Forum Q&A: Incentive Prize Box Ideas

Our last Forum Q&A topic was about keeping teenager students engaged in their piano study!  Check out all the great responses to this topic by clicking here.

Our next discussion topic comes from a reader (thanks, Donna!):

What kinds of items do you have in your “music store” or incentive prize box?  It seems some items are a hit with students, and other items just sit there.  What are some items that have been a success with your students, particularly for the older students who are always harder to shop for?  (Please also share about the requirements for your students to be able to win or buy items.)  

Two years ago, I published a blog post with a few pictures of items in my prize box at that time.  (Read the full details about my current incentive program here.)  It’s about time I took another peek in my box to see what is in there now!  I’ll try to take some photos soon — in the meantime, please take a moment to share about your students’ favorite prize items in the comment section below!

Update: Here are some photos of the items currently in my piano prize box!

Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1132 posts here.

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  1. Posted 4 September 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Last year I got finger flashlights and party sized play dough in bulk on amazon, and those were a big hit. My students also love the cute erasers that are everywhere now in shapes of food, and I found a 4-pack at walmart for $2-$3. Staples also has good deals on notepad and pen type of things every now and then. I walk to the place that I teach, so I have to keep my prizes small or else I can’t carry everything. :)

  2. nancy
    Posted 4 September 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Boys really like the football, BB and baseball cards.

  3. Posted 4 September 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    I like the baseball card idea

  4. Posted 5 September 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I always surf the clearance aisles at craft, used book stores, drug, .99 cent stores, and/or big box stores – any and all stores, really – for potential prizes. My friends and family know I have a student prize box, so they save things for me, too. I have found prizes for as little as 10 cents, but I won’t spend more than $2, depending on the prize. I also collect free samples from beauty supply stores as long as they are appropriate.

    Examples: sheet music I am not going to use in my lending library, I’m a knitter – so small knitted items I’ve made, little parachute men (I’ve re-packaged them individually), small velvet art crafts, music pencils, music buttons, toys – some new, some used, but in clean and excellent condition (balls and those pop-up things are extremely popular), bubbles, puzzles, stickers, little purses, school and locker supplies, small musical instruments, bath and body products (especially popular at Christmas), army men, free calculators, aero props (helicopter propellers), little cross-stitch kits, little maze games,…remember – this is a collection of prizes I have accumulated over years and years! I rarely shop any more. I just go to my stash.

    Prizes are awarded every 5th lesson in my studio…and it’s every 5th lesson the student has successfully completed the assignments written on their assignment planner from the previous week. I have a board outside my studio, decorated like a piano keyboard, with each student’s name on it, and a nail under each name. When the “pass” their lesson, they hang a number “1” under their name the first week. Each week they successfully complete their assigned lesson, they change their number, and on that 5th lesson, they earn a trip to the prize box. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and for my studio, it works really well!

  5. Jan
    Posted 5 September 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    This year I bought a package of Crazy Bones game pieces at a local RiteAid store. They were clearing them out so I decided to buy one pack just to see what they were. They come 4 in a pack for 1.99 but I got them for .25. I showed them to the students and they immediately wanted to collect them. Some are clear, sparkle or solid plastic little objects with faces on them. I bought the whole display and opened each pack and put in a clear fish bowl. Very colorful! You can play games with them or trade them with other students. They went over so well I decided to see if I could get more. There is a website called Crazybones that tells you more about the games and the name of each piece and Amazon has them too. Students are excited to earn these things. Who knew?

  6. Rhonda Prater
    Posted 9 September 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    For my teenaged students (who seem a bit insulted at little trinket-type prizes) I bought McDonalds gift certificate booklets ($5 for 5 $1 certificates) – I can disassemble the books, turn them into $1 certificates that they must collect in order to purchase a larger item. I have the same arrangement with a local ice cream shop – the shop owner will sell me $1 coupons that my students, in turn, collect for treats.

  7. Becky Barber
    Posted 10 September 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve stopped being concerned about having “new” items in there and have found some great treasures at local thrift stores , namely a couple of music boxes that played classical music. I used to give Target gift cards for the older students but it was getting pricey so I like the sheet music idea and have also contemplated downloading a classical or jazz piece from i-tunes onto a CD although I know they can probably pull up anything they want to listen to on their ipods. I’ve also asked parents to contribute to the prize box and that really helps. Thanks, Joy for all you give us by your creativity and expertise!

  8. Jennifer Creekmore
    Posted 17 September 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I have done stampers, pencils, fancy pens, candy bars, mini bags of pretzels, jumbo erasers, balls, putty…..this stuff all works great for the young ones still working on what works for the teenagers. So far I have found food to be the best for the older kids…especially the boys…:)

  9. Posted 17 September 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget about your 15% off you can get as a teacher at Michaels craft store. I just show my business cards and the ladies behind the counter always count me as a teacher at Michaels. That’s now 75 cents for prizes instead of a dollar at the dollar tree. I just found a whole bunch of Hello Kitty music themed stickers at Michaels.

    In addition they put out 25% off coupons on your entire purchase every once in a while. I keep their app on my phone and they just scan those coupons and everything quickly becomes cheaper than even the dollar tree!

  10. Amy
    Posted 12 October 2012 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    It seems too hard to keep up with giving prizes. I have roughly 30 students, and it’s too hard to keep up with them. Is there any ideas? ^^

    • Posted 17 October 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      Hi Amy,

      My current incentive program is VERY simple and easy. You can read more about it in this old post. I use notecards and small star stickers to keep track of how many points they have. When they earn 30 stickers, they get to choose a prize from the prize box. Good luck!

  11. Posted 17 March 2015 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I’ve found for older kids & especially boys Whistle Pops are a big hit. I also try to keep aside iTunes cards only for older students, and they love it!

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