Setting goals is not just for grown-ups. Even our littles can benefit from the confidence-boost that comes from setting a goal, working towards it, and achieving it.
Goal-setting with young children should be simple and straightforward:
- Involve your child as much as possible in choosing an appropriate goal.
- Listen for times when your little one says, “I wish I could…” and think about ways to turn that wish into a specific goal.
- First-time goals should be achievable in a day or two.
- Decide on a great way to celebrate your child’s success.
No matter what the goal, kids (and grown-ups, too) will benefit from a visual way to track progress. With some basic supplies, you and your child can create some fun and effective goal-setting charts. Here are some of the charts we have enjoyed using over the years. Let’s set some goals!
I’m guessing many of you have used the classic sticker chart for motivating your kids to use the potty, complete chores, or do their homework. A sticker chart is a great way to practice a routine or new skill that needs repetition for success. For toddlers and preschoolers, this can be a concrete way to track progress toward a simple goal. Sticker charts were always one of my girls’ favorite things and they still ask to make them.
When you’re tired of using sticker charts, try a coloring chart. Draw a simple picture or use a coloring book page. Your child can color one part of the page until the whole picture is complete. We kept our completed pictures on the fridge for a while to celebrate a job well done.
A board game chart is really just a glorified sticker chart. It can be a simple path, like my frog sample below. Each time your child works toward the goal, color or sticker one space on the path. Help the frog make it to the pond!
Or, you can make a more elaborate board game with messages or activities along the path. Our favorite way is to think of all the different fun and crazy ways we could practice a certain skill. We write these ideas in the game board spaces. Each day, my daughter would flip a penny – heads meant move one space, tails meant two spaces. Wherever she landed, she had to practice the skill using the idea on the board.
We kept the game board on our fridge and used a magnet to mark her spot on the path. Keep playing each day until you reach the end. This is so fun and can make an otherwise tedious task quite enjoyable!
Climb a Ladder
As your child gets older, you can introduce more steps to the goal-setting process. Once you have a goal to work toward, it’s time to think about specific steps your child can take to reach that goal. Brainstorm together and write one step on each rung of a ladder chart. Mark off your successes as you get closer to your goal. It doesn’t really matter if these are the “right” steps to achieve the goal – it’s all about the process!
My tips for using goal charts:
- Keep it simple! If you are more comfortable on the computer, make your charts and print them out. But, a hand-drawn one works just as well, too.
- Display your chart in an accessible area close to your goal area.
- Write the goal as an “I-statement” across the top of your chart (I can make my bed or I can try one bite of a new food).
- Start small. Toddlers will need a chart that can be completed in a day or two. Preschoolers could start with 2-3 day charts and work up to ones that take around a week.
- Teach your child positive self-talk by offering comments such as, “Look how close you are to your goal,” or “I can see you are working hard to meet your goal.”
- Achieving a goal is a time for celebration! If you are going to offer a reward for finishing the chart, agree on the reward ahead of time. Try working for an experience (making cookies, going to the park, etc.) rather than a toy.
- Be a role model – set your own goals, talk about them, and display your own chart.
I’m wishing to play the piano more, so my goal is to play 15 minutes each day. I think I’ll have the girls help me make a chart to track my progress!
For more tips and ideas about goal-setting with kids, check out Michele Borba’s article on Teaching Kids to Set New Year’s Resolutions That Stick.
Are you a goal-setter? What dreams and wishes can you turn into specific, achievable goals for yourself and for your kids?