If you are a mom you might be in the habit of treating your children with candy, chocolate, or crisps as a form of reward when they’ve done something good. Even if you yourself don’t do this regularly, friends or relatives probably have a bag full of goodies ready for your kid every time they visit your house. People do this with the best intentions, without realizing that food rewards at such a young age can actually build the foundations for a very, very unhealthy relationship with food later on in life. We don’t want to teach our children that sugary foods are comfort foods, that they are the source of their happiness and the ultimate gift. There are so many other things that our children would enjoy just as much, if not more than candy, that you can treat them with.

Next time you are getting a treat for your child or someone else’s, try less junk and more mentally stimulating rewards with these thoughtful ideas:

  • Coloring Books: Not only are you decreasing junk, but you are also improving hand to eye coordination and allowing your child to focus on details.
  • Bubble Blowers: Have you ever met a kid that doesn’t love bubbles? Their sheer joy at blowing bubbles will even keep you entertained. This is a simple gift, but it will keep children happy and occupied for at least a couple of hours.
  • Plants: You can buy a simple sunflower pot and give it to your child as both a reward and a responsibility; something that they must look after in order for it to grow and flourish. This will improve their connection with nature while also encouraging them to be responsible. Slightly older kids will love this one.
  • Children’s Books: Whatever the book is, it will be money well spent. Reading at any age is a stimulating, eye-opening activity, especially in an era where everything is digital. The younger you encourage children to engage with books, the more natural it will become for them over time.
  • Play-Doh: Play-Doh is a whole lot of fun for all kids! It helps awaken your child’s creative and imaginative side, and improve hand strength and co-ordination. Provide children with small Play-Doh shaping and cutting tools, or even plastic silverware to work with. This will ensure they stay busy and extend their creativity.
  • Puzzles: Puzzles are another item that can be used as an educational tool and a reward. For young ones, you can easily find word building or matching puzzles at any kids store for a low price. For older kids, anything age appropriate that appeals to their interests. Educationally, puzzles help children with memory and spatial (visual) learning. Puzzles are also something that can be done together, among siblings or as a family.