Make: Winning Stick

by Cat on December 15, 2009

by designing mom lori

we’ve had a big problem around our house recently. our 4 year old fin (5, as of yesterday!), whined about everything. it was really starting to grate on our nerves and we realized we needed to nip it in the bud before it got worse.

after thinking about what we could do to discourage him from this behavior, this is what we came up with.
It’s called “the winning stick”. we let fin name it because we wanted him to connect to the idea. the premise behind it is that when you do good things, you move up the stick. when you do not-so-great things you move down. when you get to the top, you get a prize. (hence the choice of the name “winning stick”) for us, we let the kids choose the prize (with help), and it’s different every time. the first time it was a small toy. they were taken, by themselves, to the store as a special treat and could pick out a toy under $5. the second time it was an ice cream cone. we’re on our third round now. one piece of advice: start them off about 1/3 of the way up the first time. chances are there will be a lot of moving down until they get the concept. also, when they reach the top, we always re-start them about 5 spots from the bottom so there’s room if something not-so-great happens.

here’s a little bit about how i made ours in case you’re interested in doing something similar:


i made one clothes pin for each boy. i let them pick out their own colors and patterns. of course they wanted multiple colors so we did one color on each side of the clip. all i did was print out the images on my home printer and then cut them to size and mod podge them onto the clips. you could print out just about anything for this or even go to your local craft store and use scrapbook paper.


for the main stick, i started out with a dowel. i painted the whole thing in the apple green color. then i printed out more paper and cut it into 1” strips. i wrapped them around the dowel and used mod podge again to adhere them at 1” increments all the way up the dowel.

for hanging purposes (which you can see in the first image) i looped a piece of ribbon over the top and glued it to the sides of the dowel. i then took another piece of ribbon and wrapped it around the dowel to cover the end of the ribbon. i recommend hanging it at kid level so they can move up and down themselves.

so far this system is working well for us. if they’re not doing something we like we tell them to go move down the stick. if they do something great, we tell them to move up. if it’s super great, or vice versa we may tell them to move up/down 2 spots.

what do you use to help motivate your kids? share with us what works for you!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin December 15, 2009 at 2:32 pm

What a great idea, Lori! I love it. I will definitely have to try this with my almost six year old.

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heather December 15, 2009 at 3:09 pm

i am loving this idea! i think we may be starting a stick of our own post-holiday season!

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Fiona Cartolina December 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I think I should make one of these for Doug!

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Jill December 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Great idea, this would be great for a classroom too.

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Shannon December 15, 2009 at 6:20 pm

My little guy is still young, but when I'm needed a creative break, I include him in the art making projects. We paint, felt, sew, dance… It is such a blast and allowing him to be part of the process and choices helpsotivate him to get involved. Thanks for sharing. p.s. We I just posted a fun kids activity on my blog- making recycled wrapping paper.

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mari December 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Once again Lori, I need to somehow remember this for later. Ha. Maybe you can just remind me when I start whining about my future whiner….
Great project!

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Rachel@oneprettything.com December 21, 2009 at 8:34 am

That is so cool! I've never heard of this before, what a fun idea. Thanks so much for the how-to, I'll be linking.

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curlystraight December 22, 2009 at 2:20 am

What a fun idea!

We use something on the same basis – a stars and X chart.

Stars when well behaved, Xs when bad. It works well because I can recreate it by using the memo function on my blackberry phone when we are out.

This stick would work well because it's out all the time and a cool looking reminder that rewards good behavior and goal setting.

We're trying it, definitely.

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anke-art December 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

Hi Lori, what a great idea! Just like Jill I think it would work fine in a classroom.
But I wonder – don't your kids try to sneak up on the stick to move the clips up?

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Mod Podge Amy January 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm

LOVE LOVE the winning stick!

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Annie January 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Great idea! I think I'll try it for potty training!

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Michelle January 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm

this is great! I'm going to try it as I have a 5 year old boy who has a new attitude which I don't "love"

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Jamielouwho January 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

This is awesome! I can't wait to make one for my 8 year old son! He really needs a listening stick!
Now if I could only make one for the dogs and the husband, we'd be in business!

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Tiffany January 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

love it! Teachers have been using something similar to this (a "clip strip") and when kids aren't on task or make bad choices they have to "clip down" and if they have to clip down too far they get consequences. Everyone starts @ the top to start the day. Pretty cool idea and VERY visual. Great job!

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