The Sparkle Jar: A Simple Way to Build Connection

July 7, 2018 Attachment, attachment activities, discipline, homeschool, large families, parent-to-child attachment, Sharon 3 Comments

I recently read a quote from Here We Read that said, “Give children more experiences, not things.”

It got me thinking about our Sparkle Jar. I really hadn’t stop to ponder the what, why, when, where, or how because it’s something I have done in the past in my classroom and now in our home. It’s a way we have created a team spirit and simplified the stuff accumulated around here.

It’s one of the ways we choose experiences over things while building connections, highlighting the Golden Rule, practicing empathy, and finding wonder in our day to day lives.

What? The Sparkle Jar is a cookie jar where we drop sparkles (which are just flat marbles for fish tanks) for a million different reasons. It is important in our home for being intentional in encouraging our children to care.

Why? There was a time when all my children had chore charts, sticker charts, allowances, etc. that helped them do one thing… focus on themselves. Their ego-centric selves were always on high alert in competition with their siblings about every single little thing. Were they the best? The fastest? Number one?

It wasn’t about a family striving to be stronger and more unified. It was individuals competing with each other for more.

Enough was enough.

We wanted our family to build up each other, striving for connection and relationship­­, thus came the Sparkle Jar. It was a way to focus everyone on a common goal as a team player with one thing, not twenty.

Simple and sweet.

One and done.

You get the message.

Where? The Sparkle Jar sits on the counter in the kitchen where we gather the most often. It’s a constant reminder of the goal we are all working towards and reminds everyone to pitch in for the common good of our family.

It’s not just for our family either. When someone visits like our grandsons or cousins, they can contribute to the jar too. If they get ‘caught’ caring for someone, helping at first request, or cooperating with others, they add sparkles to our jar. They love the thrill of throwing them in and our kids love that others help in meeting our goal. Also, if we’re away from home, we keep tallies of sparkles. It still works on the road.

When? When we first started the Sparkle Jar, we drew a line low on the jar to fill and treated our family to blizzards at DQ. As time passed, we upped the line and added more sparkles to our stash to earn family fun like passes to the Aquarium or zoo, maybe a trip to the bookstore, or day trip on a nature outing as a family. The sky is the limit. We don’t always have a specific goal in mind other than using up all the sparkles at which point we meet as a family and discuss what we might need or want to do.

The focus is the good deeds done on the journey, not the finished destination. It’s a beautiful journey too because they know once we fill the jar, we start over toward a new goal. It encourages us all that caring for others is never done or complete. It is something we strive for all of our days on earth.

How? We have seen a significant willingness to help without even being asked. Our children look for ways to care for each other. The Golden Rule is truly the foundation of our whole Sparkle system. If you are thinking of how you want to be treated, you are very likely to ‘Sparkle’ in your own behavior towards others. Trying to take our eyes off ourselves and focus on others.

Even as adults, we could improve on this level. The kids have even caught me and Scott doing something they believe deserves sparkles. We let them catch each other in a Sparkle act too. “Mom! The boys made our beds today!” It really is beautiful to watch. When they see each other being sparkled for a choice, it must likely to be repeated by all the rest.

Celebration Day. Once the jar is full, we plan our celebration day. We’ve done tons of things with our kids that lots of families just do randomly, but we choose to pair it with our Sparkle Jar celebration. One idea is to rent or buy a movie on Amazon, pop popcorn, and enjoy family movie night. Another is to let everyone choose a book they have been wishing for. We have even taken them out for evening rides on the boat with a dinner picnic and sunset swims.

It really doesn’t take much to bring wonder and enchantment to our children’s lives. It just takes intention and effort.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

SO evident with our Sparkle Jar… when everyone is showing each other respect and caring to help, the camaraderie and family spirit creates positive energy which inspires more and more of the same! Who wouldn’t want that for their family?

Intention and Effort. There is much intention and effort involved with this idea. We can’t begin something like this just to let it fizzle out. We have to be excited for our family and look for opportunities to sparkle them with love. In the beginning we over sparkled our children as a way to get them aware of their choices and actions. As time has passed and we see certain things becoming second nature to them (a perk of sparkles), we don’t always reward for that reason. It just becomes the right thing to do.

As you can guess, this system works best with younger children, but I still see the older children encouraging the younger ones, helping them to make good choices, and always pitching in before being asked. I love seeing the older ones giving sparkles to the younger ones which shows me they own the responsibility of why we started it in the first place.

Honestly it helps us move from managing our children all the time to them managing themselves – creating a lovely place to do life together!

You might wonder if our children ever have their own money in which to learn management, saving, and wise choices. They do have opportunities to make money – pet sitting for neighbors or helping in the yard. They also prefer monetary gifts for birthdays and holidays over more stuff. Because we homeschool and have workbooks, I write $10 on the inside back cover and when they finish the book, they get paid. A win-win for all of us!

I have even seen the sparkle effect work in situations at the store when one child is wanting to buy something they don’t have quite enough for and another child steps in to cover the deficit. Sometimes they require pay back and other times they let it go. I let them work that out on their own.

I believe Sparkles are teaching our children three important character traits:

1. Empathy: Stepping into someone else’s skin and walking around in it.

2. Collaboration: Working together on a common goal in mind.

3. Cooperation: Coming together as a team for the good of everyone.

Can you think of any profession that wouldn’t look for those qualities in their employees? How about spouses in a family? What about in a classroom or sports arena? Can you see the endless outcomes of this simple habit training?

Did you know there is real research behind smiling? It says, “The mere act of smiling reduces blood pressure, lowers stress hormones, and boosts your mood; a British study even found that one smile generates the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.”

Why would we not do everything in our power to share a smile and encourage a smile??? The act of smiling triggers endorphins which make us happy. We smile to be happy. Feelings follow our actions. As moms and dads, we are the atmosphere of the home. If we smile and try to have fun with our children, we can create a wonderful place to be a family.

The best thing we can give our children is a happy and peaceful home with happy and peaceful parents.

Other ways I see the Sparkle Jar working for our family is allowing us to focus on what we want more of and making sure we will get it!

So, for us, the Sparkle Jar works a sort of magic. It focuses us on finding the good and beautiful and lovely instead of competition, selfishness, and entitlement. Would our kids be just as vigilant about caring for each other without sparkles? Maybe, but pointing out their good makes me feel good too.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The Challenge. Choose one thing you want to see an improvement in and focus on that one thing. If it goes well, add another or be like me and go all out.

(One caution: We don’t take Sparkles away! The reason for a Sparkle Jar is to encourage good choices, and we want to keep it completely positive. If there is a behavior or choice that is the opposite of a Sparkle, you could say, “I am so sorry you made that choice. If you had done this or that, you would have earned a Sparkle. Do you think you could do that next time?” Try to state the positive of what you want them to do not what you don’t.)

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, aand when he is old he will not depart from it.”

We all want a calm and peaceful home with our children fostering close connections and relationships. I hope with all my heart this helps someone find a beautiful rhythm in their daily lives.

3 responses to “The Sparkle Jar: A Simple Way to Build Connection”

  1. Christine says:

    What a beautiful idea to encourage an atmosphere of love and sharing. I will definitely borrow this idea! 🙂

  2. Julie says:

    This is a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  3. Cindy says:

    Are you familiar with the children’s book, The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie. A Christmas story with the same concept basically. My grandchildren have the book. A wonderful message.

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