Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Bean Jar

Let me introduce you to our “Bean Jar.” I’ve done this reward system for our girls quite a while now. It’s super easy and motivating to children. It also works great for little ones (just make sure they aren’t in the “let’s but everything in our mouth stage”). Your children should be old enough to be able to tell you the things they want to “buy” with their beans. This worked at age 3.5 - 4 years old for us, but I’m sure you can easily adapt this to any age.

The Bean Jar


  • You can use anything as “currency”. It can be rocks, erasers…whatever. You don’t want anything that is fun or edible like candy. It should be boring, so that they don’t want to play with it.
  • For every time your child(ren) does something the FIRST time you ask, they get (1) “bean”.
  • The child saves up their beans to earn special privileges.
  • This is only a reward system. Beans cannot be taken away for bad behavior.


  • Encourages children to respond to you the first time around vs. repeating, threatening, or punishing.
  • Teaches children the value of rewards that aren’t always linked to money or allowances.
  • Lets the parents see which rewards are valuable to the children.
  • Teaches children how to “save up” and earn greater rewards.
  • Teaches counting and adding.

How To:

  • Decide what type of “currency” you want to use. For our children, we used dried black beans and lima beans.
  • Have a different bean for each child to avoid confusion.
  • Get a container for each child with their name on it. I think I got these at The Dollar Tree. image
  • Sit down with your child and make a list of fun things they’d like to do & the amount of beans needed to do each activity.
  • Focus on activities rather than things you buy.
  • Make sure you include activities that include 5 beans all the way to 150 beans. If the child has to work for months to get a reward, it’s hard for them to be motivated. The first time Sassypants earned a reward, her greatest goal in life was to keep earning more beans.


This is just a sample of what our chart has on it. Depending on your child’s age, you can change the rewards to whatever is of value to your child. You’ll probably want to be specific in times, and even set a timer for the timed activities.

  • 5 beans=Extra 15 minutes at night to stay up to read, cuddle or play.
  • 5 beans= One-on-one play time with Mom or Dad for 15 minutes. Kid’s choice of activity.
  • 10 beans=Play 1 board game of child’s choice (you may want to put a time limit or number of plays on this one)
  • 10 beans=Any craft for 30 minutes
  • 15 beans=Ice cream after school
  • 15 beans=Watch a movie together at home
  • 25 beans= Go to mall or bookstore and play for one hour (no buying treats or toys)
  • 25 beans=Buy Play-Doh or Model Magic
  • 50 beans=Friend at our house for 2 hours for a playdate
  • 50 beans=1.5 hours at the park
  • 75 beans= “Queen of the Day”- on a non-school night, she gets to choose meals and 2 activities
  • 100 beans= Sleepover at our house (only 1 or 2 friends)
  • 150 beans=Trip to Chuck-E-Cheese with 25 tokens
  • 150 beans=1/2 day trip to the waterpark

As you can see, I try to focus on “activities” rather than always buying something. We have lots of other things on our list too, but you get the idea.

The great thing about the bean jar is the fact that you can do it ANYWHERE. I keep a snack size ziploc in my purse with both their beans in it. If they earn beans while we’re out, I’ll transfer the earned beans into my zipper pocket, then put them in their container when we get home.

Do you all have a reward system that works for you? I’d love to hear your ideas.


  1. This is a great idea! I love that it's about spending time together and not about buying things. I bet you find beans in strange places... :)

  2. What a brilliant idea! I think I will start his because my boys are starting to whine about everything I tell them to do and I am getting headaches! LOL Thanks so much for sharing with us! Have a fabulous day girl!!!

  3. Just found your blog and LOVE it. I'm your newest follower! :) Happy Friday. When I have wee ones, I'll have to remember this...great idea!

  4. my aunt does this with tootsie rolls! your kiddos are lucky to have such a caring mother!

  5. I LOVE this idea! I think we may start it this summer. By the way, I love the new blog design; it's so you.

  6. Oh my goodness, I love this "system" -- I am a big fan of focusing on rewarding good behavior instead of constantly focusing on the "no-no's" and bad behavior. I might have to start doing this with my little man!