When Goals Get Challenging: 10 Ways to Motivate Children to Keep Trying

Whether working on therapy goals or on preschool concepts it can be difficult to know how to gently motivate your child when they absolutely refuse to participate in activities that would help them make progress.

This list gives you ideas on how to make challenging tasks less stressful for you and them. Therapists and parents of typically developing children may find this list useful as well.

  1. Use things that are important to them and be encouraging in the way you present activities

    It will save you so much frustration if you let go of your exact lesson plan and modify it to something they are interested in, especially if you show how excited you are about it as well. My son physically could not hold a crayon, use scissors or search through putty to find a bead until he was almost 5. We had to be flexible and get incredibly creative to motivate him to participate in these extremely challenging pre-school skills in therapy and in at home practice. Read more about that here.

  2. Use puppets

    I’m not even kidding you, my kids will do anything for a stuffed puppet. We have a handwriting puppet, a reading puppet, and a math puppet. They love doing things for them. Handwriting Without Tears has a nice parrot puppet that they use with the WordTime set, and All About Reading has a nice zebra puppet they incorporate into lessons.

  3. Sing songs with the use of instruments whenever possible

    Have a child who doesn’t want to do anything that involves difficult activities? Maybe they are tired or bored? Find a song on YouTube that talks about what you are trying to teach, have them grab an instrument and go wild.

  4. Mock Recital

    This is probably more for the older child, but I had to do this with my 5 year old for piano practice. Set up some stuffed animals, have someone in the background announce your child and what they are going to do, teach them to bow before going on stage, clap before and after. My son practices his piano lessons everyday because of this. It never gets old.

  5. Use favorite stuffed animals or figurines

    Just like puppets my kids will also do just about anything if I make their favorite toy talk to them and ask them how to do something. My son who has food aversions tried a banana at the end of his 45 minute feeding therapy session simply because his storm trooper lego asked him to. It doesn’t work all the time, but it is glorious when it does.

  6. Be silly

    Your child can’t figure out how to put a puzzle piece in and is getting frustrated? Take the piece and purposely try to put it in the wrong way and give an exaggerated NOOO while shaking your head, do it over and over until you can say YES very excited. If they know it’s ok to be wrong, they are going to be more willing to try it. If your child is having a hard time practicing their speech words, use various silly voices like whispers and opera singing to encourage production (also works on prosody which is always a win with kids with apraxia).

  7. PLAY

    Do you know how many things you can work on by playing games and playing with toys? I mean the possibilities are endless. Let your child play and play with them as much as possible.  Support your child if playing is a difficult skill for them by starting out small and build from there. Make playing together easier until you find something they want to and can do and then slowly work your way up to more complex play. You can do it!

  8. Paint, glitter, and messy things

    If your child likes to paint, encourage it. Painting and using arts/crafts encourages fine motor, gross motor, early math, and writing skills, etc. Do it as much as you can and you will be strengthening important skills along the way.

  9. Dancing and gross motor movements

    Get your child moving. Use dance and exercises not only as breaks, but as a part of teaching the concepts.

  10. Dry Erase boards

    Your child doesn’t want to hold a crayon or color because it is difficult? Give them a dry erase marker on a white board. Not only is writing on a vertical surface good for many reasons, the ease of writing with a dry erase marker is extremely encouraging.

  11. I’m going to add one more bonus motivator: Visual Schedules

    You can get fancy and download pictures off board maker or the app custom boards or you can make your own with personal pictures or drawings. Sometimes all your child needs is to know exactly what is expected of them. Creating a visual schedule can help with this. A visual schedule is really just a list that also includes a picture that you can check off or remove as tasks get completed.


-The Homeschooling SLP-September 2017 www.homeeducatingapraxia.com

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