Are Reward Charts Helpful When It Comes To Fussy Eaters?

The idea behind a reward chart is to encourage a change in behaviour. 

According to psychologists reward charts can work really well for a certain age group. They can make a difference to the issues experienced by three- to seven-year-olds as a general rule.
The idea behind a reward chart is to encourage a change in behaviour. It might be used in an attempt to extinguish a certain behaviour or to encourage new behaviour.
For example, if a four-year-old is suddenly displaying difficult behaviour a reward chart could be a really effective way of handling that behaviour. It also works well for new behaviours such as during potty training or when trying to encourage better sleeping habits.

Fussy eating can affect children (and adults) of all ages. For older children, a reward chart may not be as effective but for ages two to seven it could make a really big difference.
The powerful thing about reward charts is the fact that they do the talking for you. Once the initial goal has been explained the message can be powerful in the background without the constant need to discuss the issue.
This could make a reward chart particularly helpful when dealing with a fussy eating child because a huge part of the issue tends to be the constant spotlight that is placed on their eating habits.
Every meal time is overshadowed by what one person is eating or failing to eat which can lead to a huge amount of stress for the entire household.

A reward chart could be really helpful for the following reasons:
  • It encourages positive behaviour without constantly highlighting the issue.
  • It is a very direct way of rewarding positive changes as they happen without encouraging the power play that can often happen during this stressful experience. If positive changes happen, rewards happen. If the positive changes do not happen the reward simply doesn’t happen but there is no great need to discuss it.
  • It is a powerful visual reminder. Children respond really well to visuals and you can make the reward chart as bright and fun as you choose. You can also tailor it to satisfy your child’s interests and hobbies.
  • It is temporary. Quite often the reward chart serves its purpose and emphasises the importance of the behaviour in a meaningful way. For this reason, it might be a reassuring approach for parents as it is not forever and this might instil hope.
If you plan to use a reward chart to help your fussy eater the following tips could help you use it more effectively.
  • Make the desired behaviour very clear to your child.
  • Design or buy the chart and go through it with your child explaining to them how it will work. For example – when you try a new food you get a gold star. Ten gold stars equals a present from the toy shop.
  • Use the reward chart immediately. As soon as the good behaviour happens it should be a priority to reward it. It emphasises the positive behaviour in a more powerful way.
  • Punishing your child by removing stars/stickers if the desired behaviour does not happen is not recommended. The chart is designed to reward and highlight good behaviour rather than punish a lack of good behaviour.
  • Change up the reward to keep things exciting.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at


Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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