Low or no-cost strategies to acknowledge and reward staff blog header

Low or no-cost strategies to acknowledge and reward staff

In a recent webinar, we welcomed Jane Ann Benson, early childhood coach and founder of Early Childhood Ally. Jane Ann spoke to us about the importance of consistent appreciation and acknowledgment of the meaningful and challenging work our educators do each day. Jane Ann shared actionable strategies on how we can help our staff find their inner motivation again and decrease burnout and turnover.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar that inspired this blog post! 


Ensuring educators feel recognized will increase their positivity at work and support staff retention. Forbes recently reported that 67% of employees say they would work harder if their efforts were appreciated more. Take an audit of your day/week and think about how you are showing your team that you appreciate them. Traditionally, it is often thought that employee appreciation does not come cheap. However, there are many inexpensive or free options. It can start with words and go such a long way! 

Low to no-cost employee appreciation ideas:

  • Positive genuine feedback
    • Genuine is the tipping point here, it needs to hit home with the person receiving it
    • Examples are voice memos (save time and are very easy once you get used to them!), sticky notes (carry them with you and put them in the staff room or on people’s planners), or shoutouts in the newsletter that parents receive (could be a staff feature portion)
  • Appreciation notes
    • Sent to their home address a few times a year. You could potentially enlist staff members to write each other notes! 
  • Pictures of staff in action documentation
  • An appreciation board for families to post their shoutouts
  • Cover them for an afternoon off
  • Daily/weekly motivation notes posted in the program
  • Jar of positivity (people can reach in for notes of encouragement!) 
  • Parking spot for the day (it could even be decorated!) 
  • Staff shoutout board 
  • Sidewalk chalk messages (the children can help with this!) 
  • Find opportunities to laugh together (e.g. having a joke of the day!) 
  • Trivia Thursday (people post what they think the answer is and the winner gets a small prize) 

Tried and true recognition options: 

  • Food (try a dinner to-go option!) 
    • Smoothie bar, coffee/tea bar, bagels, fruit cups/yogurt (could attempt to get parents to support with this if possible)  
  • Order in a meal for your team 
  • Build community through volunteering together
  • Cookie day (everyone brings in a cookie and you vote on your favorite one!) 
  • Flowers/plant succulents 
  • Gift cards 
  • Group experience (e.g. escape room, a haunted walk, campfire, manicure party. Remember these can be optional for attendance!) 

New ideas for staff acknowledgment: 

  • Pinwheel fun
    • Buy pinwheels from the dollar store and put each staff member’s name on them. The team then writes something about each person on each pedal and hangs them in the walkway! 
  • Whose plate is this?
    • Everyone brings in a plate from their home, the director sets them out, and everyone guesses whose plate belongs to who over a meal together! 
  • Kindness challenge 
    • Put together activities with different point values and tally them up for the winner
    • Activities can be things such as saying hello to two people, complimenting a stranger, etc.! 
  • Self-care challenge
    • Have a list of self-care activities people sign up for and whoever participates the most wins a prize! 
    • Examples of activities are yoga, face masks, meditation, walking, etc. 
  • Retreat (reminder to ensure the retreat is not work disguised as relaxation!) 
  • Clipboards/binders (could be personalized as a group activity) 
  • Umbrellas 
  • Walk and talks
    • Team event that prompts more powerful conversations
    • Employees sign up for a time to walk with a teammate
  • Tailgate with sports team shirts (employees’ families can join in and you can bring activities outside!) 
  • Journals with reflection prompts

Acknowledging and appreciating your team for all of the hard work they put in each day is so important to keep them motivated and happy to come to work each day. It can be hard to make time for it but it is integral to do so. Use the suggestions above to make it easier to fit into your days and your budget! 

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar that inspired this blog post! 

Want to learn more about important topics in early education like loose parts play? Sign up for the next webinar below, it is FREE! Even if you can’t join live, you will be emailed the recording and slides just for registering!

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