We all know that setting and achieving goals is a life skill necessary for success and happiness. But it’s one that even adults REALLY struggle with: Studies say that only about 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions!
How can we teach children to set realistic goals — and actually follow through?
Make it fun!
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Research shows that children learn best when they’re playing and enjoying themselves at the same time. Fun experiences increase levels of endorphins, dopamine, and oxygen, all of which promote learning.
Here are 7 fun goal setting activities that can make the process more enjoyable and effective.
1. Make an 'I Will' List
Being able to set goals around specific behaviors and actions is an important part of any child's development as it teaches them how to be responsible, make commitments, and follow through. It's a great habit to start building from a young age.
Here's how to make the list:
- Talk with your children about the things they do (activities, actions, feelings) that they want to do more and less of in their life, and write them down.
- Put as much as you can on the "do less" list, since this frees up room for the "more" elements.
- Display the list up on a wall so kids can review it daily to hold themselves accountable.
- Check in regularly to see how their list progress is going.
The I Will list helps children learn to reflect on their own behavior and make different choices. It also helps them focus on healthy, fulfilling, and productive developmental goals that they can look back on with pride. You can find the I WIll List printable in our 2021 New Year Kits!
2. Make a Family Plan
Creating a family plan for 2021 will give your family a chance to get excited about this new year filled with opportunities to make great memories that last a lifetime.
Here's what to do:
- Start a list of things you want to do, try, and explore together as a family in 2021.
- Brainstorm a new holiday tradition you'd like to try that's meaningful and fun.
- Choose one word/motto that describes your family.
- Inspire each other to come up with acts of kindness to do within your family, friends, and community.
- Make sure to give every member of the family a chance to share their ideas.
- At the end of the year, you can look back at the list and see the things you accomplished as a family.
This activity teaches the incredible value of goal-setting and teamwork, as children learn to acknowledge every member's wishes, ideas, and suggestions while building a plan together.
Then discuss that they may not win the lottery or find a magic genie, but they can take their fate into their own hands by making a plan to achieve their hopes, goals, and dreams. We’ve included a Family Plan printable in our New Year Goal-Setting Kits to help you get started!
3. Make a Bucket List
Typically, a bucket list is a list of accomplishments, experiences, or achievements that someone wants to have during their lifetime.
To teach your children goal-setting — and have fun in the process — you can create a YEARLY bucket list.
Do you have teens? Encourage them to create a digital family or personal bucket list. This gives them a chance to use their technology knowledge and creativity in a meaningful way. They can share their lists with the family and help track everything online. This is a great way to include older children in a family project and build connections.
It’s even more fun if the whole family gets involved.
Here's what to do:
- Gather your family together, grab a piece of chart paper and some markers, and start brainstorming.
- As a family, discuss what you would like to do, experience, and achieve over the next 12 months.
- Once you're done brainstorming, put the list somewhere where everyone can see it often (for example, by the kitchen table).
Throughout the year, your family will have tons of fun accomplishing items on the list and checking them off.
As the year progresses and you notice several items remaining, you can talk about if you still want to accomplish each of these goals or if your family’s goals have changed. If you still want to accomplish them, how can you go about doing so? What steps will you need to follow?
Research shows that in addition to learning through play, children also learn effectively through experiences. Keeping track of and planning toward goals will be a valuable learning experience for your child, and it’s a fun way for your family to bond!
At the end of the year, you can look back over all of the things your family has accomplished. You may even make creating an annual bucket list of goal setting activities into a new family tradition!
Need some ideas? Check out our New Year Goal-Setting Kits. They’re back and they are all NEW for 2021! These printable worksheets will help your children practice growth mindset thinking, learn the important skill of goal-setting, and practice kindness, self-love, and gratitude. We have two versions, one for ages 4-10 and one for ages 11+!
4. Draw a Wheel of Fortune
The idea for the “wheel of fortune” was created by Dennis Waitley, author and authority on personal development.
Here’s what to do:
- Help your child draw a wheel divided into SEGMENTS. On each segment, your child will write important categories in their life: Family, Friends, School, Tennis, etc.
- Your child will then choose one category that they would like to focus on first. For this category, they will write out each goal they want to accomplish in a set period of time (this year, for example). For instance, if the category is “Tennis,” your child might write that they would like to practice at least three times a week, improve their forehand, and learn to serve.
- Next, talk to your child about the steps they will take to achieve these goals and what obstacles they may encounter along the way. If they do encounter these obstacles, what will they do to overcome them?
- Let your child color and decorate the wheel however they would like, then hang it somewhere prominent.
As your child reaches their goals in one segment of the wheel, do something to CELEBRATE, then repeat the process above for each additional segment.
Over time, your child will improve in many aspects of their life, all while learning to set and reach goals.
5. Create a Vision Board
A vision board is a great way to help your child visualize their goals. Your child will also have fun with this meaningful arts and crafts project.
Here’s what to do:
- Take out some old magazines and ask your child to cut out pictures that represent their hopes and dreams. If your child has something specific they want to include that they can’t find, you can print pictures from the Internet.
- Your child will then paste these pictures onto a piece of poster board. They can also decorate with colors, glitter, feathers, etc.
- When it’s finished, hang the vision board somewhere in your child’s bedroom, where they will frequently be reminded of their aspirations.
Making the vision board helps your child think through their goals, and it also serves as a powerful visual reminder of everything they would like to achieve.
Revisit the idea of the vision board often. Ask your child what different pictures represent and how they plan to achieve their various dreams.
If the goal is a big one, help them break it into simple pieces. What are some small steps they can take now to achieve their long-term goals in the future?
Your child will learn to set goals, think critically, and plan ahead. They’ll also develop the understanding that what they do now and throughout their life does matter and can positively impact their future.
Looking for inspiring words to add to a vision board? Take a look at the Word of The Year list in the New Year Goal-Setting Kits for ideas!
6. Play 3 Stars and a Wish
3 Stars and a Wish is a fun way to get children thinking about their goals while also providing some positive affirmation.
Here’s what to do:
- First, your child comes up with 3 “Stars,” or things they already do well. This can be anything from running fast to solving math problems to comforting their friends when they’re feeling sad.
- Talk to your child about HOW they became so good at these “Stars.” Did they have to practice? Did it take them time to learn? Or did they magically acquire these skills overnight?
- Next, have your child come up with a “Wish.” The “Wish” is something that your child needs or wants to work on (a goal).
- Ask your child WHAT they can do to help make their wish come true. Explain to them that this isn’t chance; it’s choice. They can choose to take steps that will lead to the fulfillment of their wish.
Make sure that you or your child write everything down. If your child is old enough, it’s a good idea to have them write about their progress toward their wish on occasion.
Psychology professor Gail Matthews found that writing down your goals on a regular basis makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.
Having your child share their hopes and dreams with you makes them more likely to achieve them, too. Dr. Matthews found that people are even more likely to achieve their goals if they share them with a friend (or parent) who believes they will succeed.
The 2021 New Year Kits are the perfect place to help inspire your child to work toward their goals and achieve their dreams. The New Year Conversation Cards are a fun way to help your child brainstorm about what they want to accomplish in 2021 and have meaningful conversations. What do they want to learn this year? Is there a new book they want to read? Are they interested in exploring a new hobby?
7. Create stair-step goals (or goal ladders)
Using a stair-step visual for goal-setting, teens can break down their goals into doable steps.
Follow this simple method:
- Write down your DREAM at the top of the staircase.
- Write down your FIRST GOAL at the very bottom of the staircase and the first action towards that goal.
- Create your second goal and the first action towards it.
- Create your third goal and the first actions towards.
- Continue “climbing” the stairs. Add dates, drawings, anything that helps motivate you!
For example, your child chose “basketball” as an interest. They can now create stair-step goals based on their interests such as:
- Practice everyday for 30 minutes
- Run 1 mile 5 days a week
- Score 50 points this season
- Make 25 rebounds
- Encourage my teammates
Fun goal setting activities create interest
It’s common for children to be uninterested in setting goals, and even more uninterested in pursuing them to fruition. You can try to change that by making the process more fun.
If you can get your child interested in setting and achieving goals, you’ll raise a determined and successful individual!