Intrinsic motivation in children
Intrinsic motivation is completing a skill or activity based on personal interest and enjoyment not for external rewards. Many times young children need external motivation to complete activities during therapy sessions. Therapists may use different reward systems such as Punch Cards and Reward Cards for Therapy to encourage children to participate in therapy sessions. Intrinsic motivation can be harder to facilitate in children. Here are a few tips to increase intrinsic motivation in children:
1. Independent thinking: Allow the student to work on a certain skill and report back to you how they have improved that skill. They can improve or change it anyway that they think will help.
2. Provide choices: Children can be more intrinsically motivated if they have a say in how they are accomplishing a goal. Try not to make any activity a requirement.
3. Teach self direction: Everyone feels a larger sense of accomplishment when you are able to do something all by yourself.
4. Power of positive thinking: Having an “I can” attitude can help tremendously and build up a student’s confidence. Check out for ideas at
5. Cooperative learning: Students may feel more motivated when they can work with other students to help or teach them a skill
6. Ask questions: Encourage students to think for themselves rather than provide answers for them. For example – what suggestions do you have to increase your handwriting speed?
7. Keep it fun with some competition: Most kids like to win and feel a sense of pride when they do . Therapeutic activities can be intertwined with games.
8. Shoot for your personal best: Don’t compare your abilities to others but rather that you improve each time. Teach the student to track his/her own goals to visually represent improvements over time. Check out My Goal Tracker at for student generated data collection.
9. Plan together: Ask the student how they would like to reach a goal? Explain what options are available (ie different types of strengthening or aerobic exercises) and plan together what may work best.
10. Educate the student: When you are working on a certain activity, explain to the student why you are doing that specific activity and how it will help him/her in their everyday life.