Posts Tagged ‘children’

Summer Reading Programs – Incentives and Rewards

July 2, 2009

Most experts agree that a child should read at least 20 minutes a day to foster a love for reading and learning. Its very easy to allow that time to slip away from us and with busy schedules it is far easier to keep the TV on and let the books collect dust. I know that I have strategically (and with guilt) used the television to give me free time for cooking, cleaning and business calls. Its an evil necessity at times but does not have to be a constant decision.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to stop giving away -free- television time and turn off the “idiot box”! Video Games, Movies and TV are earned in my house and are not a daily expectation. This was implemented before my daughter started kindergarten and we have a “No TV on School Nights” rule. Some of you may read this and scream. Most children hearing this would definitely scream. However, I find that the limited amount of TV for all of us has opened up the doorway to more enjoyable things and we have become a happier family as a result.

There are two reading incentives my seven year old daughter has right now; the local library Summer Reading Program and our own Book Token Reward system. Each day she reads for 20 minutes she gets to fill in a circle on her chart for the library and five days of this earns her a sticker and a free book! Our Book Token Reward system isn’t quite as simple! When she finishes a book that is more than twenty pages long I give her a book token. These are simply die cut pieces of paper in the shape of books that I picked up from the dollar store. I write the date, book title and number of pages on it and she likes to tape them to her door. If she decides to fill out a “Book Report” on the finished book she will get a star on her Book Token. The Book Report is five simple questions about the book and she has to answer with at least three sentences. A star earns her an additional point! Our rewards are constantly changing because this is a new system and we are really enjoying it! She can choose to “cash” in her book tokens for smaller prizes or save them up.

5 Book Token Rewards:

  • 15 minutes of computer games
  • 1 Age Appropriate Show
  • A Popsicle or Watermelon Banana Split (recipe to be added soon!)
  • A Mommy and Daughter Board Game Throw down (She gets to stay up after her brother goes to bed and we play a board game of her choice before she goes to bed.)

10 Book Token Rewards:

  • A Chapter Book
  • Two Coloring Books
  • One Kiddo Comic Book
  • 5$ to Spend on Choice (she has been picking hair accessories!)

15 Book Token Rewards

  • Movie and Popcorn
  • Picnic in the Park (she decides the menu)

20 Book Token Rewards

  • Lunch at Restaurant of Choice
  • Fun Family Outing of Choice (We have passes to Zoos and the Aquarium so its usually a choice between these places)

I usually do not reward with food however with this system I tried to pick rewards that would be more than just junk. We rarely do sweets or dine out so these rewards tend to be a pretty big deal.

We have added new rewards as they have come up and she can earn two a day if she really focuses on it (which she HAS been! Yay!). I am sure this will constantly change and evolve as her reading progresses. I currently stick to twenty pages in a chapter book so there is more reading and less pictures. Sometimes we compromise on books that are longer with more pictures but the amount of reading is about the same. It is a very loose system and I implement it solely as a positive. Book Tokens are -never- taken away and are never used in any negative. She is honestly quite proud when I fill these out and she puts them on her door!

Positive and Fun Meals!

June 19, 2009

fun lunchFood should be positive, fun, delicious as well as healthy but we live in a time where everyone is overly health conscious and kids pick up on the stress of that. I try to avoid the talks about “good and bad food” and just present it as food. “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” I’m not a force feeder and I feel that if you keep offering food in a positive way without any negative food comments at the dinner table then children are more likely to eat it. Little minds are easily influenced and I’ve seen kids go from absolutely loving something like broccoli and then refusing it after they heard an adult or peer say, “Oh yuck! I don’t like that!”. So, my rules at the dinner table are simple…

  • Keep negative comments about food to yourself
  • Take one bite of everything at least, please
  • You are welcome to seconds after all portions are consumed

Of course there are the other general rules of manners at the dinner table but that is a topic for another day! Oh and these rules apply to the adults at the table as well!

A meal is a time to connect, bond and enjoy each others company. It should be a positive and thankful time for everyone involved. We have such busy lives that these little moments in time are valuable and should be appreciated.

I offer a lot of variety and small portions so it expands the palette gradually. A typical meal will have one part meat, two parts veggies, one part fruit and usually rice. If I am offering something new to a child that I am sure they will frown upon I will only give enough for just one bite. It’s less intimidating for a child to eat a single bite of something new than stare at a huge mountain of it. If I am offering something I know a child does not like then I will give them two bite portions. Why? Because if a child is known to dislike something we generally always encourage to at least have one bite so they expect that. If they eat the second bite we can positively enforce it with “Wow! Great job! You ate it ALL!” Sure, the portions were only two bites but that fills a child with pride to know they really did eat all of something they dislike. Eating all of something is much more of an accomplishment than just eating two bites. If they choose not to eat it all then I just ignore it and say something positive about what they did eat.

fun shapesHowever, sometimes kids just aren’t into food that much or become bored easily. Thats why I try to make meals simple and fun with ideas from the Japanese bento. Bentos are traditionally a Japanese lunch that is taken on the go and served in a box. I have a lot of fond memories of bentos from my childhood. I loved all the cute containers, contrasting colors and neat shapes of common food. It always made lunch more enjoyable! I try to use a few ideas with every meal to make our meals a little more visually appealing. Even if its something as simple as using cookie cutters to cut meats into heart shapes, or cutting hot dogs into the shape of octopuses. Children respond positively to a plate full of fun and cute things.

Every child is different and because of such its hard for us to figure out what grabs their attention. Its a constantly changing and evolving process but I find that if you get down to their level and see through a child’s eyes it all becomes a little clearer. Sometimes we can’t change their stubborn nature or apprehension on trying new foods. But, we can change how we present the foods in a positive and fun way so hopefully it sticks.