5 Practical Strategies for Combating Boredom in Kids with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

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 ADH,

5 Key Strategies for Reducing Boredom and Increasing Engagement

      1. Make Activities Meaningful

When an activity is meaningful to a child, either because it is helping him or her to improve skills in an area that is important or because it is tied to a topic that he or she enjoys, his or her interest and enthusiasm will increase dramatically. For example, many kids with ADHD complain that math is boring, but when a child learns to use his or her skills to predict the scoring potential of a favorite athlete, math suddenly becomes much more interesting. Or when a child learns that getting through homework quickly (and accurately) means that he or she will finish sooner and have more time to play a favorite game, he or she becomes much more engaged and less distracted during homework time.

      1. 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!

      1. 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.

      1. 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 him or her complete a worksheet that requires him or her 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.

      1. 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 he or she will receive a boost in his or her ability to focus, be productive, and feel proud of his or her 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.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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