Tangible and Intangible Rewards

You can promote and encourage positive behaviour by rewarding children when they behave in acceptable ways. Children enjoy being rewarded, so they are encouraged to behave in the same way again. When children repeat behaviours, over time they become an ingrained, natural part of what the child does. The more a child is given positive attention for behaving appropriately, the less inappropriate behaviour they are likely to display.

The rewards that can be given to children fall into two categories:

  1. Tangible rewards – they are real items that physically exist and can be seen
  2. Intangible rewards – they are not physical items, but something that children can experience

Intangible Rewards

Settings use mainly intangible rewards. They are extremely valuable. They show children that they’re earning approval from adults. They also demonstrate how to interact positively with other people – how to thank them for example.

Intangible rewards can be used to encourage children throughout an activity or task, showing them that they’re behaving correctly and giving them the confidence to continue. You can give children warm praise, thanks and smiles frequently throughout every day. It would be impractical to do the same with tangible rewards.

Tangible Rewards

Tangible items are often used to reward children who are working towards specified behaviour goals that have been identified for them. To implement fairness towards all children, it is advised to give the opportunity to all children to work towards achieving their own tangible reward so as to not leave anyone out.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) asked, “Have you other children besides this one?” He said, “Yes.” The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) asked, “Have you awarded a gift like this to all of them.” He said, “No.” The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “I am not going to bear witness to this act of injustice.”


The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) asked, “Do you not except goodness from all of them as you except from him?” He said, “Yes, of course.” The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Then don’t do this (i.e., do not give a gift to one son only).” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


Tangible rewards are also good for rewarding and celebrating occasional achievements that are out of the ordinary, as they can be kept as a reminder of that time. Some tangible rewards, such as money, may be given by parents and carers, but in most settings it would be considered inappropriate to use them.

Some examples are shown in the table below.

Tangible Rewards

Intangible Rewards

  • Prizes
  • Stickers
  • Certificates
  • Stars/Stamps
  • Trophies/Badges/Awards
  • Toys
  • Money
  • Sweets
  • Books
  • Choosing something from a shop
  • Work displayed/published
  • Praise
  • Smiles
  • Cuddles
  • Congratulating
  • A thank you
  • Public acknowledgement
  • Pats on the back
  • Opportunities to choose a game or story for the group
  • Special trips
  • Favourite activities (e.g. going to the park or baking cakes)

Children should be rewarded in a way that values them as an individual. For instance, some children feel uncomfortable with public acknowledgement or being physically touched – they may not appreciate a pat on the back. While it’s natural for some childcarers to cuddle a young child, this is not considered to be appropriate in all environments (such as the classroom) or with all children, particularly as they get older.

You must keep to the accepted policies and prodecures of your setting. It’s important to consider how children feel about the rewards being given to others. Tangible rewards in particular may lead to jealousy or feeling of being treated unfairly if they are not handed carefully.

Allaah Subhaanahu w Ta’ala knows best.

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