Rewarding physical activity and healthy living choices

Reward charts have been used for a long time to encourage particular behaviours in many different environments – at home, school, clubs and many more. Over the years, we’ve all earned badges at clubs and stitched them on our jumpers like a mobile reward chart! These days, charts are more likely to be on the fridge or a bedroom wall but the intention remains the same – to inspire and reward targeted effort and achievement.

The benefits of reward charts

Reward charts can be particularly powerful in:

  • encouraging wanted behaviour
  • discouraging unwanted behaviour
  • highlighting the positive benefits of trying new things / practising new skills
  • learning how to set goals
  • teaching responsibility
  • providing children with a visible progress tracker

Positive reinforcement of desired behaviour is an effective approach to changing how we do things for the better, whether you’re 3 or 93! Even as coaches over the last year, for example, we’ve used pedometers to track and record steps, apps to monitor a balanced healthy diet and heart monitors to guage and record effort and intensity. A lot of these devices compare our activity, provide feedback and help us to adjust our actions accordingly in a very similar way to how we as coaches and parents help children to set goals and achieve them through reward charts.

Reward chart challenges

Keeping a balanced view, it’s useful to consider two common pitfalls! The notion of using too much praise, particularly when a child’s goal becomes the praise rather than the behavioural outcome* and why, as helpfully outlined by the Raising Children Network, ‘a reward for good behaviour isn’t the same as bribing your child. The difference is that a bribe is given before the behaviour you want, and a reward is given after. Rewards reinforce good behaviour, but bribes don’t.’**

Motivating children

Research suggests that children are primarily motivated by pleasure, play and the sheer joy of movement***, so providing more opportunities to experience these will help to cement positive habits that not only inspire children but also us grown-ups as well. This is why the team at A-Star Sports has created the Star Chart Challenge, a reward chart and accompanying eBook to provide ideas and inspiration towards more fun physical activity and healthy living choices. These resources are free to everyone and can be downloaded on our free resources page – available from 01/12/14.

So, set some goals, try some new things and have a whole heap of fun in the process :)