How to Help Young Kids Set Goals

Helping kids set goals for themselves can help them academically and in the future. A local teacher gives parents tips to encourage the practice.

Challenging young kids to set a goal is a great educational experience, says Ann Denison, first grade teacher at Pontiac Academy for Excellence, a K-12 charter school.

“They can benefit even if they aren’t developmentally ready because they will remember it in years ahead,” she says.

“They will draw that connection” later, whether it’s studying for an exam or balancing extracurriculars.

Show them

The best way to help young students set goals is to be an example, Denison says.

“When kids see you care about something you are working on, they will know it’s important to you. Provide an example and walk through it with your kids. Then set a goal together and help your child see the little things they can accomplish.”

Maybe you’re trying a new recipe or craft while your little one aims to tie shoelaces or count to 100, for instance.


Schools often use a method called SMART: ensuring a goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and trackable.

Take reading or engaging with a book for 10 or 15 minutes each day – another achievable goal for K-2 kids. As for “tracking,” try signing a paper log, putting a star on a chart or clicking into an app to track time spent. This shows parent investment and supports classroom or at-home goals. “Consistency is huge,” Denison adds.

Big picture

Two other critical at-home goals are getting enough sleep each night and arriving at school on time, Denison says; even young students are motivated to start their day on time to make parents happy.

“You will set goals your whole life, whether it’s reading a book or refinancing your home. Without it, the reality is a lot of times kids won’t mature.”

Denison talks with her first graders about the benefits of knowing more at the end of the school year than they did the first day. “Kids can understand that they want to be better at something.”

This post was originally published in 2017.


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