How to Keep Students Excited About Individual Reward Systems


As much as I love to use whole-group behavior incentives in kindergarten, I recognize that there will be some students who need an additional level of behavior support.  This is where individual reward systems come into play! With these behavior management tools, you can help your students improve their behavior while working toward personalized rewards.  However, the trick is keeping the student engaged in the process! In this post, I’m going to share five tips that you can use to keep students excited about their individual reward systems.

How to Maintain Engagement with Individual Reward Systems

One of the most frustrating parts of using an individual reward system is when you go through all of the work of prepping and setting it up just for the student to lose interest almost immediately.  I wanted to share a few tips to help you keep students engaged in working toward individual rewards.

1. Choose Wisely

The first way to keep a student engaged in an individual reward system comes long before you ever introduce it. First and foremost, do they actually need an individual reward system or would their needs be met with a whole-group incentive? For some students, an individual reward system might be more of a distraction than a helpful and engaging tool.

Once you’ve decided that a student would benefit from an individual reward system, it’s important to choose the right one!  Sticker chart? Token board? Coloring chart? Individual reward systems are meant to be just that: Individual!  The purpose of using a personal behavior reward system is to meet a child where they are at and help them work toward specific behavior goals.  They are definitely not one size fits all! 

Choosing the right reward system goes behind choosing between sticker charts or token boards.  It’s also important to choose appropriate target behaviors, set realistic expectations, and provide engaging rewards. As adults, what happens when we set New Year resolutions that are way too ambitious?  Usually, we’ve lost interest by February! The same idea is true for our students. We can’t expect them to stay engaged in reward systems with unrealistic behavior expectations.

Holiday themed sticker charts

2. Be Consistent

No matter which reward system you decide to try with an individual student, it’s essential that you follow through with the implementation.  Inconsistency is one of the quickest ways to torpedo student engagement in a reward system.  If students can’t rely on you to hold up your end of the reward system, why would they want to work hard to do their part?

This is why the first point I made above is the most important: It all boils down to your choice of behavior tool. Choose an individual reward system that you can realistically follow through with.  You should also be mindful of using individual reward systems with only those students who truly need that level of behavior support. This will ensure that you’re not trying to keep track of 25 token boards at once! 

3. Shake Things Up

While consistency is essential for any reward system, it’s also important to shake things up where you can!  Consider adding new reward options to the mix every so often to keep students excited about filling in their sticker chart or token board. You could also modify the number of stickers or tokens needed to adjust the time period between rewards. 

You might also decide to switch to a different type of reward system if it feels like the student is getting bored with it or needs a different level of behavior support.  Remember, the goal of any behavior reinforcement system is for students to not need it anymore! As you switch up individual reward systems, look for ways to gradually increase expectations and delay gratification (as appropriate) to encourage progress.

Spring reward charts with rainbows and flowers

4. Personalize Using Student Interests

Another great way to keep students engaged in their individual reward system is to incorporate their interests.  Does your student love rainbows?  You can use a themed sticker chart with stickers to match! Is your student obsessed with a particular superhero?  You can laminate larger stickers to use as tokens for your token board system.

When students feel like these reward systems are created with them in mind, they will naturally be more engaged and invested in the process.  However, we all know how quickly children can switch to a new interest, so it’s important to be flexible and switch things up when necessary.

5. Incorporate the Season

Finally, an easy way to increase engagement and buy-in for individual reward systems is to coordinate your rewards with the season. This provides a built-in opportunity to switch things up, since you’ll be changing them with the seasons.  

A penguin token board with fish shaped tokens

Using seasonal reward systems also provides a bit of automatic engagement.  Students are naturally more interested in things that are relevant at that moment.  Feeding snowballs to a yeti just feels more engaging when it’s actively snowing outside.  Students can more easily relate to the concept of making snowballs in the middle of the winter months than they can during the back-to-school season.

Printable Individual Reward Systems for Winter

Would you like to add a touch of seasonal excitement to your individual reward systems this winter?  Try these printable token boards for winter!  Your students will have fun “feeding” different items to each winter character as they work toward a reward by making positive choices.  

Each token board has space for the behavior goal, reward, and tokens.  This system can easily be customized for individual students to help them stay engaged in the process.  If you’d like to take a closer look at everything included in this resource, you can find it in the Teaching Exceptional Kinders shop or on TPT.

Save These Tips for Individual Reward Systems

I hope this post has given you some helpful tips for keeping students engaged in their individual reward systems. If you use whole-class behavior incentives, you might want to check out my post about improving student buy-in for whole group rewards.

Be sure to save this post if you’d like to come back to these tips.  Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest.  You’ll be able to quickly find these behavior tips and resources the next time you’re looking for an individual reward system.

How to Keep Students Excited About Individual Reward Systems


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