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DISCLAIMER: These treats are not the healthiest, but they are special rewards for my students, aligning with what they enjoy.

I adore the end of the school year because it allows me to engage in celebrations with my students. While I generally avoid extrinsic motivators for most of the year (for reasons explained in a separate post about my perspective on extrinsic motivation), towards the end of the year, I ramp up the treats and rewards. This is prompted by one of two scenarios:

1. My students have developed intrinsic motivation throughout the year and do not need external rewards for their efforts.

2. My students haven't fully developed intrinsic motivation by the end of the year, and providing additional extrinsic motivators may be necessary.

Thankfully, scenario #2 is a rarity among my students, and I usually witness a significant increase in their motivation.

Now, let's get back to the topic. Here are some of my favorite classroom treat ideas that are both unique and budget-friendly for students:


One day, when rewarding a group for their behavior, I asked them what treat they wanted. It was April and this was the first time I had chosen to reward students for a behavior. The group that receiving the reward huddled together and after long deliberation they decided on "Hot Fries". (SN: My desire for them to quite eating those hot foods is a story for another day...and a losing battle.) Me being me, had to be extra with the reward. I wanted it to be something special, but also what they wanted. The next day, I surprised them with a mix of Hot Fries, Hot Cheetos, and Hot Doritos, allowing them to create their own blend. They loved it! This concept extended to varieties of popcorn, proving less expensive and more enjoyable for the kids, as they could choose different kinds.


Who needs a candy shop when you can bring it to the classroom on a budget? I scout for candies in Kroger's $1.00 section, set up a candy buffet, and let each kid create their candy masterpiece. I pour each candy into different compartments from one of the bowls I purchased from Dollar Tree. I then set up the scene on a table and allow students the opportunity to come around and tell me to what they want in their bag.

I usually use the small ziploc bags. They can be purchased here from Amazon or from The Dollar Tree. This is definitely another hit for my students.


Juice slushes is another favorite of my students (and myself) that I have been doing for the last couple of years. Buy a juice or fruit-based soda, put it in the freezer, and let kids choose toppings to put in it. Typically, I offer the choice of Nerds, crushed Jolly Ranchers, a sour straw, and popping rocks. My inspiration clearly came from my own personal favorites at Sonic Drive-In.


Another favorite of my students that I have been doing for a couple of years is the ice cream bar. I bring vanilla ice cream and let students choose various toppings to put on them. Typically, I have chocolate & strawberry syrup, and the rest are any crushed cookies or candies that I have. This year, I had several chocolate bars that had begun to melt and had distorted shapes, so I decided to truly melt them, and that also gave kids the options to choose Twix & Snickers as a topping.

In addition to the ice cream bar, students love the ice cream sandwiches. I get the pack of $1 cookies that are large and soft from Walgreens.


I initially thought of treat bags as a thank you to parents for Teacher's Appreciation. My students were supposed to choose their parents' favorite treats and make them a treat mix. The students loved it! Some of their parents' favorites sounded really familiar, so I believe there were some of their own favorites mixed into their parents' treat mix. 😂

So these are just a few of my students' favorites!

It's important to me to avoid assumptions about all students desiring the same treats. When I decide to reward them, I aim for it to genuinely feel like a personal acknowledgment for each individual. This is why I invest time in individualizing the rewards and allowing groups of students to choose different treats. For example, one group might lean towards cupcakes, another may have a preference for pizza, and yet another might opt for ice cream, creating a diverse range of choices. I firmly believe that a treat doesn't truly fulfill its purpose if the child doesn't enjoy it, emphasizing the importance of personalization in the reward. The extra effort to cater to different groups' preferences is undeniably worthwhile, because it ensures that the treat is not just a generic gesture but a thoughtful acknowledgment of each child. This approach adds a special touch to the reward, making it more meaningful and enjoyable for all of the students!


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