Goal-setting is not necessarily an innate skill. So how do you help a seven-year-old think about their future potential? In the same way we coach our kids to perfect that tennis swing, we must also help our kids acquire goal-setting skills with careful techniques and guidelines. It’s really important to bear in mind that kids are visual before they are intellectual, and they may not really have clarity on what they want (besides a unicorn or to lose their next tooth!) So, making goal-setting visual, with a creative vision board is a great way to help kids (literally) see their own potential. But before we get to the arty bit, let’s first think about goal-setting as a concept for kids.
Step 1: Thinking about goals
It’s really important that your child has realistic goals. Here, an adult perspective can really help temper the “I’m going to grow wings tomorrow” goal and replace it with a more realistic “I’m going to learn how to do a handstand” goal. That said, it’s really important that the goal itself is set by your child (and not by the ‘you’ who always wished she could do a handstand). By allowing your child the space to think independently, you will reward them with ownership over both the goal and the outcome.
Step 2: Start small
Help your child work out the baby steps needed to achieve the big stuff. Once they have mastered little milestones, confidence will grow, allowing bigger plans to be made.
Step 3: Keep it age–appropriate
Little kids between nursery school and Grade 3 can set simple goals like sharing with friends and helping by clearing their plates after dinner. Around Grade 4 kids can make more complex goals like making a sports team or winning an academic award. As a parent you need to find a balance between encouraging them to think big but also to keep their goals age-appropriate and attainable.
Step 4: Make goals specific
Whenever possible, goals need to be specific and measurable. So rather than saying “I will do a lot better at school,” it’s better to say, “I will always do my homework and I will read four pages of my book every day.” This will help your child reach that goal, because it’s a clear win and worthy of celebration.
Step 5: Help them imagine it with a kid’s vision board
A vision board is a picture-based representation of all the things you want in your life. Sometimes vision boards can be used to think long term but in this case it’s good to start with the above-mentioned baby steps to help your child create a tangible visual of how they will achieve their hopes for the year ahead. So get some snacks and a marker and interview your child on their goals and plans. Then get together the materials outlined below and start cutting and sticking images that represent these goals. Remember that this is meant to be fun, so take it with a pinch of salt but still guide your child into taking their goals seriously and show them that you support them along the way.
You will need:
- Poster board (any size)
- Lots of magazines (make sure they’re age appropriate!)
- Crayons, markers or pencil crayons
- Glue or tape
- Stuff to decorate: Glitter, stickers, ribbons, etc.
Now for the fun part:
- As you talk about their goals together, look through the magazines and see if you can find images that represent the things they are talking about. Pull them out and start piling up their wish list. Sometimes the image itself can uncover a goal they hadn’t thought of. So keep the activity relaxed and let them free-associate to their ideas.
- Gather all your materials and ask your child to glue their chosen pictures onto the poster board.
- Keep going until the page is bursting with colour!
- Now add one sentence to each section so it’s easy to track which goal the image represents. You can write them on strips of paper and glue them on under the image if you have run out of space.
- Hang proudly!
Step 6: Track progress
Help your child assess every 2-3 months how they are doing. A good way to do this is to put their vision board up somewhere in the house like the fridge. That will make it easy to see and a reminder to discuss.
Keep the vision alive
It’s never too early to instill a perspective that helps them understand what they want and how to make that happen in realistic and practical ways. Remember to cheer your child on as they take the steps toward their goals. The journey to them achieving their goals is equally as important as them actually reaching them. So, make it fun, think big together and make this next year one for the books…or rather the fridge!