Motivation is at the forefront of everything that we do. It drives us to try, achieve, wonder, and innovate.

It instigates the change we see in the world. The intrinsic desire and motivation to discover and understand the world around us begin in infancy. In our earliest years, we begin wondering and exploring, and that motivation leads people to grow into who they want to become. The adult around us directly impacts how that motivation manifests and how we utilize it. That’s why it’s important to encourage motivation in little ones throughout their formative years. This motivation will directly relate to who they become and what they do with the tools you have given them.

In this article, we will look into the importance of motivation in kids and provide useful approaches that are scientifically proven to encourage and boost motivation in children for you to try at home.

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What is motivation

Motivation is the desire and drive a person possesses when they want to try, learn, understand or do something. It is a force that pushes you to do well or at least put your all into trying. Because of this, it is a very important component of a child’s development. It will encourage them to explore and learn as young people and shape their ethics and success as adults.

There are two types of motivation, as explained below:

Intrinsic motivation = a natural feeling that leads to the development of interest in a learner from within because the action is enjoyable.
Extrinsic motivation = is dependent on external factors like incentives that involve rewards for doing well or avoiding punishment.

Why is it important

Motivation is incredibly important in children as it is the driving force in their development. The state energizes and directs the behavior they will exhibit through discovery and learning. It is how they will progress and learn through growth and development. Motivation is the drive that makes them try again when they fail and look for more.

Motivation is also incredibly important in adults and offers many benefits that people exhibit throughout life. The motivation you encourage as a child will show a lot in their drive, work ethic, and resilience when they are older. Hence, it’s important to instill positive behavior in children. Some of these benefits are:

  • Allows you to change necessary behavior
  • Set goals
  • Be creative
  • Make plans
  • Develop talents and interest
  • Boost engagement
  • Develop competencies
  • Grow interests
  • Work hard
  • Use failure to do better
  • Try again and again

Approaches to try at home to motivate your kids

Research indicates that there is a science behind motivation. And through this psychological research, there have been promising approaches designed to help parents and practitioners promote positive motivation and learning throughout a child’s development. Below some of these approaches have been outlined:

Follow babies’ lead

This approach refers to, in particular, the earlier stages of your child’s development. Babies are naturally oriented toward foreign objects and events, have a distinctive wonder for the world, and are inclined to go and discover. This approach is essential to go with them. They tend to avoid objects that are too familiar but also shy from new ones that appear to be too complex. This is often known as the “Goldilocks effect,” as it is your baby exploring objects that are ‘just right’ for them. You must notice what they pay attention to and engage with them around their interests.

Elicit curiosity

This desire to seek and explore continues throughout most of their childhood; you will see it still as your child is an infant. They take particular interest in those that behave in surprising ways and often take practical measures to challenge the natural order of things. For example, when you see your child throw something new on the floor, they are testing to see what happens next. Provide them opportunities to interact with new objects and learn how they work.

Encourage children’s playful exploration

Play is a vital part of your child’s life. This is because the ingredients of play are the same as those needed for learning: intrinsically motivating; presents an opportunity for new experiences and learning from others; encourages active engagement, and can strengthen social bonds. Children of all ages will spontaneously engage in play when given a chance, so give them all the chances you can, as this is an important part of their development.

Prioritize social interaction during learning

Technology is great, and it is more than appropriate to utilize the online tools available for learning with your child in this digital age. However, social interaction during this learning experience has been considered essential. That’s why social interaction should still be prioritized if they are learning through virtual devices, as face-to-face teaching with a teacher or on video is more effective in learning the elements of language.

Challenge children just enough

This approach refers to how much is too much and what is not enough for your kids. It’s important to find the right balance for your kids. They are motivated to work towards achievable goals, so it’s important to assess beforehand if they can achieve them or if it’s not a little too out of their reach at that current moment. That being said, you don’t want to hand them success on a plate. Making everything too easy isn’t going to motivate them, but rather enforce a mundane routine, so set them challenges that are appropriate for their current capabilities but also challenge them.

Give children agency

It’s found that children are more motivated when they have some degree of self-determination, giving them the choice of meaningful tasks and activities they can do. Allowing them to pursue personally meaningful tasks makes them more likely to stay engaged.

Provide incentives only when necessary

There is a common misconception that promising a reward is the best way to motivate a child. And although this can be effective, it is a very slippery slope. They begin to do tasks they once partake in freely just because they know they will be compensated afterward. That’s why we recommend harnessing their natural curiosity and inclination to work towards a goal rather than promising a reward wherever possible.

Praise the process rather than the skill

Praising children based on their intellect or skill level, such as a grade or where they were placed in a race, can lead to a performance orientation. This means that although they may be motivated to win more awards, they also may shy away from more challenging tasks out of fear of failure. That’s why it’s best to enforce a positive association with completing tasks and the things you learn rather than accumulating an intense amount of pressure on the final result, which could lead to anxiety and a lack of self-esteem.

Maintain a close relationship with adolescence

Adolescence is when many young people begin taking risks and pushing boundaries. It’s a time when they learn more about the world, themselves, and how they fit in it more honestly. This transition into a need for societal approval becomes a leading force of motivation for most teens, which can lead to more ill-advised risk-taking. It is good to give your teen the space they need to discover the world on their own and learn things about themselves; however, it is important to remain a trusted base to connect to. Teens with stronger relationships with respected family members are more likely to push boundaries in a safe and controlled way. So give them the space they need to grow, but with a relationship established on mutual respect and transparency, they know they have a line to return to when they need it.


Motivation gives your child the opportunities they need to develop and grow. So show them how to use their intrinsic drive well and encourage appropriate daily application.