My children ages: 2,4,6 (boy, boy, girl)

I will like to give rewards like puzzles, games, and Lego's. Kids very excited to get gifts as rewards, and they like those things belong to them.

The problem is that I don't think it's good that each puzzle or game will belong to one kid. It belongs to the family.

But the reward should be personal. I don't think kids in my kids age, will like the idea that they reward is belong to everyone.

What is your suggestion? How to give gifts rewards in my case?

  • 1
    We all have different personalities, talents, and interests which belong to us. The right view of being an owner of these things is, "how can I use what I own to make life better for myself AND others." The toys and material rewards should be seen the same way. This way they can value their items and also value how they use them to the benefit of their neighbor (person near them).
    – Adam Heeg
    May 23, 2020 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


Two things here that we do that might translate well here.

First: allowing a child to pick out an item is in and of itself a benefit to them. If we're at the store buying a tub of ice cream, and just one tub, if my oldest gets to decide what flavor we buy, he's happy - even though his younger sibling gets to eat some too.

A more concrete example: We fold laundry together while watching something on the television (a major reward, as they rarely watch television - laundry TV is nearly all of their TV time, ever). If one of the children sorts the laundry, that child gets to decide which show they watch; if an adult sorts the laundry, then either they rotate or we choose (if we have something we want to share with them).

Second, having a short period of timed exclusivity can work here. For example, we have three methods of obtaining items: purchasing with allowance, gaining as a reward or personal gift (think: chrismtas/birthday), and simply a purchase at our discretion. If an item is purchased with our discretion, then it's immediately a shared item: everybody can use it at any time.

If an item is given as a reward or gift, it has a limited period of exclusivity: if I buy a car and give it to my younger son, he can play with it himself for a week. After that week, it's in the shared toy bin - or if it's ever found on the ground in the common area, not put away properly in his drawers.

If an item is purchased with allowance, then they "own" it - with the same caveat that if it's left in the common area, we assume they have relinquished control over it. An incentive to be neat alongside basically any item becoming shared eventually. (In the rare case where they leave it accidentally and have strong feelings about the item, we do of course relent, but only in extreme cases.)


The way I see it, there are two ways you can go with this: either adapt the rewards to something more inherently personal, or work on their (and possibly your) view of what ownership within the family looks like.

To the former end, there are conceivable rewards that are naturally personal, such as parent-child one on one time for some fun activity (this will make more sense in a post covid setting, where fun activities are allowed), or single use disposable gifts such as fill in puzzle books/crosswords that are of little value once someone has filled them out. When they're older, you may also consider items that appeal to their individual taste, and may be of less interest to others, but surely, a two year old is rarely picky in that regard.

There are also rewards that are not inherently personal, but where sharing is less meaningful. This is more subjective, so any examples I can give may not resonate with you. You'll need to come up with your own list, but, say, clothes come readily to mind. Scrutinising my own life, the vast majority of things I own I share with my spouse, but we also have personal items (clothes, accessories and phones to name a few), so I try not to hold my children to a higher altruistic standard than I myself can live up to. If I'm not keen to consider my phone common family property, I will entertain the idea that some toys will feel deeply personal to some children.

So one option is to go for rewards that cannot or reasonably doesn't have to be shared. The other option I conceive of is to uphold the idea of personal ownership in a sharing environment. I bet you're already dealing with this in one way or another. On birthdays and at Christmas, our kids routinely get a lot of gifts that are addressed to them personally, but that will be useful for all. Most gifts they receive make little sense to keep separerade. Despite the fact that everyone has right of use to the items, the children still have a fairly good idea of what is theirs around the house. I get that this last part may be considered a rejection of the premise of this question, which we generally try to avoid here, but for what it's worth, are you sure sharing an item takes away from the impression of having been awarded it?

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