What to do when kids do not want to participate

Jul 26, 2016

Summer time is the perfect time for kids to participate in fun camps, events, and activities.  There is nothing better to see than a bunch of kids having a great time together. But how do you handle the kids who do not want to participate?  This blog post will equip you with some helpful tools and tricks to get those kids to participate with the others.

Kids may not want to participate in activities for a number of reasons. Some kids do not want to participate because they feel embarrassed in a large group.  Others think they are too cool for whatever activity is happening.  Whatever the reason may be it is important to try to have these kids participate.  Full participation always leads to as better experience for whatever you are doing!

Every situation where kids do not want to participate has its own reason.  These reasons are different and usually call for a different way of handling the situation. Here are some different situations and potential ways to handle the situation.

Sometimes kids are shy or feel embarrassed around other groups of kids. When this is the case, more times than not, they just need to warm up to participating.  To help them do this, don’t be afraid to jump in and participate with them!  This could be all they need to open up and start having fun with the other kids.

Another thing to remember is that a child could be experiencing a difficult time at home.  Kids who experience this may feel like they do not matter and their self-esteem may be very low.  If you feel that this is the case, it is important to encourage them with positive reassurance and remind them that you are there for them.  If they still look discouraged, try giving a kid who does not want to participate a special role in whatever the activity may be.  For example, you could have them be your assistant for the day.  This could make them feel special and reenergize their involvement in other activities.  However, if a kid is truly feeling overwhelmed, you can create a designated quiet zone.  This is a place where kids can ask to go to participate in another activity that is less stressful for them, like drawing.  If this option is available, always allow a kid to go to the quiet zone if he or she asks.  (For more on when kids get distressed, see the “Game Plan” section of our Healthy Choices, Healthy Children Adaptive Sports Edition, available on our Materials page.)

There is also a good possibility that a group of kids may not want to participate rather than just one kid. When this is the case, try and identify the leader of that group.  I have had success pulling that kid aside and talking to them about joining in on the activity.  It is a great teaching moment to show them that their actions can have an impact on other people. This moment becomes more than getting kids to participate, it becomes a demonstration of a critical life lesson. But if you can persuade the leader to make an effort to participate in the activities the other kids will follow.  This tactic can be used in other scenarios where a group is not cooperating as well.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to keep the energy up for the participating group. Your participating group my start to feel that they do not want to participate because they do not have your attention. This could seriously impact the group, leaving you with a divided and discouraged group. While you have to put a good effort forward to get kids go participate, put more energy into your activity. If you focus on positive energy, it will keep the group participating focused on the activity, and it might just spill over to the group that is not participating and influence them to participate.

Hopefully these few tips can help with a situation down the road where a kid or group of kids does not want to participate. But every kid is different and will respond to different tactics.  It is important to access each situation and respond accordingly, and never be afraid to trust your instincts and do what you feel is right.

Do you have your own story or piece of advice? Please share!