How to Motivate Children: Science-Based Approaches for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers

What are the most effective thanks to motivating children? The intrinsic motivation to be told about the globe around us begins in infancy. Psychological research points to a group of promising approaches that folks and practitioners can use to market positive motivation and learning during development.

1. Follow babies’ lead.
Babies naturally orient toward novel objects and events. They give the impression of being far from objects that are overly familiar, but also from new ones that are too complex. This can be sometimes called the “Goldilocks effect:” things are interesting after they are novel, but not too novel. When interacting with infants, notice what they concentrate on, and interact with them around their interests.

2. Elicit curiosity.
Even infants seek to explore objects—especially those who behave in surprising ways. Once they drop something on the ground or throw it, they’re trying to work out what is going to happen next. Provide children with opportunities to interact with new objects—and allow them to lead and learn!

3. Encourage children’s playful exploration.
When given the opportunity, children of all ages engage in life spontaneously. The play has the same ingredients that fuel learning: it is intrinsically motivating, it provides opportunities for new experiences and learning from others, it requires active participation, and it can strengthen social bonds and reduce stress. When life is hectic, it can be difficult to find the time and space to encourage children’s play, but it is an important part of their development.

4. Prioritize social interaction during learning.
In the digital age, there are many educational, computer-based applications designed for kids, even those as young as 6 months. However, even the best-designed and handiest apps cannot replace real-life social interactions with adults and peers. In one study, babies learned elements of language more effectively when face-to-face with a coach or on video. Recent research shows that young children can learn from digital media, like touch-screen tablets, but social interaction during this learning experience appears to be essential.

5. Challenge children merely enough.
Kids are motivated to figure toward achievable goals. From infancy onward, trouble is required to sustain motivation, but success must be possible. They lose motivation when a task is just too easy, but also when it’s so difficult on be insurmountable. Video games harness this fundamental principle of learning effectively, constantly increasing the extent of challenges supported by a private child’s performance. Try and adopt a challenge in line with a child’s current capabilities, and supply prompt feedback on his or her performance.

5. Give children agency.
Children are more motivated after they have some extent of self-determination, and may elect to pursue tasks that are personally meaningful. After they have a choice of projects or a minimum of touch flexibility on how a task gets done, children are more likely to remain engaged.

6. Provide incentives only if necessary.
When children are suddenly rewarded for something they enjoy and do freely, they’ll begin to try to do it only if they know they’re going to be compensated afterward. Wherever possible, harness children’s natural curiosity and inclination to figure toward an achievable goal, instead of promising a souvenir.

7. Praise the method instead of the end result.
When we praise children for their intellect or skill level—or the grade or medallion they received—it can result in performance orientation. They’ll be motivated to attain more rewards, but they will also learn to back far away from challenging activities that they may not shine at, for fear of negative evaluation. Performance pressure increases as children move up at school, and it’s related to depression and anxiety additionally with the diminished joy of learning. After we praise children for their effort and help them see falling short as a chance to be told and improve (rather than simply specialize in the outcome), they’re going to be more motivated to figure hard and more likely to believe that they will achieve what they put their mind to.

8. Maintain an in-depth reference to adolescents.
Adolescence may be a period when many adolescents take risks and push boundaries. As teens become more motivated by the approval of their peers, it may be socially rewarding to follow risk-taking leaders or stand out by breaking boundaries. However, teens with close family relationships are less vulnerable to risk-taking. High parental support and open dialogue are related to fewer problem behaviors, including less abuse and delinquency. Be empathetic and supportive, knowing that youth are surfing changes in their brains, bodies, and social relations that may make risky behavior appealing to them.