Treasure Chest “Un-Reward” System for Kids

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Treasure Chest "Un-Reward" System for KidsI might not be a Mom that bribes her kids often, but I do love to surprise my three kiddos every once in a while! Never have I ever been more thankful for our Treasure Chest, a drawer in my bathroom where I stuff random clearance items for rainy days. Seems like we have had a couple months of rainy days! The sun is shining now, new habits are forming, and I am going to teach you how to be prepared to create a little spark in your kids’ eyes.

A Treasure Chest goes against every fiber of my nature as a minimalist, the ideology of kids using their imagination, and no bribes! But inside the treasure chest you will hoard, I mean supply, discount items that don’t really last more than a few plays. I first learned the Treasure Chest concept in 2013 from my son’s Kindergarten teacher. Bless those crafty teachers that did all the things with glitter, glue, and treats, things I (didn’t want to) do at home. However, I found that when times were hard, finding a random happy meal toy under the car seat would set the world right, so making a collection of my own instead of searching through grime in a sweat was worth it!

Thus the Treasure Chest was adapted in our home as a hidden box full of gems that I wouldn’t normally buy my kids or for which they asked and I said, “Not today!” I used to have a box in the closet, and the kids figured it out; then it was a random Target bag, because they never assumed what I shopped for at Target was of any worth to them. It was after dozens of hiding spots that I had the cabinet man build “secret drawers” in my bathroom where I hid treasures in one and Mom’s snack and period items in the other. Voilá!

What do I include in these magical drawers?

Pretty much any Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Target Dollar Spot, or any other “dollar” items I find during an alone shopping trip. My favorite thing I did when mentoring kids in elementary schools was to have my kids pick out toys for “my mentor kids.” Really it was a “One for you, one for them!” game they weren’t clued into. My 12-year-old son is the hardest to buy for the treasure chest. However, knowing he’s a big fan of jokes and books, I keep it stocked with things like whoopie cushions and yard sale books.

Here’s the low down on the “who, what, when, and why” for the Treasure Chest.

Basically, each kid gets to visit the treasure chest at random times. It’s not based on “acts of good service;” those are just expected because we are all good humans in the house working together! A recent example is just this morning; I had an hour video counseling call, emails to return, then this post to write. While my coffee was brewing, I had my oldest download a new Audible book and let my girls, who are 14 months apart, pick from the Treasure Chest! They chose an outfit each for their Cabbage Patch dolls. I had just gotten these the night before at Target on clearance. So of course, they wanted them since it was a new, new thing! They have played dolls literally for the past four hours, just coming up for air to eat lunch (which their brother happily fixed, because he is on cloud nine with his new book). Having a Treasure Chest is my white flag, a boost of morale, and a calm to chaotic days.

Treasure Chest stuffing ideas:

Target: Playdoh, seasonal crafts, fun socks, joke toys, flashcards
Dollar Tree: word search books, stencils, stickers, garden toys, books
Dollar General: window stickers, water toys, jump ropes, trading cards, balls

Food: I hate food as a gift or bribe from my own emotional ties to food plus one child that errs on unhealthy eating patterns. If that’s your thing however, throw in some fun snacks “gas station style” into your treasure chest!

Gifts help a child be seen. Gifts come without strings attached. Gifts can be time, words, or things, but are always intentional! Whether you have $1 or 20 minutes to give, investing in your kiddos will build their character.

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“Chattanooga is something you can have any way you want it…” I am so blessed to share this city with my husband and three children: Dallas (9), Lillie-Mae (4), and Mindy (3). We enjoy the mountains and the valleys that make up the geography of our city as well as the metaphor they stand for in our lives. Always an adventure in parenting, homeschooling, and loving on others, we look forward to each new day that we are given. Follow along with the antics of the #guesstribe on Instagram @ellieguess and here as we share our city/country love with you.

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