Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Myth: It’s OK for my child’s teacher to use candy as a reward in the classroom.

Answer: BUSTED!

Boy reaching for candy
It’s likely your child has been rewarded in the classroom with candy. A recent study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 65-70% of classrooms had no restrictions on the use of candy as a reward. Should you, as a parent, be concerned about your child possibly being rewarded with candy in school?

Well, yes. There’s the obvious concerns: candy is not nutritious, and giving candy runs counter to other nutritious food offered at school. But there are other issues to think about as well. Have you ever eaten something just because its being offered, despite the fact that you weren’t really hungry? Giving candy rewards reinforces the idea that eating isn’t a result of how hungry you feel but whether or not food is available. Setting up this relationship doesn’t help children listen to their hunger cues when food is available. This was something I struggled with for a very long time. I now eat when I’m hungry, not when food is available or when the clock says it’s mealtime.

In fact, some health organizations (American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics) agree that using food as reward is something they don’t support. Read more at

There are many no cost or low cost rewards that schools can use. You can find ideas at

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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