Have you heard all the Olympic athletes talk about setting goals for themselves? Some were successful in achieving them and some terribly disappointed. But they all had something to strive for. How about children? Do they set goals?
They surely do. We sometimes call it by less positive names as a baby in a high chair figures out how to balance a drippy bowl on his head, or a wee one manages to pull herself over to the goal of the dog dish. Testing how many books and big blocks to stack by the counter to reach the cooling cookies does not immediately seem like goal-setting. But kids have positive goals, too. Finishing a puzzle and jumping all the way to the end of a hop-scotch are examples of setting goals in a play activity.
Besides play, goal-setting is a thinking and learning strategy. As children set goals, they are developing important brain connections. Some goals are realistic, such as being able to get dressed all by “my very own self,” while others, like building a tower as high as the sky, are not. Children are deciding what they want to accomplish, figuring out the way to do it and then taking that action. 1, 2, 3! Children and adults use this same 3-step process to go from baby steps to a goal.
As parents and caregivers, we can celebrate their success and encourage our kids when needed. We do not always have to agree with the goal as in “Mommy, I’m going to fly off the counter,” or allow such things as jumping off the top bunk into a basket of clean clothes ready to be put away. We can also set goals for kids, such as they get to put all the red things in the toy box and we’ll put away all the green or they can slide down the slide all by themselves and we’ll catch them at the bottom. Supporting kids as they discover and explore setting goals will influence them far beyond kindergarten readiness. In what way will you and your child set some goals?