Need to know: A look at gamifying boring tasks to motivate your child. Some tips and strategies and discussing how it can be beneficial.
Gamification refers to the practice of taking gaming principles that motivate and engage players and applying them to daily tasks. Gamifying boring tasks to motivate your child is a great method because kids love gaming and the dopamine release associated with completing fun tasks and receiving a reward. If you apply some of those rewarding feelings to everyday tasks, your child might surprise you and make their bed without you having to ask twice!
Why it’s important
In children with ADHD, the natural production and absorption of important neurotransmitters in the brain is disrupted, affecting the production of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. This deficiency directly impacts the reward and motivation process that most kids respond to.
Gaming is able to trigger the creation of dopamine in our brain by manipulating psychological levers. Gamification of tasks implements some of these tactics to kickstart the rewards system in the brain. There are some key rules to make gamification work.
Attach an immediate reward to a task. The reward can be a token that your child cashes in later or something that gives them instant gratification. Your child just needs to think that they are progressing towards a reward, even if that progress is artificial. A visible reward will increase their motivation to achieve.
Add surprise rewards. Variable rewards are really important in keeping the brain surprised and trying to guess what is next. Games that are too predictable become boring and kids lose interest.
Use time-based challenges. The increased pressure of a time limit adds the risk of a reward loss, which increases excitement and fun. Just remember to keep it achievable or your child will quickly lose interest.
Empower your child. Give your child options so they feel like they have some control over their actions. For example, the challenge could be to get dressed in five minutes, and include a long-sleeved top in the outfit, but the child can choose their own outfit. The reward could be 10 tokens if they complete the whole challenge or 1 token if they manage part of it.
Tips and strategies
Here are some ideas implemented by other families. Work out the known rewards before you start so your child knows what they are, but keep some surprise ones up your sleeve!
- For Harry Potter fans. Ask your child to choose their house, e.g. Gryffindor. Daily tasks could include solving a riddle or answering a question about the magical series. Add their points to a visible tally, a list stuck to the fridge is enough.
- If they like Sonic the Hedgehog. Purchase cheap golden rings that can be earned based on speed for doing certain tasks. Collecting an agreed number of rings will yield a reward and if your child finds a hidden ring they get one pass-out. Each pass-out can be used only once, e.g. skipping a shower for one night.
- For the Roblox enthusiasts. Attach a value to your child completing a task on time, e.g. packing your bag is worth 500 Robux if completed within 5 minutes. However, for every minute longer the child takes to complete the task you can deduct points. So if they pack their bag in five minutes they get 500 Robux but you’ll deduct 100 Robux for every additional minute it takes.
Those are some of the benefits of gamifying boring tasks to motivate your child. It keeps kids stimulated and can help put them on the right path in terms of structure and discipline.