36 Ideas for Inexpensive Student Incentives

Get creative on the cheap!

If we had our way, all teachers would have special funds just to purchase motivating incentives for their students! Unfortunately, though, teachers often end up using their own money to buy classroom treats, and being frugal becomes a necessity.

It’s a common challenge, and that’s probably why the response on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! was so huge when teacher Kayla wrote in recently, asking about inexpensive treats for her students. She said:

”I’m looking for alternative treats to give my students. I know they love candy, but so many teachers give out candy and so many of our students do not need the extra sugar. Since I work at a Title I school, I would still like the treats to be food-related and something I can keep for a long time to pull out whenever they are good, so it can be a motivator! Any ideas on what I could use?”

Kayla, we hear you! Once you’ve checked with your administration that food, among other prizes, is cleared to give your students, try out some of these suggestions.

  1. Satsumas, cuties, halos, or any other kind of orange.

  2. Apples and peanut butter.

  3. Goldfish crackers.

  4. Erasers.

  5. Popcorn.

  6. Trail mix.

  7. Small snack bags of chips.

  8. Contact local businesses and ask if they would donate coupon cards that would be handed out for good behavior, such as being on time, staying on task, and helping others.

  9. Pretzels.

  10. Homework passes.

  11. Working at the teacher’s desk for a day.

  12. Eating with anyone you like at lunch!

  13. Time for computer educational games.

  14. Animal crackers.

  15. String cheese.

  16. Assign the student to be “Helper For the Day.”

  17. Stickers of all kinds: fuzzy, smelly, colorable!

  18. Mini-marshmallows.

  19. Applesauce.

  20. Fruit snacks.

  21. Beef jerky.

  22. Sugar-free gum.

  23. Cereal.

  24. Temporary tattoos.

  25. Choice of music for free time.

  26. Ring pops.

  27. Post-it notes.

  28. Sharpies.

  29. Takis.

  30. Lifesaver mints: very little sugar, inexpensive and helps out students who forgot to brush their teeth in the morning.

  31. Extra-credit-point slips.

  32. Teddy grahams.

  33. Hot chocolate.

  34. Anything from the Target dollar bins (especially fun pen and pencil packs).

  35. Granola bars.

  36. Ask your students for ideas of what they would like! Whatever you choose, remember to be sensitive to any food allergies your students might have. Happy gifting!

36 Incentives for students