How to Use Manipulatives for Healthy Habit Accountability

Developing an accountability system is the way to keep yourself going forward. Here's a method to try.



5/11/20223 min read

Who doesn't love the concept of manipulatives? I remember helping my mother put away her kindergarten class room every June and seeing all of the different colors and shapes and every so often I'd see some foreign ones and ask how they're used.

For those that don't see these every day, manipulatives are little plastic pieces, similar to Legos, that are used to represent some sort of (often math) concept so that children have a visual and tangible representation of what they're learning about, like place value, sums, etc.

Totally switching gears here, let's talk about accountability. It's one of the biggest complaint of people- they can't stick to the process that will ultimately get their goals.

You look around the internet for the next best way and most, almost all, of the processes you can buy lack that one crucial component.

Now, of course, my coaching program has that worked into it, as do my paid challenge packages, but what if you just wanted to try an accountability strategy?

Let's bring the two concepts together.

To adults, manipulatives represent fun, a game, something eye-catching, and tangibility, as if we're kids again.

Let's say your process was to pick three healthy habits to help you consume fewer calories each day. And your kid has tons of Legos. They won't miss a few.

Each week has 7 days, you have three habits. Pick three colors and grab seven Legos of each color. Early Monday, they lay on the bathroom vanity, all disassembled, ready for you. By Sunday night, ideally, they're all assembled because each day you did each of your three habits. Take a picture and send it to yourself with the message "Week 1" and if you weigh or measure yourself weekly, the results can accompany the picture.

This is one of countless accountability systems. This example may not work for everyone because these systems have to be tailored to how you think and what specifically excites you. But the needed components are all there.We picked something tangible that you can handle daily. Each day when you walk into the bathroom, it's sitting there reminding you. It's where you frequent, it's colorful, it doesn't belong there, so it's going to catch your eye and remind you. If one habit keeps getting missed, that color Lego will be sitting there taunting, er, reminding you to do that habit. You're enouraged to stick with this throughout the week as your small sculpture is built.

When you run out of Legos (hopefully), you feel like you have accomplished something, you take a picture to commemorate a job well done that week, and maybe the result or change to prove your system works.

Just explain to your kid that you have a special project and need to borrow some (or buy your own). You don't want them touching it, since it's a project for you. So help them understand how special it is for you, or whatever works with the way they think. Find potential issues before they start.

But there's many ways to structure how this can work. It can be pieces of paper, coins, whatever. Devise it however it will work for you.

Here's some tips:

1. Pick something small.

2. Make sure the day-to-day task is quick.

3. Build it a little "shrine", somewhere you see often, but out of the way of kids, pets, etc. If it's messed with, you might get a negative emotion attached to it. Keep this area sacred to your goals and you'll continue to respect it according to what it does for you.

4. Decide if you disassemble or add to it each week.

5. Decide what accompanies this each week. Measurements? Journal entry? Weight?

6. Decide on a reward for using all pieces. Non-food reward works best.

7. Decide what happens if you don't.

8. Is there a greater goal to work towards each month? By the time you reach your goal?

9. The key thing is to use this sacred space in one way daily, in another way weekly, and perhaps another way monthy. Your DAILY efforts all work their way into an end goal.

10. Decide what happens when you make a mistake, like you're sick, have a routine disruption, etc. Give yourself some grace, like a homework pass, but not enough to derail you. Like decide on two passes or something until you don't need them because it's a permanent lifestyle change

11. Make an agreement with yourself, signed and witnessed contract if needed, to not deviate until your goal is made. Contracts feel binding to adults, you want this to feel that way too.

I am reaching two years of use of my current exercise accountability system. It works because I stick to it and haven't deviated. Even while sick, lightly, even while camping. My manipulatives are color-coded labeled index cards that I move from one side to the other each week. No re-assemly and it is really organized. I miss something one day, I make it up on another.

Works like a charm. Any questions out there about this? Send me an email! or