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Key Takeaways:

  • Goal-setting is an excellent way to improve a child’s time management skills, focus, resilience, and responsibility.
  • Through goal-setting, children can learn to build positive habits, sustain momentum, and make better decisions.
  • Some fun goal-setting activities to enjoy with the family include creating bucket lists, playing three stars and a wish, backward goal-setting, crafting a vision board, and making goal ladders.

Are you and your family looking for a goal-setting activity that doesn’t involve the New Year? Goal-setting exercises don’t hinge on the time of the year—perhaps you want to pursue something new in February, May, or August.

In fact, studies claim that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions [*]. Thus, practicing goal-setting exercises throughout the year motivates you and your kids to aim high and work hard.

The Importance of Goal-Setting in Childhood Development

Goals are vital for measuring success and enable children to learn valuable life skills they’ll need to apply in their adult years. Below are a few of these life skills:

  • Time management. 86% of high school students procrastinate work [*]. Hence, goal-setting activities for students can combat cramming by providing a clear and comprehensive plan.
  • Focus and purpose. Goal-setting enables children to define a clear path to success. Greater focus keeps children from becoming overwhelmed and disheartened, as they’ll spend more time on tasks related to achieving their goals.
  • Responsibility and perseverance. Giving children something to focus on helps them become more productive and prepares them for success.
  • Resilience. Every journey has its roadblocks. However, goal-setting can impart to a child the concept of progressive milestones and how to overcome obstacles.

Benefits of Goal-Setting for Kids

Children often dream big, and their parents, teachers, and caretakers are best positioned to provide tools for achieving these goals. Below are a few other benefits of practicing goal-setting activities with your child:

  • They’ll build positive habits. Children occasionally change their behavior to meet specific goals. For instance, a child you consider a non-reader might start reading before bed to improve their comprehension or achieve their academic goals.
  • They’ll sustain momentum. Setting goals keeps children on track and encourages them to develop strategies to build momentum and confidence. You can reinforce momentum by recognizing their efforts and milestones.
  • They’ll become better decision-makers. Setting specific goals encourages children to refocus and prioritize their resources. They’ll learn how to navigate simple and complex tasks, making the best use of their time.

Goal-Setting Activities for Kids

Is your child itching to ace their math test? Are they keen on making the baseball team? Whatever they have their mind set on, these goal-setting activities can help get them inspired!

1. Family Bucket List

Age range: 4+

Are you looking for a fun, collaborative way to set goals with the entire family? Create a family bucket list! Here’s how:

  1. Brainstorm a list of activities or goals you hope to try or achieve by the end of the year.
  2. Write one activity per piece of paper, placing them in a mason jar or other container.
  3. As the year goes by, archive what you’ve accomplished. If items are left in the jar, use them for the following year’s bucket list.

2. A Day in the Life

Age range: 4+

This activity is simple—just walk each other through an ideal day in your life! Here’s an easy format to follow:

  1. Walk through your daily activities. You might talk about waking up, brushing your teeth, making breakfast, going to work, and cleaning up before bed.
  2. Think about the tasks and objectives you must complete in a day and identify any difficulties stopping you from achieving them.

You can write down your ideal day on a small piece of paper to put up in your workspace.

3. Wheel of Fortune

Age range: 4+

Younger kids needing guidance for goal-setting can enjoy this activity with the entire family. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Draw a large wheel, dividing them into segments.
  2. Label each segment with different categories like Family, Friends, School, Sports, Art, etc.
  3. For each category, write down goals you want to accomplish within a set period. For instance, under the category Hobbies, you might write “Learn to make eggs benedict” as a goal.
  4. For each goal, consider the obstacles you might encounter along the way and what you and your child plan to do to overcome them.

4. Imaginative Questions

Age range: 4+

Inspire imaginative answers from your child about their goals by asking fun questions. For example, a few questions you might ask include:

  1. What would you do if you won a million-dollar lottery?
  2. What would you wish for if a genie could grant you three wishes?
  3. If you had any superpower, what would you use it for?

Let your child dream big, using their responses as a benchmark for crafting more realistic goals.

5. Growth Mindsets

Age range: 4+

Children sometimes have a difficult time seeing the good in experiencing challenges. Developing a growth mindset by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can teach them to embrace failure and perceive mistakes as stepping stones to success.

Here’s how you can use our growth mindset poster for this activity:

  1. Ask your child what they’re insecure about. They might say, “I’m bad at sports,” or “Math is too hard for me.”
  2. Rephrase every sentence into something positive. For instance, “I can work on my serve when I play tennis,” or “It might take me some time and effort to get better at math.”

6. Goal Ladders

Age range: 5+

Goal Ladders provide a visual way for children to reflect on what they want to achieve. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Draw a simple stair-step visual.
  2. Ask your child to write their ultimate dream at the top of the staircase.
  3. At the very bottom of the staircase, write the first goal toward achieving that dream, accompanying it with the actions required to achieve this task.
  4. Write the second goal on the second step, “climbing” each step with other goals and actions.

For instance, if your child chooses “piano” as an interest, their stair-step goals might include:

  • Practice scales 20 minutes a day
  • Learn five new chords
  • Learn a song

7. 3 Stars and a Wish

Age range: 5+

3 Stars and a Wish is a great activity for recognizing your child’s achievements. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cut out three stars and ask your child to write down three things they already do well. For example, they might write down, “Comforting my friends when they’re sad,” “Reading for 30 minutes a day,” and “Cleaning up after I use my art materials.”
  2. Once your child has their stars, use them to open up a discussion. How did they master these stars or skills? How long did it take for them to learn? What did they feel were some obstacles they had to overcome?
  3. Use positive affirmation cards to provide praise.
  4. Then, have your child come up with a wish. If it’s a big wish, help them break it into simpler, more achievable steps.

8. Ways to Achieve Success

Age range: 5+

Sometimes, achieving success means focusing on daily wins. Use our ways to achieve success poster to reinforce healthy habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, practicing self-care, and taking initiative to inspire children to attain their goals. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Every night before bed, tell your child five ways you can achieve success.
  2. Ask your child to name five other ways they feel they can achieve success.

9. Vision Board

Age range: 6+

Vision boards provide a fun and exciting way for children to reflect on their goals. They also inspire creativity. Here’s how to make them:

  1. Use old magazines or print out photographs of pictures representing your goals, passions, and dreams.
  2. Paste these pictures onto posterboard, decorating with other materials like glitter, paints, or markers.
  3. Brainstorm how you plan to achieve these goals with your child.

10. Backward Goal-Setting

Age range: 6+

Backward goal-setting is an excellent way to gain perspective when your child feels certain aspirations are unattainable. This activity reinforces how you can achieve nearly anything with hard work, focus, and the right resources. Here’s how to set backward goals:

  1. Ask your child to reflect on a major goal they achieved this year, writing it down on the top of your paper. For example, they might write, “Got an A in English class.”
  2. Then, reflect on how they achieved this goal, listing their steps. For instance, “Read more books, studied for 30 minutes after dinner each day.”

11. SMART Goals

Age range: 6+

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Time-Bound, making them easy to monitor and ideal for time management. Our SMART goals poster may come in handy for this activity. Here’s how to develop SMART goals:

  1. Ask your child to think of a goal off the top of their head. For instance, they might say, “I want to do better at math this year.”
  2. Ask your child to reframe this goal into something more tangible and specific. For example, “I want to get an A in my math class this year.”

12. Written Goal-Setting Technique

Age range: 7+

Something as simple as writing goals down can remind kids that they’re on the path to success. Some kids prefer simple to-do lists; others prefer breaking down tasks on more detailed journal spreads. Here’s a primer on a foundation for written goal-setting:

  1. Write ten goals you want to accomplish in the next 12 months.
  2. Read your written goals at bedtime and when you wake up each morning.
  3. While reading each goal, take a minute to close your eyes and imagine yourself accomplishing the goal.
  4. While you visualize each goal, generate the positive emotion you would feel while achieving your goal. Express gratitude for the accomplishment. Imagine other people benefitting from your success.

Use our goal setting tips for success worksheet for guidance.

The Bottom Line

Setting goals doesn’t have to be boring and monotonous. With the activities listed above, it can be an exciting and inspiring activity to enjoy with the entire family!

Part of successful goal-setting is having the right tools to start putting your child’s mind to work. Use our growth mindset worksheets to get them inspired.

Sources:

  1. Pykes K. “Only 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions — Here’s 5 Things They Do Different to Everyone Else.” Medium, 2023.
  2. Wong A. “Students suffer at the hands of time: the root of procrastination in high school.” The Dispatch, 2023.

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