redeem them for a toy that is too large to fit in the jar such as a plush animal. Don't make the toys extravagant or expensive – they’re really just a bit of encouragement to keep up the good behavior. The process of earning rewards builds your child’s self-esteem and gives him a sense of control and independence, which is the real reward in the end.
You can also use the jar to reward you kiddo with treats he can eat. However, instead of filling a reward jar with unhealthy treats like candy, save yourself a trip to the dentist by creating a reward jar system around mealtimes or special treats outside the home. Using several small cards or scraps of paper, draw pictures of favorite meals or snacks on each piece, or find coupons to favorite restaurants, and then fold each one and put them in the reward jar. This way, each time your child earns a reward, he can choose a slip of paper from the reward jar. Food rewards might include a trip to the ice cream parlor, pizza nights or making a favorite meal for dinner.
Reward jars are also excellent opportunities to have your child work toward special activities. Again, you would drop stickers in the jar every time your kiddo earns her reward – except you would also need explain to her that she needs more than just a few tickets to get to choose a special activity, such as a movie or an amusement park, of her choice. You should make the required amount of stickers attainable and offer her a way to reach the amount of stickers she needs. For example, tell her that if she makes her bed, puts her toys away, and follows a bedtime routine for a week, she’ll get 20 stickers, which will earn her a special play date with a friend. Allow your child to help choose the privileges she can earn, but make sure you make the final decision so that it’s reasonable and age appropriate.
A mystery reward jar encourages positive behavior while adding a bit of random fun to the choosing of the reward. Fill the jar or a homemade treasure chest with wrapped items, such as action figures, dolls or board books. Another option is to draw pictures that represent special activities on scraps of paper, such as a skate for skating or animals for a trip to the zoo, and put them inside plastic Easter eggs. Place the eggs into the jar so that when your child earns a reward, he picks one at random. Vouchers for family game or movie nights make ideal mystery reward jars.