Participating in a new or challenging activity can be intimidating for children of all ages. While you may be able to clearly see the long and short term benefits, it may take them a bit of time to build confidence and feel comfortable participating in an activity. However, you can help encourage them to participate by figuring out what motivates them and finding activities they'll enjoy.
Method 1 of 3:Encouraging a Shy Child
1Use their interests as a starting off point to get them involved.Expert SourceWits End ParentingParenting SpecialistsExpert Interview. 5 March 2020. To help encourage a shy child to get involved in a new activity, first ask or observe them to figure out what some of their interests are. Then, try to use that information as a starting off point to help the child segue into the new activity and make it more appealing for them.
For example, if you notice that a shy child in your class likes to draw, try encouraging them to participate in your class play by putting them in charge of drawing a set design. They'll likely be more motivated to participate if you make the activity more interesting for them.
When you approach the child about participating, try asking them, “I've noticed that you're an incredibly talented artist. Would you mind helping us out by drawing the set design for our play?” This helps them feel like an important part of the activity and allows them to contribute by doing what they love.
2Take them to watch the activity before they get started. If you know a child is shy and nervous to try a new activity, try taking them to watch it first so they'll have a better idea of what to expect. Shy children may need more time to get accustomed to new places, people, and activities. By taking them to watch the activity beforehand, they'll likely feel more comfortable when it's time for them to participate.
If you aren't able to go to the activity location beforehand, it can also be helpful to show them pictures or videos online.
For example, if you're trying to encourage your shy middle schooler to play ice hockey, taking them to watch a practice at the rink may help them feel more comfortable and confident going into their first practice.
3Pair them up with outgoing children whenever possible. When you sense that a shy child is reluctant to participate, try putting them in a pair or small group with a few outgoing children that you know will be welcoming and encouraging. In a small group setting, more outgoing children may pick up on their reluctance and try to help them open up and feel more comfortable with the activity.
Similarly, try getting them involved in activities with their friends or children they know so they'll feel more comfortable from the get-go.
4Give them a role that encourages them to interact with others. In many cases, shy children are reluctant to participate in activities because they're intimated about the social aspects. To help them move past this, try giving them a role that requires them to interact with other kids to fulfill their assignment. Interacting in a more structured setting can help them feel more comfortable being social with others and feel more inclined to participate on their own over time.
For instance, if you're teaching a middle or high school debate class, try assigning the shy child to serve as the debate moderator or timekeeper. That way, they'll be able to participate and interact with other kids without the pressure of debating on a team themselves.
5Choose small group activities so they won't feel overwhelmed. To help a shy child feel more comfortable with new activities, try signing them up for activities that take place in small group settings. While joining the football team may be overwhelming for some shy kids, for example, small group tennis lessons may be a less intimidating environment.
Activities that are more individualized and have an easier pace may also be a good option. Yoga classes, for example, can be a great option for shy children because they can participate in their own way and move at their own pace.
6Let the child know you're proud of them. Whether the child excels at an activity or not, it's important that you use positive reinforcement to show them that you're proud of them for participating. Giving them a hug, a high five, or complimenting something they did well will go a long way in helping a shy child feel more confident, which will likely make them more motivated to continue to participate in the activity and improve.Trustworthy SourceChild Mind InstituteNonprofit organization providing evidence-based care for children with mental health and learning disorders and their familiesGo to source
For example, if your daughter recently joined the school orchestra and had her first concert, try telling her afterward, “You sounded amazing during that last song!” Even if they made several mistakes throughout the concert, focusing on what they did well helps boost their confidence and feel more inclined to stick with it.
In addition, it can be helpful to use tangible rewards occasionally to encourage the child to participate. For example, if they've been hesitant to participate in classroom activities at school, it may be helpful to allow them to earn a small reward for a positive report from their teacher.
7Urge them to try an activity more than once. Trying a new activity can be stressful and intimidating for shy children, which can make them want to dismiss an activity after the first try. In many cases, though, they might just need another chance to gain a bit more confidence. Unless the activity caused physical, emotional, or mental harm, it may be beneficial for you to urge them to try it one more time to see if they like it a bit better once they know what to expect.
Method 2 of 3:Helping a Child Participate in Physical Activities
1Introduce them to a wide variety of activities to find what they enjoy. Perhaps the best way to encourage a child who is reluctant to participate in physical activities is to find an activity that they'll enjoy. While it can take some time and effort, introducing the child to a number of different activities will help both of you narrow down what they like and don't like. Once they find an activity they're interested in, they'll be much more likely to get out there and be more active.
For example, take them to both a football game and a yoga class. If they seem bored in the yoga class but attentive during the game, try signing them up for a group sport that's more competitive.
While this is particularly important for young children, who are still trying to figure out what they like, it can also be helpful for older children as well. By encouraging them to try out a wide variety of new activities, you'll show them that it's never too late to be more active and start participating in something that's both fun and good for their health.
2Look for activities that suit their personality and strengths. When looking for a physical activity that a child will enjoy, it can be helpful to consider what their strengths are, and what personality traits may make them more inclined to enjoy certain activities. If the child is particularly outgoing, for example, you may want to try signing them up for a more social activity, such as a soccer team, rather than an activity that can be more solitary, like cross-country running.
If the child is particularly curious and adventurous, for example, try taking them hiking or signing them up for rock climbing classes. Allowing them to explore and learn more about the outdoors may help them get over their reluctance to physical activities.Trustworthy SourceUnderstoodNonprofit organization dedicated to resources and support to people with thinking differences, such as ADHD or dyslexiaGo to source
3Choose age-appropriate activities so they won't feel out of place. When you're looking for a physical activity that they'll participate in and enjoy, try talking to their doctor first, as well as the potential coach or teacher, to assess if the activity is appropriate for the child's age and abilities. If you try to get them to participate in activities that are too easy or too physically advanced, they'll likely feel bored or overwhelmed and therefore, less inclined to commit to the activity.
For example, if you want your middle school son to get more exercise but he isn't naturally athletic, try signing him up for an activity he can ease into on his own like running or biking. Both of these are great options because they'll allow him to participate on his own time and build his endurance over time.
Pushing a child into an activity that they aren't ready for or able to fully do could be both emotionally and physically harmful. In addition, it could make them resent an activity that they may have enjoyed if they'd tried it at the right time.
4Get any supplies they'll need ahead of time so they'll be prepared. When a child is trying a new physical activity, they'll likely feel a bit nervous or anxious beforehand. Getting any supplies and equipment they may need ahead of time will help them feel prepared. Feeling prepared can calm their nerves and make them more willing to participate.
If they're prepared and able to fully participate in the activity as soon as they get started, they'll be much more likely to do so.
For example, if you signed your daughter up for a swim team, make sure that she has all the equipment she'll need beforehand. If she shows up to practice ready to go with her suit, goggles, cap, or flippers, she'll probably feel much more comfortable.
5Schedule time to participate in physical activities with them. If you're finding it hard to motivate a child to be more active, try making time to do more physical activities with them. Leading by example shows them the benefits of being active and allows you to spend some quality time together as well.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Heart AssociationLeading nonprofit that funds medical research and public educationGo to source
For example, try scheduling fun activities you can do as a family. Going for bike rides, shooting hoops at the park, and rollerblading are all great activities that encourage your children to be more physically active.
6Talk about what you know they'll like about the activity. If a child seems reluctant to participate in an activity, it can be helpful to take some time to talk to them about the aspects you know they'll enjoy. By focusing on how much fun they'll have, you'll be able to get them excited to get started.
If you're trying to get a middle school child to be more physically active, try signing them up for their school's rowing team and emphasizing how much fun they'll have with their teammates. For example, try telling them, “You'll have so much being on the water every afternoon at practice and you'll get to hang out with your best friend Joe even more!”
Method 3 of 3:Getting Older Kids to Participate and Honor Commitments
1Describe the reasons why they should participate in the activity. While it's important that you try to find activities they enjoy, there will inevitably be situations where older kids will need to participate in activities they don't like. When this happens, take time to explain to them why it's important that they participate, and what they'll be able to learn by doing so. In many cases, they'll be more inclined to participate if they understand the benefits.
For example, if your child is in high school and wants to quit working on the school paper, try making it clear to them why it's important that they continue to participate. Instead of telling them they have to participate “Because I said so,” take time to explain how honoring their commitment to the paper will help them get into the college they want.
2Get them involved in activities where others depend on them. If you notice that a child isn't self-motivated, try encouraging them to get involved in group activities where other people will depend on them to do their jobs. Like adults, older children are often motivated to honor their commitments because they know others are depending on them. Finding a group activity helps hold them accountable while giving them a strong sense of purpose.
If you're a high school teacher and you've noticed that one or more of your students isn't participating much in class, try giving the class a group project and assigning each group member a specific role. The students that are usually reluctant to participate may feel the pressure to contribute more since their group members are relying on them.
3Explain that there are a variety of ways they can participate. In many cases, there are a number of ways that people can participate in an activity. If a child is reluctant to participate in an activity they've never done before, they may have a narrow idea of what that activity entails. If they're not interested in participating in the most obvious sense, try encouraging them to participate in some capacity, even if it's not how they originally envisioned.
For example, some students participate in classroom activities by raising their hand a lot, while others participate by answering questions directed at them and taking diligent notes. By explaining the variety of ways they can participate more in school, they'll be more likely to figure out what type of participation works best for them.
If you're trying to encourage your son to get involved in more extracurricular activities but he's not interested in joining a sports team, for example, try encouraging him to participate by becoming the team's student manager.
4Apply what motivates them in other areas to this particular activity. To encourage an older child to participate in an activity they don't want to do, try first asking them why they enjoy an activity they're already involved in. If you can assess what motivates them to participate in that activity, you may be able to find ways to apply that to the new activity as well.
For example, if you're trying to get your daughter to read more and watch TV less, try first asking her, “You're so committed to your bowling league. What do you like about it so much?” If she tells you that she loves bowling because it's fun and she gets to hang out with her friends, try suggesting that she start a book club with her friends. By adding in the social aspect that she loves about bowling, she may be more motivated to read.
5Don't force them into an extracurricular activity if it's not a good fit. When you're trying to find an extracurricular activity that a child will participate in, it can be frustrating if they don't show interest in something that you think would be good for them. While it's important that you encourage them to give it a fair chance, if they really aren't enjoying it, they likely won't be motivated to participate.
In addition, if you try to force them to participate in something that they're really just not feeling, they could end up feeling resentful towards you and the activity.