Finding Potential Reinforcers without Breaking the Bank

We all know that satiation and the power of the reinforcers are real. So what happens when your kiddo plays all day long with the same toys all the time? SATIATION! That, my friends, makes your job even harder! This is because you have limited things to reinforce your kiddo with. While praise is great, not all of our kiddos are reinforced by it. Some kiddos are reinforced by tangibles. The thing is this can be super hard if they don’t have many to begin with. Even their most beloved Thomas the Train can be something they become satiated on. To keep things fun and exciting you have to get creative! So, at this point you have two options: 1. You use pairing to make old reinforcers powerful again or 2.  You can find new inexpensive reinforcers. 

When I was a behavior therapist (some use the term behavior technician) I always looked for ways to keep my sessions fun and exciting. I wanted to reinforce the correct behavior. While I tried so hard to be creative and use the reinforcers in the kiddo’s environment, it became difficult overtime when I realized the tangibles were no longer fun. I had essentially already used up all of my cards in the playbook. So, I would go out and purchase things to use during sessions. I was a broke college student and did not have tons of money to splurge. Nevertheless, I wanted to get stuff to make sessions fun. Not just for the kiddo but for me too. Here are my top tips to getting potential reinforcers without breaking the bank. 

  1. This is my favorite! Shop at the Target Dollar Spot.

This is the section of Target that has little nick-nacks and all sorts of things for 1,3, and 5 dollars. This is where the bulk of my stuff would come from. Honestly, it is like they knew what I needed because they always had amazing things. Target also adds new things each season, so you best believe I was the first one out. If you shop at Target all the time I recommend always browsing there. Things go by fast so even browsing can help because you may not know what you will find there. They have a lot of potential reinforcers that are small and easy to carry in your bag. I recommend getting the bouncy glitter balls, and slime when available. The best part if it gets ruined or lost it was very inexpensive (although my heart breaks every time I lose a toy). During back to school they have a lot of cool stuff as well as during the holidays. One time, I was able to find a tambourine for a dollar (holla). Each target may carry different stuff so I go to different targets (this is easy if you have clients everywhere then you probably pass a couple of targets). At this section you can also find arts and crafts stuff to make with a kiddo so let your creative juices out! 

  1. Shop on Prime Day. 

Yup that is right Prime day is awesome because there are actually so many things on sale. From one Behavior therapist to another, Prime Day is not just for electronics. They have tons of board games and other activities. (I will be writing a different post on my favorite board games to use during a session). While these probably won’t be as cheap as the target dollar spot you can get awesome deals on some board games that you can use too haha. 

  1. Shop on Black Friday: 

Bigger more expensive toys will be at incredible prices during black Friday (especially board games). Target and so many others will mark down their prices, so this is when you can get things that were on your wish list for a long time, but were too expensive. 

  1. Go to a thrift store: 

So many toys are donated to the thrift store because kids outgrew them or they simply don’t have the space for it. You’d be surprised what you can find. Once, I got like 10 board games for like 99 cents each. I was so surprised. Just make sure to disinfect them before using them. Be careful though some toys may not come with all the pieces so it can be a gamble. 

  1. Ask your company if you can use some of the company toys: 

Some ABA companies out there have toys you can borrow to take into session so just ask if that is a possibility. This option just requires you to take care of the toys. 

  1. Ask family members/ friends with kids if they have toys to 


Some people actually throw things out in the trash. There are some great toys that we could use during sessions. Plus this would be free to you. 


  1. Talk to your supervisor so they can talk to parents 

If you feel like your client doesn’t have many options and you are really on a tight budget just let your supervisor know that you need potential reinforcers. They can talk to parents and come up with a game plan on keeping certain toys only available during session or ask them to purchase some inexpensive stuff. It may or may not work, but potential reinforcers are important! 

But remember that the person bringing that tangible to life is YOU! So no matter what you get, make it fun and have fun! 

Be safe and wash your hands, 



About the Author


Maribel is a grad student working towards her Masters in ABA.  Maribel enjoys spending time being a nerd, cuddling with her dog, eating good food and browsing through Pinterest.  She was a dancer for 10 years and likes all types of cardio (sometimes).  She loves dinosaurs, cool fidgets, picture books, and arts and crafts materials. You can follow her on instagram at @behaviorsaur.

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