One thing about having multiples, is that they learn from an early age that ‘it is not all about me.’ Our kids figured out that, most of the time, there was a one to four ratio and they had to wait. They also figured out that things got done faster when they worked together. Kids learn the same thing when they become part of a classroom or other group setting. Later on, these skills are used at work. Working toward common goals is an important life skill and creates a sense of community.
I remember teachers using incentive jars when I was in school. It helped us work together and feel connected. As a psychologist, I also see the benefits, but look at the activity through a different lens. Since I have a built-in group, I use an incentive jar at home. They were so proud when they, after many weeks of effort, earned a trip to the “dinosaur museum.” Different incentives are used each time and different behaviors are targeted.
You will need:
- Two transparent jars of a similar size-but noticeably different appearance (either shape, or decoration)
- Glass beads or marbles
Steps to set it up:
- Figure out what behaviors you are seeking to increase (i.e. kindness, manners, cleaning up, following classroom or home rules)
- Decide which behaviors you would like to decrease (i.e. hitting, yelling, leaving a mess).
- Pick a couple of incentive options, such as a fun science experiment and special snack or making lemonade and doing a story time or movie. This does not need to be a big prize. At this age, they are thrilled to do something different that shakes up the routine. If you are homeschooling, a field trip is a great option.
- Have the children vote on which option they like best, in order to increase their investment in the goal.
- Put all the beads in one jar and leave one jar empty.
- Transfer beads from the first jar to the goal jar whenever you notice desired behaviors. For example, “I love how Jack said ‘thank you’ when I gave him his coloring page.” Or, “you worked so well as a team cleaning up the toys.”
- Remove beads for undesired behaviors. Comment when beads are removed, such as, “Uh oh. There is a lot of noise happening in quiet time. I will have to take a bead out of the jar.”
- You will be unable to catch every desired and undesired behavior, which is for the best. Studies have shown that intermittent reinforcement (think gambling) is more effective than continuous reinforcement. Someone who gets a ticket once while driving is likely to change their habits for a while afterwards just in case they get caught again.
- Make sure to use enough beads that it takes them a while to reach their goal. They will likely learn to work together and remind each other to make good choices along the way. They will learn delayed gratification which is important for any long-term goal.
- As they get closer to filling the jar, increase the excitement about nearing the end-goal and working as a team.
- After they enjoy the reward, they are likely to be excited to plan the next incentive. They could even make a group art project depicting their incentive (i.e. pizza made from a paper plate, glue and construction paper).
Follow the hashtag, #TeachECE, so you don’t miss anything this year and check out more resources on Teaching Responsibility from the Early Childhood Education Team,
Teaching Responsibility in Preschool through Practical Life Skills via The Preschool Toolbox Blog
Teaching Responsibility: Use a Morning Routine Checklist via Mom Inspired Life
Morning Routine Chart for the Preschool Classroom via Fun-A-Day
Teaching Responsibility: Simple Daily Routine Chart for Kids via Learning 2 Walk
Teaching Kids to be Responsible through Literacy Activities via Growing Book by Book
Responsibility Interactive Mini-Book and Memory Game for Preschoolers via Life Over C’s
Homeschool Lesson Plan Checklist via Still Playing School
Teaching Children How to Be Responsible for their Own Backpack by The Educators’ Spin On It