my treasure chest:

Once upon a time my husband and I were at a garage sale when he saw this thing and exclaimed, “We’ve got to buy this!”

And I said, “No, it’s ugly!”

To which he replied, “We’re going to need this for something someday.  And it’s really cool!”

Well, now it’s the treasure chest that I bring to lessons and  when he says we should buy something dumb, I go along with it because he’s right a lot of the time (don’t tell him I said that ;)).

My treasure

I used to fill the chest with candy but I’ve been learning a lot about food lately and don’t feel good giving my students something that I wouldn’t give my own child (I’m telling you, food coloring is no joke!).  These days my treasure chest is filled with:

  • Whoopie cushions
  • Cool guitar picks
  • Fake dinosaur skeletons
  • Sheets of stickers
  • Hello Kitty nail polish
  • Ice cream shaped lip gloss
  • Squirt guns
  • Squinkies
  • Fancy erasers
  • Playdough
  • And more!


I’m not a big fan of using bribes to motivate kids.  In fact, I don’t often tell a student that I even have a treasure chest and since I do lessons in their homes, there’s almost no way they’d ever find out (unless, of course, they start reading my blog).

If a child is intrinsically motivated to practice then the treasure chest remains a secret.  After all, having and keeping intrinsic motivation is a more valuable gift than any dollar store trinket.  However, for many varying reasons, some kids need extrinsic motivation…

Enter the treasure chest!

In order to pick treasure from the chest, I require students to practice 5 days for 15 minutes if they are a pre-reader and 30 minutes if they have a longer attention span and the ability to read.   It’s a different story for my older students, but that’s a topic for another day.

I like the practice charts found at this website, they’re simple and cute: and require the parents of my students to confirm their child’s practice by initialing on the line.

How do you motivate your child or student to practice?  What is an effect way to encourage and/or reward intrinsic motivation without compromising it?

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