Practice and boredom

Children need to practice and get bored. So do grown-ups like me. Now what? I will share some strategies that we implement at home. These strategies work. More reading here.

Point system

As grown-ups, we prefer to play computer games rather than work. Work tends to be boring. Even jobs that are relatively exciting, often make us yawn. We know that what we do is important. We get paid for it. So why are we bored?

Quite often we see no connection between the job we do and its result. We can work very hard and get very bad results, or we can do an easy task and get a huge breakthrough. There is no feedback for our activity.

Maybe this feedback can be established by keeping scores? For example, when speedreading we can measure our speed, the number of words we read, and the number of words in our notes.  These numbers will grow as we practice, even if we do not learn anything useful.  If everything else is boring, we can at least monitor the score.

This is a somewhat artificial, not very effective method,  yet it provides clear and immediate feedback.


We do something for a very specific purpose. This purpose might be boring and unimaginative. For example, children learn geography to get school grades. What if instead, they would be planning their summer vacation or gathering information required to build a new game? That would make the activity exciting, and interest more genuine.

The new purpose does not have to be huge, but it has to be exciting. Learning math is boring, but calculating the best way to get level up in your favorite game is exciting. Sports are important for health and tend to be super-boring, but being physically attractive is nice.


Doing a task pretending we are somebody else can be exciting. We can introduce all sorts of funny limitations and come up with creative solutions. Writing an essay might be boring, but writing it as a pirate might be a cool challenge. How about writing a book review from the villain’s perspective?

Contagious excitement

Some people are naturally excited about things most human beings find boring. Doing an activity with a highly motivated, deeply interested, and excited individual is fun. Even if we would otherwise hate the activity, we do it for the company. When I am telling my children about history, this is not the stuff they find in books. Their eyes get excited and they learn.


Doing a certain simple task is boring, but doing it in the most effective way is a challenge. What is the most effective way to clean dishes? How should the items be packed in the dishwasher? Can it be optimized further?

Small steps

When we approach a task that is very big, we get bored by not getting closer to the solution. By celebrating smaller steps we may register success after success. Eventually, these success experiences build up.

Focus on attributes

Learning to play guitar might occasionally get bored. New equipment or techniques are typically exciting. Instead of focusing on practice, which is the correct thing to do, it is possible to focus on something that is more fun. And then go back to practice.


Sometimes when people are bored they get into daydreaming about their subject. This is a hypnotic affect. Trying to actively daydream about the subject is hard. It does not enable the hypnotic state and allows being focused.  The subjects that get me to daydream are social benefits and pension plans.


A simple bet can spark a lot of unhealthy interest. This is not a very good option and can backfire. Typically I do this when I want something to end interestingly rather than disappear in the noise. For example, the kids were bored by judo, and I did not mind that they quit. So we asked them to be in the national championships and face their fears. They trained for the competition, faced their opponents, and did not have to learn judo since.

Role reversal

Getting into the area I have no idea about puts me in serious disadvantage with respect to my children. Being able to guide me through the initial stages is sufficiently funny to make the subject interesting. This is one of the ways to organize learning by teaching.

If you can share some methods that work in your family, please let me know.

Chain gang

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