With my son’s room overflowing with toys and gadgets he’s accumulated over his short lifetime, we decided this year would be a “no toys” Christmas. Instead of toys, we wanted our friends and family to give him theme park tickets, cash, gift cards to his favorite restaurants, or subscriptions to comic books he enjoys. However, this put us in a bind for figuring out what to put under the tree for him.
One day while brainstorming how we could give him gifts without contributing to the mess that is his room, I remembered the coupon books I gave my parents as a kid. We made them in school and they were for things like vacuuming the living room, putting up the dishes, doing the laundry, and other household chores. My mom would then “redeem” her coupons for us to take over chores for the day.
Then I had a brilliant upon brilliant idea: What could be a better gift for a child than saying “yes” to something they want to do?
After completing my happy dance and patting myself on the back for my genius idea, I sat down to figure out what kinds of things my son would love to hear me say “yes” to.
A few ideas I came up with were:
- 1 additional hour on Minecraft.
- Get out of cleaning your room.
- Pizza and a movie night.
- Bedtime extension (valid for 1 hour on a weekend or 30 minutes on school night).
- New game on the iPad (value not to exceed $______).
- One additional hour on a game of your choice.
- Family game night (you pick the game).
- One family video game competition.
- A trip to the comic book store for a book of your choice.
- An extra dessert with dinner.
- Dessert first at dinner.
- Grocery store snack and drink of your choice.
- Lunch with Mommy/Daddy at school.
- Trip to restaurant of your choice.
Once I had my list, I remembered that my son has a very scheming mind (I wonder where he got that from…<looks away>) and realized that a set of rules would also be a good idea.
I looked back over my list and came up with a disclaimer for any of them that I thought he might try to be evil with. For instance, “pizza and movie night” has a disclaimer that it’s only valid on weekends (no staying up late on a school night in this house). I also threw in a stipulation that if a coupon required us to spend money, we have the right to refuse it on grounds of financial stability (but we also have to give him a new date that will fit our budget better). Another stipulation I threw in there was that he can’t use the coupon book when grounded. This prevents him from getting out of his punishment with a coupon.
While this list will make my son very happy, my fellow GeekMoms came up with a few additions that suit their own families.
Lisa gave a couple of suggestions based on what her girls enjoy:
- New book…for no reason at all.
- One day of getting to choose the station/CD we play in the car or at home.
Sarah’s suggestions suited her family and what they like:
- Hot cocoa and extra stories in mom’s bed at bedtime. Toby loves when we do that—so much so that he asks to go to bed half an hour early so we can get more stories in.
- A trip to the mall without siblings.
- Pancakes without siblings (we usually do IHOP).
- 10 extra minutes of video games.
- An impromptu trip to the library.
Kay has some teenagers in her household and came up with a few things they would find worthy of excitement:
- Choosing the audio book on a long car ride.
- Getting the choice of being first for anything in a sibling situation.
- Choosing desserts.
- Extra time in the shower or bathroom, especially for a teen.
- Extra time to sleep in, for a teen.
- Chore trading or chore randomizing.
- Picking the bedtime story.
- DQ. DQ. DQ. (It’s an obsession at our house.)
Thanks to Rebecca Moore, we have some template coupons for you to use for your own kids’ coupon book. Just click on the image you want to use, save it to your computer, and add some text to it by hand or with your preferred program. Remember to come up with a set of rules that suit your family so that this is fun and not frustrating. I laminated my coupons and used a couple of binder rings to hold it together and keep them neat.
But wait! There’s more. Once they give you a coupon, keep it. The next time your child does something worthy of a treat, give them a coupon back to reuse. See? It goes from a Christmas gift to a reward system instantly. Cool huh?