19 Fascinating And Fun Ways To Motivate Your Child

✔ Research-backed

Parents are usually a child’s biggest cheerleaders. Since children naturally look up to their parents, their development is significantly influenced when their parents motivate them. However, as a parent, you may often ponder, “What motivates your child?” While all parents want their children to push their boundaries and achieve their goals, you should look for innovative ideas that nurture their curiosity and will to learn.

Finding unique and interesting ways to motivate your children can help them in the long run since, in some ways, parental motivation defines a child’s behavior. Read this post to learn more about parental motivation and some simple and fun ways to motivate your child.

In This Article

Motivation: Extrinsic or Intrinsic?

Let’s go back to Amanda and Alex. Amanda’s mom told her that she needed to be good at math to be a scientist, and little Amanda was more than happy to practice math for that. Alex, on the other hand, wanted to be a basketball player and hated math. All he wanted to do was finish math and go out to play.

Motivation is what drives a person to do something, act in a particular way, or repeat a specific behavior. Motivation can be intrinsic or self-driven, and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is a self-driven desire to achieve an end goal, which can be succeeding in the chosen career, earning recognition for completing a specific task, establishing a happy relationship, or simply experiencing an emotion such as joy or peace. People, who are intrinsically motivated, aim at constant self-improvement. A self-motivated child (in this case, Amanda) doesn’t need to be told what to do or how to behave, to achieve the end goal.

But if the child is not motivated (here, Alex), he needs constant reminders and external motivators to get the job done. External motivators for kids could be TV time, ice cream or sweet treats, toys, or vacation.

How to motivate your child? Just know your children and understand their likes and dislikes, and you’re one step closer to motivating your children.

Extrinsic motivation can be used to condition children to behave in the desired way, but it is the intrinsic motivation that helps them succeed in life, create healthy relationships and become better people.

External motivators make the child dependent. So when the reward or motivation ceases to exist, the behavior will also cease to exist. How then, would you mold a child into doing something positive without treats or rewards?

protip_icon Quick fact
It’s essential to show your child love and support regardless of their actions or accomplishments. Keeping realistic expectations and offering the proper support could help keep them motivated (1).

Simple Ways To Motivate A Child

How do you know what motivates a child?

Simple – know your child and understand who he is as an individual. The motivation for a child is different compared to motivation for an adult. Look at your child as a person with likes, tastes, and preferences. Find out what the child is interested in if there is any field or subject that he or she has a special interest in.

When you like something, you want it. And when you want it, you are likely to make an effort to get it. The same applies to your child. When you know your child, and what they want, you will know how to motivate them.

What Motivates Your Child?

1. Goals
2. Competition/challenge
3. New skills
4. Direction
5. Rewards
6. Purpose
7. A supportive environment

Remember that offering rewards should not become bribing. You could offer them ice cream or chocolate. You could threaten to take away their privileges. But before you do anything, here are a few questions you should ask yourself.

  • Will these methods work?
  • How long will you be able to motivate your child using external rewards?
  • What happens when you stop providing the motivation for the kid?

Extrinsic motivation depends on factors outside of us and will fizzle away eventually. What you need to do is focus on developing the child’s intrinsic motivation. And, here is how to motivate children.

1. Set goals

Goals should be simple

Image: IStock

The simplest way to motivate a child to do something is to set goals for them. Goals give the child a purpose and direction, which make completing a task easy. Goals can be as simple as sleeping on time to wake up early and be on time for the class picnic or completing homework to go and play. Goals should be simple. They could also be long-term goals pertaining to profession, future aspirations, or relationships, which would be ideal when dealing with older kids and teens.

Remember that no goal is an end in itself. It could simply be a step you need to be at to reach  towards a long term betterment.

protip_icon Did you know?
Goal setting can be started with children from three or four years of age (2).

2. Plan

When you know where to go, what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, it means you have a plan. And when you have a plan, it is easy to achieve your goal. Planning can motivate your child to move towards a goal, for it gives you direction and guidance in every step of the way. Help your child to plan for little things that he or she wants to do. Children tend to be in a hurry to get things done. They generally jump the steps to reach the target. To teach the child to plan and develop some logical thinking, sit with them and plan small things such as going for an outing. Help them learn what to take, what not to take to play or eat, etc.

3. Reward Them

Rewards are perhaps the most common way to motivate children. For a child, something as simple as TV time, ice cream, cake, or a toy could be a reward. Children are happy with simple rewards. But as mentioned above, those are tangible rewards and are similar to bribes. So when these rewards stop, the desired behavior also stops. However, in some cases rewards can in the long term help develop a habit eg brushing teeth. Over a period of time , it becomes a habit and the child himself realizes the benefits. Then, he does not need a reward to brush teeth. These rewards may work in some situations, but they won’t aid in building an identity or instilling values.

Other, meaningful rewards could be more time spent with mom or dad, like a day out with the family to celebrate a small achievement. Sometimes, a positive, happy feeling, or the satisfaction of doing something well can be a reward in itself. Asking the child how he feels after completing a task or accomplishing something is a good way to make them understand that rewards need not always be tangible.

For example, when a child learns to ride a bike, he will want to ride more just for the thrill of it. The feeling of mastering a new skill is a reward in itself, something that kids should be taught early on.

4. Explain why

Have meaningful conversations with them

Image: IStock

An important part of the meaningful conversations you have with your child would include talking about why it is sensible to do some things and not do other things. Kids are curious as cats and are more than eager to be a part of a conversation that answers their questions. And, all you need are straightforward answers to their questions. Spend time explaining the why. Don’t order children. Rather, explain in a friendly manner.

For example, when the child asks why he needs to clean his room, just say ‘because it looks neat and clean. And your friends would not mind playing with you in here’. Sometimes, a more detailed explanation, while considering their point of view, may be necessary to make them understand the importance of doing something without being rude or disrespectful.

So if your teen complains that he is tired of cleaning the room, you could say “Alright. Why don’t you rest for a while and then clean your room?” That way, you are considerate and, yet, reinforcing the importance of a clean room, and also instilling a sense of responsibility in children.

5. Inspire

No matter how much you say or explain, children will notice what you do as inspiration to do something or not do something, as parents are a child’s first role models. In addition, parents play an important role in instilling values such as empathy, compassion, and altruism in children. Lead by example and be an inspiration to motivate your child to do something. The logic is simple: if you want them to be good, to do well at school, be responsible, stay positive, or be respectful of other people, you need to show them how.

Nichollen Peck, a mother of four and a homeschooler, emphasizes the importance of understanding how children learn and the principle of inspiring rather than requiring learning. She opines, “One of the principles that I try to follow with education is to inspire, not require. So, as a homeschooler, I realized if I wanted my children to love learning and to decide that they wanted to know how to learn and get the most out of their education without me nagging them around the clock, I had to inspire learning and not just require learning (i).” Moreover, by inspiring children, parents can help them take charge of their education and become self-motivated learners.

And if you want to tell your child the importance of being responsible or honest, say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want them to be courteous, you should always say please and thank you when necessary. And that, you must do even when they are not around. Children are very observant and notice exactly the parent’s behavior. Asking them to be honest and then lying in front of them is a big contradiction.

6. Encourage

Your child may not always be successful in what he does, and failure can be demotivating. Encouragement can help the child become persistent and continue trying his best in spite of failing once or more. Encouragement is a form of positive reinforcement and recognizes the child’s efforts and progress. Use words like “excellent, that was great, good effort, keep it up. 

A mother and blogger provides an example of how positive reinforcement and encouragement motivated her child to climb stairs independently. She says, “We are cheerleaders to motivate our baby girl because we hope to see her progress with each step. We do a round of high-fives, exclaim, “Well done, Vera!”, “Good job, baby!” and “That was very brave of you, darling!” right from when she first attempted stairs on her own when she was younger. Now, we see huge smiles and a more confident young lady, all of 34 months old, and we realize that we’ve been taken on a parenting course all this while (ii).”

Encouraging statements should be descriptive and not vague. Continue to encourage the kid to do something he is already good at, but also  Inspire them to try something that they have failed at earlier. When you do that, you let them know that you believe in them, which is enough motivation for them to try again. Furthermore, constant encouragement may also build their confidence and self-esteem.

7. Appreciate

Appreciate the effort that your kid puts into a task. Whether it is finishing his homework before going out to play or helping you with the dinner or even dressing himself up for school, your kids deserve a pat on the back. A little appreciation every once in a while is great to motivate the child to do even better.

protip_icon Point to consider
Praise children for their effort rather than focusing on the outcome. Help them see falling short as an opportunity to learn and improve, as it will help them stay motivated to work hard (3).

8. Make it competitive

When you compete, your natural instinct is to win. That alone is enough motivation for a person to do his or her best. One way to encourage the child to do something is to make it a competition. For instance, saying “whoever eats everything on the plate first gets to play a cool game”, can encourage the child to finish the meal. But don’t make comparisons with other siblings.

9. Give them choices

Give them options, what motivates your child

Image: IStock

One way to motivate the child is to give them some control over what they do, by giving them some choices. For instance, ask the child if she wants to wear dress A or dress B to school. While she cannot choose whether or not to go to school, she gets to choose how she dresses for it. Likewise, you can give the children options wherever possible, making it seem like it is their choice. Kids are more likely to do what they choose to do rather than what we want them to do, which means having options can be motivating.

10. Don’t be pushy

Encouraging the child to do something is good. But nagging them to do it can make you seem pushy or a bossy, which will demotivate the child. Being nagging can demotivate a child. Being pushy can also make the child rebellious and motivate them to do the opposite of what you want them to do.

11. Help them acquire new skills

Just as they would be eager to try their new toys, kids will also be eager to try any new skills that they learn. They are curious to try new skills. Encourage activities that stimulate creativity and exploration. Motivate your child to do better at school or outside by helping them acquire the right skills and giving them access to the right tools.

12. Help them embrace their flaws

Everyone has a flaw or two. But your flaws shouldn’t determine whether or not you will succeed in life. Teach your children to embrace their flaws. Do not point out the flaws. Or make them feel inferior because of the flaws. For instance, your child may be short and not qualify for the basketball team. Encourage them to try baseball, cricket, or swimming instead! Help them find ways to use their shortcomings to their benefit, and motivate them.

13. Don’t be judgemental

One of the simplest ways to demotivate your child is to judge them. When you judge everything that your child does, and label them as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or ‘not good enough’, your child will become wary of trying anything new. When you stop judging and labeling, your kid will not be afraid to try something new.

14. Help them see the big picture

“Why do I have to do math?” “I hate gym class!” “I hate exams!”

Children often say such things because they focus on the present moment and not on the big picture. Math may not seem as useful at the time, but learning the subject at school can lay the foundation for many careers that the child may want to pursue. As much as the child hates going to school, he will understand the benefits of it when you tell him how he can benefit from an education. Sit and explain to them how these small things add up to the bigger picture.

And, sometimes, there is no better way of motivating the child than by indulging in some fun.

Activities And Games To Motivate Kids

Kids don’t need motivational speeches. What they need are activities that encourage or promote self-motivation. And that is exactly what we have here.

1. Quiz competitions

Motivate children to study for the quiz

Image: IStock

Where there is competition, there is motivation to win.

The best way to get a student to study or revise what he has learned is to have quizzes, and reward them with a compliment or praise accordingly. Make sure that you appreciate the effort the child has put into the competition, and not the result, especially when dealing with a group of kids. The idea is to motivate the children to study for the quiz, not belittle them for losing. Make it a fun activity.

2. Animal races

Ideal when you have two or more kids, this game requires investment in a few small toys such as horses, elephants, tigers, or other animals. Create a race track with 15-20 spaces using construction paper. Mark each space clearly and place one animal (your child can choose this) at the beginning of the track.

The animals move three or two places each time he demonstrates the desired behavior such as doing the homework, putting the toys away without being told, walking the dog, helping with household chores, and so on. The child who completes the race first gets a reward.

3. Twenty questions

This is an interesting way to introduce famous personalities such as scientists, engineers, politicians, writers, and actors who became successful in spite of the odds against them. The game not only motivates the child to try harder but also helps them take ideas from the celebrities’ lives to find innovative solutions to the problems that are hindering growth.

4. Treasure hunt

Treasure hunt, Games to motivate kids

Image: Shutterstock

This is like an extended-version of treasure hunt that you can play with the child through the month or week. Every day when the child finishes his homework, you give him a clue. By the end of the week, the clues will lead him to a reward that he earned for finishing his homework every day. If he skips homework on any day, the game starts all over again.

This can also be used for the grades he gets at school. For example, the child will get an easy clue if he gets an A. If he gets a B or C, he gets a difficult clue. He doesn’t get any clue for grades below C.

5. Get outta here

This is an excellent classroom game for young kids and preteens and is best when played before recess or lunch break. The game involves asking kids three questions from the day’s lessons, and if they get all three right, they get to leave the room earlier than the others.

Prepare a set of questions for that day’s lessons. Then make the children stand in a line. Ask each kid three questions. If anyone gets an answer wrong, he or she goes to the back of the line and starts all over again!

This is also an excellent way to make the kids pay attention in class.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does motivation help a child’s development?

Motivated children are more likely to enjoy learning at school and participating in other activities that promote their overall development. They also want to spend more effort and energy on realizing their goals. Children who are encouraged and motivated perform better in various walks of life since they naturally desire success.

2. Does motivation promote learning?

Learning and motivation often go hand-in-hand. Motivation is one of the most important factors in promoting learning since it helps improve a child’s attention span, raises their energy levels, and positively impacts their cognitive abilities. Utilizing positive motivation techniques in the classroom can promote learning and improve academic results.

3. What values or beliefs can help drive my child’s motivation?

Values such as acceptance, honor, independence, idealism, eating, and social contact may drive your child’s motivation. The independence to explore various activities and the social contact associated with them is believed to be fruitful for your child’s growth. Giving a small piece of chocolate or ice cream after winning in their favorite match is sure to churn their motivation further (4).

4. How does my child’s social environment, including friends and peers, impact their motivation?

Research has considerably shown that children with good social environments are more likely to be motivated than the ones who do not. Support and positive reinforcement from peers and teachers enable children to achieve social goals as well as academic goals (5).

5. Can external factors, such as school or extracurricular activities, influence my child’s motivation?

Research has shown that participating in extracurricular activities in or outside school benefits their social development. Group activities are believed to increase your child’s social interaction, increasing motivation, and enjoyment. Additionally, participating in an individual activity might help build independence and stimulate your child’s motivation (6).

Motivating children with rewards is easy, but it keeps them devoid of the technique of self-motivation, which is a vital skill to succeed in life. Every child is unique, and knowing what motivates your child could help you decide on the most-suited ways to uplift them. Set realistic goals, explain the importance of values, be a good role model, avoid being judgemental, and reward them with prudence. You may also help them understand the meaning of healthy competition, engage them in self-motivated activities, and consistently appreciate their efforts to reinforce good behavior.

Infographic: Activities And Games To Motivate Children

Engaging children in interactive and stimulating activities is vital for their growth and development. This infographic presents various exciting games and activities designed to captivate young minds, fostering their motivation, creativity, and overall well-being.

motivating activities and games for children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Parental motivation significantly impacts a child’s development, whether intrinsic or extrinsic.
  • Motivating a child requires understanding their preferences, dislikes, and areas of interest.
  • Factors that can motivate a child include goals, competition/challenge, new skills, direction, rewards, purpose, and a supportive environment.
  • Motivating kids through bribery is not advisable.
  • Love and support are crucial for a child’s growth and should be provided regardless of their achievements.
what motivates your child_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Get valuable insights about what truly motivates you little ones and a few tips to inspire them through this informative video.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Motivation — Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence.
  2. Teaching Children to be Goal Setters.
  3. How to Motivate Children: Science-Based Approaches for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.
  5. Parenting, the social environment and its effects on child development
  6. The Benefits of Participating in Extracurricular Activities
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Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla

Dr. Mubina AgboatwallaMBBS, DCH, MCPS

Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla is a well-known pediatrician, practicing paediatrics since the last 20 years in Karachi Pakistan. She is the head of the department of Pediatrics in Karachi Liaquat Hospital, as well as her private practice in three specialist clinics in Pediatrics. She is also a Public Health Specialist specializing in preventive health including nutrition, breastfeeding and infectious diseases especially...read full bio