January 18, 2017

Affordable Alternative Reward System for the Preschool SLP


Curious about ways to break away from treasure boxes, candy, and stickers? Looking for an affordable alternative to the "expected" rewards? Read more, in this follow up post to "Why I Dumped the Treasure Chest".


After writing my previous blog post over dumping the treasure chest, I realized I didn't tell you quite enough about how I reward my precious preschoolers. Before I indulge them, let me recap:

My first year working at a school, I used the treasure box left behind by my predecessor. It was half full of McDonald's toys, dollar store goodies, and overall junk that kids love while simultaneously making parents everywhere cringe.

I was over it. It cost too much to refill and the kids were a little ungrateful. Fast forward to today.

After deciding upon a reward system for my elementary aged students, I realized it wouldn't work for my preschool students. A session without shoes or getting to sit with a stuffed animal didn't quite do it because those both sound like things that might happen on a normal day for them-- plus, preschoolers can't handle waiting 5 sessions for a reward. Preschoolers live in the here and now. They need immediate reinforcement.

You may laugh when I tell you what I use for my preschoolers as a reinforcement, but you and I can take that laugh straight to the bank because what I am about to tell you WORKS and will save you MONEY!


TA-DA. Lip balm.

Yes, lip balm, more specifically, scented lip balm, or as we oh-so-affectionately call it in the preschool world: A "Smelly"; Plural = "Smellies".

How does it work?  Simple. A child does something that is deserving of positive reinforcement, and therefore recieves a smidge of scented lip balm onto the back of their hand. Seriously. That's it. They love it, their friends are jealous, and their teachers are slightly tired of smelling the back of their students' hands when they come back into the room. The adults all have a good laugh and the kids are happy. Win-win.




A preschooler will do anything for a smelly. Truthfully, most kindergartners and first graders will also do anything for a smelly.

Did you finish your activity? You get a smelly! Did you walk like you were supposed to in the hall? You get a smelly! Was this the first session all year where a temper tantrum was not involved? I'll be darned, you are getting a smelly on each hand.


 Before I leave you, however, let me share these quick troubleshooting tips:
  • Some children worry about washing off the smell. Solution? Put the "smelly" on their forearm or wrist. 
  • Most children want to put in on themselves. Solution? No. It ends up going from hand to shoulder, possibly on lips, and rolled out too far then smushed up in the lid. Am I speaking from experience? Possibly.
  • Have 2-3 smells to choose from. Preschoolers like the choice but too many choices will overwhelm them, and they will never pick which smell they want. I change out the smells from season to season.
I mean really, what kid doesn't want to smell like fruit, ice cream, or soda*? Honestly, I kind of want to smell that good, too.

*Post contains affiliate links.



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