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5 Ideas for Classroom Management on a Budget

By Allie Magnuson on February 20, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K

Classroom management can be a challenge, especially for those on a budget. Here are five tried-and-true ideas that have seen me through many years of teaching kindergarten. Follow these guidelines to make managing your classroom an inexpensive and painless experience.


1. Give privileges, not prizes or presents.

This goes for individual and group rewards, as well as for birthdays and holidays.

Ideas for individual privileges:

  • Choose where to sit

  • Play a game instead of working on an assignment

  • Play on the computer

Ideas for group privileges:

  • Special activity

  • Outdoor fun

  • Show and Tell

I make punch cards so students can pick a reward and then earn it. Once a reward is cashed in, they can pick a new reward. Punches are free for birthdays and holidays.


2. Keep a music player and a well-stocked music library.


Music can be used for many different things. Examples include:

  • Play slow instrumental music to create a peaceful environment

  • Play upbeat tunes for a mood or energy boost

  • Celebrate an accomplishment by singing and dancing

  • Designate a song that is used for transitions


3. Make a variety of solutions and sprays to motivate and encourage students, or to prevent certain behaviors.


Pictured here:

  • Quiet as a Mouse Bubbles (bubble solution, bubble wand)

  • Smarty Spray (spray bottle, water)

  • Speedy Clean-Up Spritzer (spray bottle, Alka-Seltzer tablet

  • Helping Hands Soap (pump dispenser, foaming hand soap)

  • Magic "Pay Attention" Mist (mister, water, peppermint extract)

  • Tattletale Repellent (can of air freshener)

  • Fear Extinguisher (spray bottle, water, vanilla extract)


4. Buy snacks with small pieces for longer use.


Some snacks that work well are:

  • Cereal

  • Goldfish-type crackers

  • Pretzel sticks

  • Cheez-It crackers

  • Popcorn

  • Chex Mix

  • Raisins

  • Graham crackers


5. Use cheap toys and tools for fidgety kids.

Good items for kids who can't sit still (something that appeals to each of the five senses):

  • Silly Putty

  • Headphones

  • Sand timer or sensory bottle

  • Leftover candy canes

  • Chewing gum

  • Stuffed animal or pillow (musical ones are a bonus!)

Comments (21)

We have a safety policy about kids keeping thier shoes on in case of fire drills, evacuations, or possibly hurting thier feet/toes.

Thanks, will be making use of the privilege cards in my classroom which has quite a few kids with special needs, they certainly respond to positive rewards.

I like the squishy toys etc as I have a special ed class, was only talking about the sprays today but have to be careful of allergies etc. I am not a fan of the food,(lots of children have Caeliac disease) the only time I give the children food is when there is a birthday, Easter or Christmas etc. being careful again of allergies, dont like having a lolly jar for two reasons, teeth and reactions to sugar and so on. I like the Cushy for your tushy, trying to find some novelty pillows to give my kids one each (have 7 in my class) but a bit worried about the no shoes because of thumb tacks and kicking their toes on furniture etc. Thanks for the ideas, love the hole punch system, there are a lot of ways this could be used :)


Wish I could only have snacktime on birthdays or holidays, but my kinders get hungry. I always make sure I'm aware of a child's health issues when they join my class.

Thanks for reading!

I really like the creativity. I work with children with special needs. If you have children with spd, autism and other sensitivities I ask that any who use the sprays -- enjoy them but also be aware that some may be negatively effected by the smell. Thank you for caring about children and offering them options to center their little bodies and minds.

Do some of these suggestions really come from teachers? What is the food for? If it is for rewarding children. Food should not be used as a reward.
I would only use the bubbles for "Quiet as a Mouse". I don't think that spraying different solutions around children is good especially with allergies. I don't think this is practical.

I do like the reward index cards where you punch holes, the sensory fidget toys and the music suggestions.

Please read the posts before you comment on them. Only number one is about rewards. The food is for snacktime because I teach kindergarten. The "solutions," except for the air freshener and hand soap, are all water. One includes peppermint extract and one vanilla extract, but of course these are optional, and I leave it up to teachers to use their own common sense when there are children with allergies in their classes.

LOVE these ideas. I have been teaching for a few years now but only in upper grades. I recently started Kindergarten at the midpoint of the year and I have really struggled with rewards and motivators (typically me giving too many concrete rewards) and these are wonderful, tried and tested, ideas! TY for sharing!

I allow kids to choose from my "Magic Bucket". These have notes inside along with free stuff I have gotten over the years. the notes have lunch with me, recess with me, good note home, good phone call home, good note to principal/favorite teacher, sitting in my Royalty Chair (free chair from a friend), and sitting in my rocking chair. :)

Could you explain in more detail about the toys for fidgety students? How exactly are they used?

In many cases, fidgety children (and adults) benefit from having another sensory input to help them self-regulate. I keep the fidget toys in a bin. If a student can't sit still, he or she can go get one, as long as it doesn't cause more distraction or bother anyone else. What works best will depend on the individual child and the situation. You could also keep fidget toys at a separate table, and give fidgety kids a break when they need it.

I am concerned about students slipping and falling with no shoes.



Stinky feet is they get to wear no shoes in the classroom. Cushy for your tushy-they get a pillow to sit on for the day. I have some in my library or the kids could bring a pillow from home if you don't.

It is rewarding to use privileges instead of treasures.My first graders thought of their own. Some were: playing with Math manipulative,drawing,musical chairs,reading with a friend, and using the TV phonics game.Puzzles are another long forgotten favorite.I even use popping bubble wrap!

Could you give more info about the privaledges instead is prizes? What do you do to know when they earned it? How do you remember what they chose?


I make a space on each card to put a name (if it's for the class, I just put "class"), and I keep the cards together in a file box on my desk so the kids don't lose them. The dots on the cards represent the amount of punches they have to earn. What they get a punch for is up to you, based on the individual child or your particular class. Things like good behavior, good deeds, getting their work done, etc. When all the dots are punched, they get their reward that day. At the end of the day, they can pick a new card and start all over again!

Could you explain in more detail how the sprays are used?


I just use the sprays to motivate the kids - there's no special method or system to it. If I need to motivate the whole class, I just point the bottle around the room, and spray (or blow the bubbles) in the air. If I need to motivate an individual child, I do the same thing, only closer to that child. (Be sure to avoid their eyes.) I tell them what it is I'm spraying and how it can "magically" help them, and I make sure to do it in a light and playful way: it's just for fun. For things they have to do themselves, like washing their hands, I just say, "Go wash your hands with the Helping Hands Soap so you can all be helpful and caring friends."

I got rid of the treasure box and prizes 2 years ago. My students favorite reward is stinky feet and they also like a cushy for your tushy!

What are stinky feet and cushy tushies?

I like the solutions and sprays

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