Why it's good for pre-schoolers to set goals

Goal setting for pre-schoolers is not something we hear about often, but it’s never too early to start. It’s a great way to build their self-confidence and a valuable life-long skill. Goal-setting helps them to identify what is wanted, and that if they set their minds to something, they can achieve it. Setting goals with your children will direct their efforts and encourage them to achieve success.

Goal setting for pre-schoolers is not something we hear about often, but it’s never too early to start.

It’s a great way to build their self-confidence and a valuable life-long skill.

Goal-setting helps them to identify what is wanted, and that if they set their minds to something, they can achieve it.

Setting goals with your pre-schooler, however small, will direct their efforts and encourage them to achieve success as they get older.

We take a look at ways you can set goals with young children, questions you can ask and different types of reward charts and jars. Just adjust them if need be to suit the age of your child.

Setting goals

1. Talk about the benefits of goal setting
For most pre-school children, goal setting will be something new. Talk to them about how goals can help them achieve things that are important in their lives.

It is also important to chat to them about what the things are that they would like to achieve; not what you would like them to achieve or the things that you feel would benefit them.

Children must want to take ownership and responsibility over the process.

You may feel that there are areas that need improvement, so explore and suggest ideas by asking indirect questions such as: “How would you feel if you could…?”
2. Identify the goal
It is important that any goal they set is achievable, but also challenging.

The goal must be detailed and measurable. For example, ”I want to be able to dress myself” is a positive desire, but not a defined goal.

“I want to be able to put on my own t-shirts by the end of the week” is a more specific and achievable goal.

It is also important that the goal is something that your child can have a high level of control over.
3. Decide on a time frame
Setting a goal deadline is essential. Goals can be short-term or long-term, and smaller goals can be set that lead up to the final goal.

This will allow your child to succeed along the way, which will boost their self-confidence and encourage them to continue.

The time-frame will depend on your child’s age, personality and the actual goal.

Younger children need short-term goals because they struggle to think long-term and you do not want them to lose interest.
4. Plan the steps
The steps implemented to reach the goal need not only build up your child’s skills, but also help to create a plan that your child can follow on a daily or weekly basis.

The steps will also provide your child with opportunities to achieve small successes along the way.

Chat to your child about how they can achieve their goal and the steps that they can conquer in order to reach the final goal. Your child should have input in the final plan.
Questions to help the discussion with your child once they've decided on their goal could include:
  • How can I help you reach your goal?
  • What smaller goals can you achieve on the way to reaching your final goal?
  • What rewards can we give you when you reach your smaller goals?
  • How will we track the progress you make on the way to your main goal?
  • What obstacles might you encounter before you reach your main goal?
  • What do you think you will do when the obstacles come about? 
  • How will we celebrate when you achieve your main goal?
5. Observe progress
Your pre-schooler will need to be encouraged along the way.

Congratulate them when they achieve their smaller goals and encourage them when times are tough.

Remember that it's important that they stay in control.
6. Celebrate achievement
There is no greater feeling in the world than setting a challenging goal, working hard to achieve it, and being successful.

It is a skill that can be encouraged in childhood and continued throughout adulthood.

When your pre-schooler achieves their goal they should feel very proud and of course, so should you.

Think of something that you can do as a family to celebrate their success.


Goal charts or jars

No matter what the goal, children enjoy and benefit from a visual method that tracks progress.

You and your pre-schooler can create some effective goal-setting charts or jars. It’s great fun, acknowledges their achievement and encourages them to keep going.
Types of goal charts and jar

Sticker chart
  • Putting stickers on a chart is a great way to reward a routine or new skill that needs repetition for success. Such as going to the toilet by themselves, getting dressed by themselves, learning to write their name etc.

Colouring in chart
  • This is something a little different. Draw a picture that your pre-schooler wants or ask them to choose one from a colouring book. Then when they have achieved a goal they can colour in one part of the page. Repeat this each time they achieve a goal until the whole picture is complete.

Marble or lolly jars
  • Children love filling a jar with marbles or lollies. Their small successes can be rewarded by allowing them to place a marble or lolly in the jar. The filled jar can then be the reward once the final goal has been achieved.

Tips for using goal charts and jars

  • Keep the charts and jars simple!
  • Allow your pre-schooler to create and decorate their chart or jar. Even though you will have to assist them in creating the chart, try to let them do most of it. It is important for them to feel that their card is special and take ownership of it.
  • Display the chart in a place that is easily reached and close to your child’s goal area if possible.
  • Make sure the written goal is evident and clear on the chart or jar. The goal must be written as an “I-statement” (I can brush my teeth or I can eat all my dinner).
  • Start with a small chart or jar. Toddlers will need a chart/jar that can be completed in a day or two. Pre-schoolers could start with 2-3 day charts and work up to ones that take around a week.
  • Use comments like “Look at how close you are to your goal,” or “You are working so hard to achieve your goal,” to teach your child positive self-talk.
  • Be a role model by setting your own goals, chatting about them, and presenting your own chart or jar.

Check out our other Hot Topics on: Source: Article written by Emma Loggenberg at Tuputupu Kids.

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