As we make our way into the new school year I am already starting to hear cries of, “But I don’t want to go to school today!” I often find myself trying to create incentives to get my little First Grader out the door. Seems I’m always promising a cup of frozen yogurt after school, a trip to the beach or a special movie night complete with the biggest bowl of popcorn this house has ever seen.
Recently, during Back to School Night, I listened to my son’s teacher describe her discipline system for the classroom and it gave me an idea. Why not incorporate similar tools for motivation here at home?
A recent project, introduced to the children by my mother while my husband was away on a business trip, uses the same concept as an Advent Calendar in the days leading up to Christmas. We call it a Countdown Calendar.
This one, created by Grandma, started with a simple list of supplies: A piece of foam core (or poster board), several brown paper bags cut in half and taped shut, stickers, decorations and treats. Each bag was attached to the board with tape to create pockets for the goodies. The kids were not only given something to look forward to on the days while their Dad was out of town, but they also had a visual way to understand how much longer Dad would be gone. They actually took pleasure in counting the empty pockets and then counting the full pockets after they retrieved their treat for the day. Kids get so excited by simple pleasures! As parents, we’ve got to take advantage of that while we can.
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Countdown Calendars for the school year: Count down the days leading up to a big school project or exam, provide kids with a visual marker for the number of days they’ve gone to school or give rewards for accomplishing milestones like learning the alphabet, recognizing sight words and understanding addition/multiplication tables.
Countdown Calendars leading up to special occasions: Count the days until a Birthday, holiday or vacation.
Countdown Calendars as incentives: Provide motivation for completing homework or chores, for brushing teeth and making the bed, to clean up after themselves or behave.
Holiday Countdown Calendars: Why have one just for Christmas? Use any of the following ideas for crafting up some fun count downs to Halloween, Valentines’ Day, Easter or Independence Day.
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Sweets: Bubble gum, lollipops, candy
Trading Cards: Start kids off with a 3-ring binder filled with plastic trading card sleeves so they have a place to display their collection. Tell the parents of your child’s friends about this so they can do the same and kids can get excited about trading cards with each other.
Money: Consider using paper money that can be used to buy prizes from you. You could even have kids draw their own money!
Tokens: To be used at the arcade, Chuck-E-Cheese or vending machines.
Coupons: Make these for kids to trade in for some of their favorite activities like going to the park, renting a movie, baking cupcakes/cookies or making a special arts-and-crafts project.
Arts-and-Crafts: Buy packages of markers, colored pencils, glitter glue tubes, paint or stickers and then break them up so kids have to work toward earning the entire package over time.
Trinkets: Visit your local teacher/learning or party supply store or for all kinds of small treasures like erasers, mini markers, yo-yos, toys and more.
Here are instructions on three different styles of calendars. Stay tuned!
Dawn Huntington is a stay-at-home mom by way of architecture school. When she isn’t caring for her family, Dawn is either in the garden, behind the sewing machine, engaged with her sketchbook, wielding power tools or peeling glue off her fingertips. Projects, stories, whimsical designs and more can be found on her blog, Out of the Box – California.