Setting Summer Goals for Kids

Summer’s a great time for kids to unwind, recharge and have some fun, but every parent knows that kids bore easily. That’s why summer break is a great time to expand kids’ horizons and provide them with goals. It’s also a great way to expose them to new things, keep them busy and teach them the value of achieving goals through practice, commitment and perseverance. It’s a great character-building exercise.
Summer goals need to be age-appropriate, but challenging, so kids work diligently and regularly to experience success. Here are a few suggestions to ensure success.

Mom and Dad Need to Get Involved!
Get everyone in the family involved in summer goal setting — including Mom and Dad. The fastest way for kids to get excited about setting goals is to experience their parents’ partnership along the journey. Set goals for yourself, and talk about them with your children. Let them know what excites you about learning something new, and also let them know when you’re nervous because it’s important for kids to understand that everyone, young and old, gets butterflies sometimes!

Set Age-Appropriate Goals
Start talking about summer goals when you think it is right for your family. Some families start the conversation a few weeks before summer vacation. It can make for fun dinnertime conversation when everyone shares ideas. However, if your children are a little overwhelmed by end-of-year school projects, consider waiting until the official start of summer vacation before starting the goal-setting discussions.

No matter when discussions occur, it’s vital that goals are suited to a child’s age. Help steer conversations toward achievable goals. A younger child might want to learn the alphabet, while an older child might relish the idea of improving cooking skills. Both goals are equal in terms of value if they are appropriate for your respective children.

Set Different Types of Goals
Some families find it useful to speak about goals in terms of categories like physical, mental, life skills and spiritual. Grouping goals can help children think about different aspects of their world. Samples of different goals might be:

Physical

  • Learn rock climbing
  • Run two miles a week
  • Ride a bicycle 30 minutes a day

Mental

  • Practice yoga regularly
  • Play the piano for 30 minutes a day
  • Read an entire book series. Harry Potter, for example

Life Skills

  • Learn how to cook
  • Prepare different kinds of school lunches
  • Learn how to sew

Spiritual

  • Read regularly from a spiritual book
  • Volunteer to help others
  • Write in a reflective journal every day

Track Everyone’s Goals
When setting goals with your child, it’s critical to also establish intermediate, mini-goals along the way. For example, a child who wants to be able to run a mile needs a parent to help him set short-term, achievable goals. These approaches teach children valuable life lessons about breaking bigger tasks into several smaller, measurable goals.

How a child tracks goals and mini-goals can be individualized to suit how he best learns. Some kids work well with calendars, while others are more visual. (Perhaps they earn a penny for every minute they read each day.)

The key, of course, is to make tracking a regular part of family life. In my family, goal discussions work best at breakfast because they motivate the kids to tackle the new day with a renewed, can-do attitude.

Be Sure to Celebrate!
Perhaps nothing is as important as celebrating everyone’s progress throughout the summer break. Don’t focus too much on one child’s success. Rather, focus on the family’s group of achievements regularly by going out for ice cream or a movie. Reaching goals, and making progress toward reaching goals, is worth celebrating.

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