Goal-setting charts for young kids

Goal Setting for Kids

The following post is from the SK archives and was written by Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

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!

Sticker Charts

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.

Color-in Chart

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.

Board Game

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!

Are you a goal-setter? What dreams and wishes can you turn into specific, achievable goals for yourself and for your kids?

25+ Playful Preschool ActivitiesAre you looking for some more ways to play and learn with your preschooler? The ebook Three to Five: Playful Preschool might be just what you’re looking for. Filled with ideas for creative, hands-on learning with math, science, and language skill builders plus art and play, too this ebook includes 10 printable resources and is available here.

About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

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  1. Thank you for this, Amy!

    We have pretty good success with using a chart to keep track of our daily school work. I laminated our sheets and we have velcro backed cards that she gets to take off of the chart as we do our work each day. She really likes that visual representation of what she has done and what she has left to do (she’s like me that way)

    I think she would really benefit from expanding on that idea and creating some charts for goals beyond our daily school work. Actually, I think all of my kids would like this.

    Positive self-talk is something that I think we all need reminded of, too.

    Thanks for the ideas and the inspiration! 🙂
    Kara Fleck´s latest post: 5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home

  2. Wow. I love this post. You did such a great job and the photos and charts you included really drove your points home. If you ever want to guest blog on my blog you are more than welcome!
    Scarlet´s latest post: Mother Nature Network and Green Lifestlye

  3. I’ve seen charts before, but only for the basic chores. This is fantastic! It’s great at any age to be able to measure our success, and see how far we’ve come.

    We could make a chart about somersaults around here:)
    Janna @ Mommy’s Piggy TALES – Record YOUR Youth´s latest post: Favorite Memories Friday Carnival

  4. Love this post! Thank you for the great chart ideas. I hadn’t thought of doing anything of than sticker charts for achieving a goal and I love your ideas! My son is going to love these ideas too; thank you!

  5. This is a great post. I wish I had implemented these kinds of charts when my kids were younger. On the other hand, the charts that we’ve used as they’ve gotten older (8 and older) have helped. We start off by saying, “Now I am X years old and I can do . . .” and we list some accomplishments. And then the next line says “When I am [X+1] I want to do . . .”. And then we have some lines to break it down below. We’ve done this a few times at New Years and it’s helped us all take on challenges. And it’s so much fun to look back a year or two later and see what were the goals for the next year!

    • I love the idea of a yearly record of accomplishments and goals – a great family tradition! 🙂

  6. thank you for this. my son is potty training and I kept thinking stickers would be fun (for a week) but he could care less about a week of stickers. duh! I should have just started smaller as you suggested. definitely going to try this.

  7. Have to add, too that this “Try working for an experience (making cookies, going to the park, etc.) rather than a toy” is something I think a lot of parents need to hear: that an experience and/or time together can be as rewarding for young kids as a toy.
    Kara @Simple Kids´s latest post: 5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home

    • Definitely – it’s easy to get sucked into the reward game. Pretty soon, your kids will expect a toy for everything they do. Time together – doing whatever your child is into – is the absolute best way to celebrate! 🙂

  8. Love these ideas for goal setting! We used a sticker chart for potty training, and bought a magnet board for “chores” like getting dressed, brushing teeth, putting away toys. I LOVE the idea of using something like this for staying in bed. My son is getting his big boy bed this weekend, and I’m definitely concerned about him staying put. I’ll bet if we start off with a goal chart, we can make it happen!

    Also I absolutely agree with Kara’s comment about the rewards being experiences. I learned that the hard way, with potty training and our chore chart. He was always asking “what do I get?” or “can I have a new truck now?” I’m definitely going to do things differently next time we use a goal chart with rewards.
    Cara´s latest post: Best Blueberry Oatmeal Bars

  9. You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

  10. We use something like this for character development, not just behavioral things. So we can have a chart for something like “I can have a helpful heart all day!”
    Joseph Nally´s latest post: When to Apply the Emergency Brake!

  11. I’m so glad for finding your blog and reading your post about goal setting in kids by using charts. My son dislikes brushing his teeth and taking vitamins, but I think with your idea of putting these in a goal chart or even a board game, he might just change his mind and do it routinely. So thank you! 🙂
    Nes´s latest post: Therapy Updates

  12. What a great post! thank you for this! I linked to it today on my blog!! great job.

  13. This is great. I can’t wait to implement these goal setting charts when my son gets a little older. Are there things that anyone would recommend for me to do in terms of activities and goal setting for me and my 15 month old? He is learning so much more rapidly now and i want to be sure i’m doing everything i can to facilitate his growth—while having tons of fun and keeping him entertained (without the television and computer). Thanks.

    • Maybe………….. I would try the sleeping in bed one. Each time he sleeps in his bed give his favorite food or you could have a special stuffed animal that gets only when he sleeps in his bed.

  14. What a cute idea! I love the hand-drawn goal charts. That might even motivate me to learn something new–maybe it’s not just for kids!

  15. I am madly in love with these little charts – the simplicity is wonderful! Well done!

  16. Great ideas!

  17. Hi,
    Nice blog. In the picture above, the journal the little girl is writing in, where can I find something like that ? Half blank and half lined pages.

    • You can probably get one at any craft store, such as Micheal’s. 🙂 Hope you find it!!!! Bye, ???????????

    • That journal is made by Mead and I picked it up at Target. I’ve seen it at Staples, too.

  18. These chart ideas are fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to create this article. I love the idea of hand drawn charts vs computer images – so much more kid-friendly. Also, having your own chart alongside your child’s one is another cool idea. Nice inspiration here.
    Michelle´s latest post: Potty training boys can be hard work!

  19. I am a former homeschooler who is now teaching public school special education. I found some very good ideas for goal setting on your site. I plan to use these in my classroom to help my students set and achieve goals in their lives. Thank you for your work and for your commitment to homeschooling.

  20. Great post! I love these ideas, thanks!

  21. I love these ideas, thank you. The notion of calling a traditional reward chart, a goal chart, makes so much sense. It’s a great way for our kids to actually involve themselves in their own behavior monitoring which I suspect is key in actually changing the behaviours themselves.

    I’m definitely going to use various forms of these for each of my 3. They could be modified easily for their variation in ages (2, 4, 6).

    Thank you again!

  22. What wonderful ideas! We love color-in charts. We’re using this one as we read through the New Testament this year:
    gina :: listening in the litany´s latest post: Free Printable New Testament Reading Chart for Kids

  23. Johnd148 says:

    There is visibly a bundle to realize about this. I assume you made certain nice points in features also. ceffeadcefge


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