Token Board: A System for Rewarding Good Behavior in Children

To get my kids to do things that they’d rather not do, I use a token board. Without any kind of reward or without seeing the purpose of an activity, my kids don’t have much motivation to do some activities. Rewarding good behavior is always my preferred way of handling a situation, as opposed to punishing a bad behavior.

To implement a token board is very simple. You can even have your kids help make the tokens and board as an art activity. You’ll need something durable, like poster board or laminated paper for the board. It doesn’t have to be a specific size, but I generally use a piece of paper about eight by six inches. For tokens you can use stickers, pictures, or even fake coins. You’ll also need some hook and loop fasteners with adhesive backing. You’ll also need a few different small pieces of paper that can be used for the reward cards.

Decide how many tokens you’d like to use on your board and then cut that number of hook and loop pieces about one inch in length. You can also put extra hook pieces on the board so that when your kids are ready to move up to using more tokens your board will be ready. If you have fake coins you can use smaller pieces of fastener so that they fit on to one side of the coin nicely. Put the pieces of fastener along the lower side of the paper. Leave enough space from the bottom edge of the paper so that the tokens don’t hang over the side of the page. On the upper half of the paper put a long strip of the hook fastener. This piece will be used to hold the tokens that haven’t been earned and the reward card.

If you use stickers as tokens, peal them and put them on sturdy paper so that they can withstand the wear of being pulled on and handled. You may want to laminate them or use clear contact paper for extra durability. If you use plastic coins they should be durable enough as they are. You can let your kids draw small one by one inch pictures and laminate those for use as tokens as well. You may want to make different sets of tokens for use with different activities. For example, I once used a token board to reward my daughter for wearing her shoes nicely. She would slip her heels out and step down on the back of the shoes, ruining the support and structure of the shoe. For that token board we used neat little scrapbook stickers of sneakers. Soon she was wearing her shoes well again, plus she really liked the using the shoe tokens.
On the back of each token place a roughly one inch strip of loop fastener. You will also need to put loop fastener on the back of the reward cards after they are laminated.

The reward cards are another piece that kids can decorate. Having a variety of rewards will keep the token board system from getting boring or predictable. Kids can draw items that you will offer as rewards. We regularly use candy, cartoons, bubbles, and surprise as our rewards. Any activity that your child enjoys can be used as a reward to motivate them. These cards should be about two by two inches and laminated once they are decorated.

When we first started out using token boards, I started out with a small number of tokens to help teach the concept. As my kids caught on I upped the number of tokens needed for rewards.

To use the token board, you should have a goal set or an activity that your child doesn’t ordinarily want to do. Explain to them that each time they achieve the goal or complete a part of the activity that they earn a token. When they reach the designated number of tokens they will get whatever reward is on the card.

When you first get your token board out to use you should put the number of tokens that your child will need to earn on the strip of hook fastener on the upper part of the board. Next to the tokens you should place the reward card. Show your child the token board while you explain how to earn tokens and the reward.

To determine how your child will earn each token, you will need to determine what will work best for the activity. When my daughter was having trouble with her shoes she would earn tokens for every ten minutes that she wore her shoes without stepping on the heels. If she was successful she’d get a token; if not, I’d explain to her why she didn’t get the token.

For other activities, such as chores, you could use tokens for each day the chore is done without you reminding them to do it. Or you could give them a token for each time they do the chore properly and completely. You should always be consistent with how the tokens are earned for a specific activity though. If you decide that a ten minute period is set, don’t change it to five minutes for the next token.

Each time they earn a token let them take it from the upper part of the paper and put it on one of the pieces of hook fastener on the bottom part of the board. Congratulate them and encourage them before and after they earn tokens at first. This will help them keep sight of the reward and let them know that you want them to succeed.

After doing the token board a few times my daughters pretty much had the gist of it. I don’t need to use it as often as I did before, but it still works when I need to give them a little extra motivation. It’s a great way to reinforce good behaviors and not have my kids feel like I am lecturing them all the time.

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