Reward Charts for Toddlers

This page gives information on how to successfully use reward charts for toddlers. Reward charts are also sometimes called star charts and they are very helpful for modifying child behavior.

To read more on toddler behavior, click here (opens in a new page).

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What are the principles of reward charts for toddlers?

The principles of using reward charts are the same for all ages. They are:

  • remember you are trying to encourage a new behavior - your child receives a reward when she achieves this behavior but if she doesn't or can't achieve the desired behavior, there is no problem and certainly no punishment
  • the goals set need to be realistic and achievable so that the goal (behavior) you are setting is not too hard for your child but not too easy either. This may mean breaking up the final behavior you want into tasks and progressing from one to another. For example, when toilet training toddlers, the first step might be getting your child to sit on a potty/toilet. The reward should be for the actual act of sitting whether or not she actually passes urine or not. Once she sits on the potty/toilet without a problem, then the reward is for passing urine while on the potty. If the goal is too hard in the first place, there will be no incentive for your child to try - she needs to see she can achieve
  • reset the goals as necessary so when one task is easy for your child, make it a little harder. Your child needs to be clear what the new goal is and should be involved in the goal-setting process as much as is possible for their age
  • the rewards should not be monetary, but something your child will enjoy, so, for example, an afternoon in the park or choosing their favorite meal. For younger children, let them put the sticker on the reward chart - that might be reward enough if you make it fun

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Why do reward charts for toddlers work?

I think one of the big advantages of rewards charts for toddlers is that progress is documented. It is always good to see how far you have come and reward charts show that progress.

They are also a very visual way for your child to be aware of behaviors you find desirable.

Remember that behavior modification works best when there is positive reinforcement for behaviors you want and undesirable behaviors are ignored - read more.

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How can I make a reward chart?

You can easily make your own reward chart although there are charts available online that you can pay for.

To make your own, get a piece of A4 paper and place it long ways. Starting from the right, divide into 7 columns of 3 cm each and the one on the far left will be about 8cm. Then divide into 5 rows of about 4 cm each. Then put the days and weeks in the chart like the one below. In the space with Week 1, write the goal of the week. Make it clear for your child so you might even want to put a picture of your child doing the activity (sitting on the potty, for example). Let your child choose the stickers that are put in the day space if achieved - let your child put them on. It might just be a star or a pretty pink fairy.

For some goals, you might want to break the day up into morning, afternoon, and evening (rather than the week 1,2 and 3). It's completely up to you but the table below is an example of how reward charts for toddlers might appear.

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Download a reward chart for toddlers

You can right click the table below and export to Microsoft Excel. You can then fill in the goals or if you want a potty training reward chart, download the second table.

Goal
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

An example of a toilet training chart is shown below (you can export to an Excel file by right-clicking on the table).

Goal
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
Sun
Task 1: Sit on toilet twice a day
             
Task 2: Tell mommy you want to go to toilet
             
Task 3: Pass urine on toilet having told mommy
             
Task 4: Able to go to toilet alone
             

You might want to laminate the page so it is more hardy and lasts the distance.

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What are realistic goals for rewards charts?

It depends on the child and what you want to achieve. Below are some examples and the steps you could use:

  • toilet training:
    • sit on the toilet three times a day after meals
    • telling you that she wants to go to the toilet
    • passing urine on the toilet
  • going to bed in her own bed:
    • lying in her own bed to sleep
    • staying in her own bed overnight

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At what age can reward charts for toddlers be used?

For reward charts to be successful, your toddler needs to understand that the reward is for the desired behavior. Reward charts have been successfully used for potty training toddlers so that could be from about 2 years depending on your child.

Remember the younger your child, the simpler the chart needs to be. By definition then, reward charts for toddlers need to be simple.

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To go to the top of the Reward Charts for Toddlers page, click here

To go to the main Behavior page, click here

To go to the main Development page, click here

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 1 June 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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