Non-Food Rewards for Kids

There is currently a childhood obesity epidemic. Over 16 percent of children are overweight. Over the past four decades, childhood obesity rates have increased three- to fourfold, with even higher rates among minority and economically disadvantaged children and adolescents.

At home, school, and throughout the community, kids are offered food as a reward for “good” behavior. Food is an inexpensive, easy choice that can cause immediate short-term behavior changes.

Using food rewards teaches kids to eat when they aren’t hungry and can cause them to develop lifelong habits of rewarding or comforting themselves with unhealthy foods. They also may tie food to emotions, such as feelings of accomplishment. “I did a good job, so I deserve to treat myself to a piece of double chocolate cake.”

There are many alternatives to using food as rewards. For more information, see HGIC 4110, Non-Food Rewards for Kids.

For information on healthy nutrition and activities for children, see HGIC 4011, MyPyramid for Kids; HGIC 4032, Physical Activity for Children and HGIC 4111, Healthier Foods at School.

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