Rewarding Active Kids and Parents

When should we reward ourselves and our children for being active and what should the reward be?

A  friend recently said to me, “Let’s give the kids chocolate when they come in from outside. Shouldn’t we reward them every time they are active?” Her idea to reward being active in order to increase its frequency was right on target!

Giving rewards sometimes and unexpectedly can increase how active we are.

In the early half of the 20th century, psychologist B.F. Skinner studied positive reinforcement and he found that giving pigeons food pellets when they pressed on a lever increased the behavior. More important, he noticed that if the rewards occur randomly – that is, not every time the pigeon presses on the food lever – the behavior occurs even more frequently.

How does this translate to rewarding kids and ourselves for making healthy choices? It means that giving rewards sometimes and unexpectedly can increase how active we are.

What kind of rewards are best?

Praise. Everybody feels good when they are complimented and encouraged.

Favorite activity. That can be time spent playing video games or watching TV.

Visit a special place. The playground, a movie or coffee shop.

Time with friends. A girl’s night out or a kids’ playdate.

Treats. Comfort or celebratory food, such as chocolate or popsicles.

New gear. Reward yourself with a new top or pants from

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