In my piano studio, we do a 30-Piece-And-Other-Stuff Challenge every year and I like to have my prize bin stocked with affordable prizes piano students love. My students work really hard to master 30 pieces, scales, etc., throughout the year, and for every item they master, they get a sticker on our big sticker chart in the studio. If lessons are 100% online, we switch to a digital format for our charts and stickers to keep track of all the things my students have mastered throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a fun challenge idea, check out Develop Strong Sight-Readers with “The Great Sight-Reading Challenge.” or How To Host A Piano Practice Challenge.
To keep their momentum and motivation high throughout the year, as they’re working towards the ultimate goal of mastering 30 items, they earn small rewards for every 10 items they master, and get to choose something special from my prize box.
What kind of prizes do I include in the prize box that piano students of all ages would love, and that are very affordable? I’ve asked my students what kinds of things they’d love to have as prizes, and added my own options as well, so our prize box is filled with a huge variety of affordable treasures suitable for all ages.
Fun, Affordable Prizes Piano Students Love:
Silicone wrist bands: Perfect for everyone, and these glow in the dark.
Charms and Bracelets: The charms can be used to decorate their Crocs shoes or bracelets
Nail polish: I have several teen girls in my studio who love nail polish. Glow in the dark and color-changing options are their favorites.
Smiley face stickers, smiley stars, and a variety of other stickers are always available in the prize box. Students get to choose an entire sheet.
Squishy Balls: These are so much fun!
Glow Sticks: We always have to turn out the lights when a student chooses one of these.
Slime: Who doesn’t love slime!
Flarp: This one is a favorite of all my elementary school kids! They LOVE “flarping” the rhythms to their new pieces!
Mini Whoopie Cushions: I didn’t choose these, but my students sure did 😆
Music-Themed Prizes for Piano Students:
Music charms: A fun option for teen and pre-teen girls.
Music socks: Another treasured favorite.
Metal music book clips: Great for holding piano books open, and a more mature prize.
Music note clips: Also nice for holding piano books open, in fun colors for both older and younger students.
Music note hair scrunchy: All of my girls love these!
Music pencils: A fun addition to the prize box. I always enjoyed music pencils when I was a kid, and my students do too.
School Supplies Prizes:
Yes, my students LOVE the school supplies just as much as they love the other prizes! I know… I was as surprised as you are!
Colorful Flair pens. My teens and pre-teens love Flair pens! The pastels are a favorite, as well as the rainbow colors.
Post-It Highlighter Pen: This is one of the most coveted items of all. I can barely keep them in stock!
Colorful highlighters: My students love choosing an unusual highlighter color, like teal or purple.
A variety of sizes of sticky notes are always fun to include in the prize box.
3×3 Post-it notes: My students use these for everything you could imagine in piano lessons. Read how we use them here.
Pilot G-2 gel pens: Another favorite prize, and they come in a variety of bright fun colors.
Crayola colored pencils: We use these in literally every piano lesson, and my students love adding new colors to their collection.
Pencil pouches: My students love choosing their favorite color or design from the prize box.
Fun Erasers: We got a large variety pack and my students love finding the perfect eraser!
Tiny Notepads: These are such a hit!
Practical Piano Student Prizes:
Velvet hair scrunchies: All of my girls love these!
Apple Watch bands: These come in a variety of sizes and in very affordable packs of 2-4, so make sure you know your students’ Apple Watch sizes.
$5 gift cards: These are the holy grail of the prize box! Students can choose this prize only once per year.
Tiny hand lotion: Perfect for winter in a cold climate like ours.
Skittles lip gloss or M&M lip balm. These flavored chapsticks and balms get snatched up quickly. I even keep one in my desk drawer.
Custom practice notes. I designed a rainbow version of our practice sticky notes and had them printed at VistaPrint. Here’s how we use them!
How do I deliver the prizes for online piano students?
For piano students I’m teaching online, I have my students choose a prize from the prize box and I mail it to them if they’re out of state. It’s really easy, and it helps their motivation and determination remain high, when they know a fun reward is coming.
A few final words
I know many teachers disagree with offering prizes, for reasons such as internal motivation, etc., but I believe that when I’m setting such a lofty goal in front of my students at the beginning of the year, it’s important to recognize and reward their hard work throughout the learning process, and not just at the very end.
Of course, as students go through the challenge, the learning process itself becomes the primary reward, and the prizes shift to secondary, which is part of my overarching goal all along.
After reading this post, I hope you now have tons of fun ideas for treasures to add to your prize box. I try to keep the prizes very affordable, while keeping them worth working hard for. Even my teens really love visiting the prize box to see what new goodies I’ve added since their last visit! And I must admit, those Apple Watch bands even make ME want to visit the prize box 😀
What do you keep in your prize box? Do you have fun, affordable prizes piano students love? Leave a comment and let us know!
This Post Has 2 Comments
Thanks so much for this informative post! I teach flute and have been sitting on the fence: re rewards for a long time. I am studying psychology and there seems to be evidence on both sides. Then I heard in a lecture that behavioural charts are often used in clinical psychology to help kids learn new habits. I figured they must be a good thing!
This term I started a Practice Challenge in my studio, with prizes for reaching certain targets. The prizes are cheap but the students are SO motivated. The younger kids are obsessed with earning their prize. The teens are not as fussed by the prizes, but like moving their token up the chart and say they have been practicing more. I’m hoping that over time, regular practice will become more of an engrained habit and the results will be a reward in themselves.
I did spend some money getting the prizes, but in this case it was well worth it. I enjoy my job so much more when everyone has practiced well during the week!
My pleasure, Emily! I do believe the careful use of prizes can have positive results, and like you mentioned, the ultimate goal is to develop intrinsic motivation in our students. The prizes are a small way to reach that goal. I think it’s fun seeing what prizes students choose, and seeing their preferences and reactions to the prizes change over time as they learn how to practice effectively. Thank you so much for your thoughts, and happy teaching!