Many kids with ADHD struggle with feelings of boredom throughout the day, especially during activities that fail to meet their high mental engagement needs (see my previous post for more on this topic). When boredom kicks in, kids feel miserable and their ability to stay focused and engaged plummets. While every hour of every day can’t be filled with fun and exciting activities, there are many strategies that parents and teachers can use to make everyday tasks more engaging for kids with ADHD,
5 Key Strategies for Reducing Boredom and Increasing Engagement
- Make Activities Meaningful
When an activity is meaningful to a child, either because it is helping them to improve their skills in an area that is important to them or because it is tied to a topic that they enjoy, their interest and enthusiasm will increase dramatically. For example, many kids with ADHD complain that math is boring, but when a child learns to use their skills to predict the scoring potential of their favorite athlete, math suddenly becomes much more interesting. Or when a child learns that getting through their homework quickly (and accurately) means that they will finish sooner and have more time to play their favorite game, they become much more engaged and less distracted during homework time.
- Incorporate Physical Activity
Physical activity provides essential mental stimulation for kids with ADHD, and can make typically “boring” activities much more engaging. Physical activity can come in the form of a hands-on project, an opportunity to complete assignments while standing and fidgeting rather than sitting still, or frequent pre-planned activity breaks. In an ideal scenario, active games can be used to teach new skills, routines, and habits. Whenever activities are fun and game-like boredom quickly disappears!
- Keep it Short
Kids with ADHD become bored with almost any lengthy task. For very young children, even a 10-minute activity can induce boredom. Older children may have a 20-minute limit before the boredom sets in. In general, helping kids with ADHD learn new skills and complete everyday tasks through short bursts of activity will reduce boredom and increase engagement. Try reducing the length of repetitive academic assignments, and breaking down longer activities, like cleaning up a very messy play area, into smaller chunks.
- Set Short-Term Goals
Most kids with ADHD find activities boring when they lack a clear purpose or have a very delayed outcome. Build small goals into activities to bump up engagement. For example, rather than having a child passively listen to a book report presentation in class, have them complete a worksheet that requires them to listen for very specific details during the presentation. Challenge the child to have an answer written down for each question before the presenter has finished the report.
- Reward Progress
Providing immediate rewards can make almost any activity more engaging for kids with ADHD. In general, rewards should be immediate, they should be something that the child wants to earn, and they should be used sparingly. Rewards are powerful tools for kids with ADHD, but when they are used too frequently they can be difficult to sustain. In addition, they may undermine a child’s internal motivation when they are paired with activities that the child perceives as easy or inherently interesting. So, build in rewards when they are needed, but use them only after you’ve tried one or more of the four strategies listed above.
Anytime an otherwise boring activity can be made engaging for a child with ADHD they will be receive a boost in their ability to focus, be productive, and feel proud of their efforts. It’s not possible to escape boredom altogether, but with a few tips and tricks most activities can be made interesting for kids with ADHD.