Your child is no longer a baby and growing just passed toddlerhood as well. Many educators agree that a preschool age encompasses the two years before entering kindergarten. This is a considerable age in terms of development as your child begins to develop a new level of control over him/herself, grow their personality, and become more independent.
As your preschooler is making considerable connections in the world, you may be growing as a parent right alongside them, solidifying relationships with your child and enjoying the ride. This is the perfect time to address needs of security, foster emotional intelligence, work on cognitive intelligence, and overall bringing out the best in this newly independent and intelligent preschooler of yours.
Setting goals with and for your preschooler is an excellent idea for getting the best out of these wonder years. If you’re not sure where to begin, that’s okay. We’re going to help you come up with a game plan fit for the unique needs of your child. Let’s get started!
What are Preschool Goals?
First, let’s look at what preschool goals commonly entail.
Preschoolers are typically between the ages of three and five, but some can be as young as the age of two, depending on what school you decide on. Because even just a few months’ age difference can be so different in a child, your preschool goals may change over time and may be different from other preschoolers.
Preschool goals are goals that you as the parent may set for your child in your home and even at school. Goals may also come from the teacher, caregiver, or other family members that spend time with your preschooler. Examples of objectives for preschoolers can include:
- Parenting goals for you as you guide your preschooler
- Goals for emotional health
- Goals for cognitive health
- Goals for physical health
- Goals for home life
- Goals for behavior at school
- Goals for healthy sleep
- Goals for healthy eating
- Goals for preschoolers with special needs
While this list seems long and daunting, you should remember that it’s not at all. Even the most straightforward goals can be set and worked on daily without thinking much about it. For example, cognitive health can be fostered simply by asking your child to count their footsteps on the way to the car or name everything that’s blue while lying in bed.
Goals don’t have to be complicated, or over thought, they’re just simple plans for propelling your preschooler forward in the right direction.
Why are Preschool Goals Important?
Setting goals with your preschooler can bring considerable benefits to you, your child, and your families’ life by building their self-esteem and improving their confidence. When you have a child that has faith in themselves, they’re better able to focus and make the right decisions. Don’t get us wrong; they’re still a young child; after all, there will be some trying times.
But, setting goals is like laying the framework for a healthy child, childhood, and behaviors that will help them throughout their life. Goal setting can also help children realize the small goals they’re regularly achieving.
Kids are naturally inclined to set and want to achieve their goals, ask them a simple question like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And you’ll see that they quite quickly have an answer. That’s because those are the beginnings of a goal-setting mind frame.
As the parent of a pre-school aged child, you should encourage this healthy mindset for your child. You want to foster this life-long way of thinking, that creating goals leads to creating actionable steps, planning, taking those steps, and achieving positive results.
With all this in mind, let’s think about how to begin the process of goals setting with your preschooler in your very own home.
How to Set Healthy Preschool Goals
One of the best ways to begin setting goals in your home is the set the first few goals that will be achieved effortlessly, giving your preschooler a positive step in the right direction.
- Think about the ways your child is already implementing goal setting. Remind your child what he or she did when she wanted to achieve X goal. You can then talk about how exciting it was when he or she finally reached the end and accomplished the goal. Now, you can explain to them how they can replicate the process to complete other purposes.
- Now it’s time to set a relatively easy goal that your child can accomplish easily. For example, you can try saying, “If you make your bed every day this week, you’ll earn a reward.” It’s equally important to give a reward that is similarly appropriate for what they achieved and is essential to them.
- Come up with a visual representation of their goal. You can use a sticker chart, or even a simple mark on the calendar to help them remember where they’re at in achieving their goal.
- When it comes a time, give out the reward they’ve earned, if they’ve reached the goal. Go ahead and make a big deal out of it to get them excited about the next goal they might set.
Although the goal of the first goal is to be successful, don’t make a big deal if it wasn’t successful. It’s essential that your child picks up the habit of planning and attempting to accomplish goals along the way. Remember to remind them not to give up just because they didn’t “win” the first time around.
As long as your child is growing and learning new things about themselves, you’re going in the right direction. It’s okay for them to know that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan it to, but that shouldn’t stop us from setting goals and doing our best to make them happen!
What it Means to Parent a Preschooler
If there ever was a time that your parenting skills should be worked on and blossoming, it’s right about now. Because preschoolers are coming into themselves as a person, exerting their new independence, testing boundaries, and bringing home behaviors from other kids they’re with, you’ve got a whole new set of things to work on with your child.
Helping your preschooler set goals and achieve them has as much to do with them as it does with you and your parenting, so don’t overlook it. Great parenting can help a child feel secure and positive about themselves, which spills over into their behaviors and lets them really “win” as a child.
There are a ton of practical ways to start building a great parent-child relationship so that your preschooler has the space he or she needs to develop positive habits. You can start by improving communication, fostering self-discipline, building confidence, meeting needs to help them feel secure, and letting the positive relationship you’re building flow from there.
Your Preschooler May be Different from Others
There’s no doubt about it, the preschool years are exciting! Whether you’re hanging with friends who have kids around the same age as yours, chatting with other parents at preschool drop off, or chatting up some fellow park-goers, you may notice your child has different abilities than others.
Your child may not be quite the same as others his age, he may have different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and that’s OK. The period between three and five bring developmental changes that are huge even from month to month. It’s important to remember to forget all about comparing your child to others and focus on his or her needs and abilities.
As your child begins to make his or her way in this world, this is prime time for parents to start questioning themselves, if they’re doing things right, why things aren’t going as well as they’d like, and why their child can or can’t do things other kids are doing well at.
All that matters are you parent your preschooler is focusing on growing your positive parenting relationship with your child and fostering growth with their current level of skill and ability. Don’t forget to set some parenting goals for yourself as you’re working on new goals with your child.
Goals for Preschooler Social and Emotional Health
At this age range, your child is beginning to develop some significant autonomy, his brain a glowing with activity, and every experience is making an impressionable mark. So, how can you make the best of this time and work on emotional health goals?
You can start by thinking about what some excellent skills emotionally healthy children of this age have. Here’s a short list to get you started:
- Frequently experiences positive moods
- Demonstrates positive relationships with peers and caregivers
- Begins to show interest and care for others
- Can compromise, negotiate, and play well with others
- Develops preferences and defines wishes clearly
- Begin to show empathy and have an understanding of other’s feelings and emotions
- Understand, label, and handle emotions they’re feeling
- Doesn’t always struggle with listening and following directions
Social and emotional well-being can have a significant impact on learning and development; that’s why it’s essential to set goals in this category and help your child achieve them. Doing so can help foster a positive attitude in your child, allow them to perform higher academically, and grow their interest in participation and cooperation.
Children who struggle with social and emotional health often face the consequences like rejection from peers, struggling with following directions, not having an interest in learning, and more. Remember, that the positive parenting relationship has a lot to do with your child’s social and emotional health, so it’s imperative to be working on your goals too.
If your child is struggling in any of the above skills, try providing positive experiences and learning opportunities. For example, if your child is continuously uncooperative when playing with other kids, try not to let frustration or anger get the best of you.
If they aren’t able to share and compromise, use fighting over a toy as the perfect example to maintain your calm and allow for a teachable moment. As your child refuses to give up a toy to his friend, instead of snatching the toy, giving it to the other child, and reprimanding your child, try a more positive approach.
If your child is not developmentally or behaviorally at a place where talking calmly about sharing and compromise is an option, you can also try peacefully removing them from the situation. You don’t have to leave, but you can say, “Let’s take a break outside, real quick.”
From there, you’ve successfully diffused the situation, taken your child out of the reactionary element, and you have a chance to talk to them about what happened. You can firmly, but calmly explain that it’s not polite not to share with others and that when two kids want to play with the same toy, they’re expected to take turns.
After a brief chat, go back in and let the moment pass without dwelling. Eventually, your child will grow into being able to explain sharing right there at the moment, and they’ll be able to give up the toy to the other child without much fuss. If you’re not there yet, it’s okay, keep trucking along in the right direction.
Goals for Preschooler Cognitive Health
As we’ve mentioned before, this age range brings about rapid change in children. Your preschooler will continuously be learning and acquiring new skills while improving upon the ones he or she already has.
With this cognitive growth comes the exertion of independence, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined some of the cognitive goals that most kids will reach this age.
Before you set your cognitive goals, let’s look at what healthy cognition at this age may bring for your child:
- Memory and Recognition – It’s likely that your child will be able to recognize familiar faces, tell you what happened in a story that you’ve just read, and recall events or activities from earlier in the week or from the past. As time goes on, your preschooler should experience an increase in their capacity for recollection and memory.
- Color Recognition – At this point, your kid will probably have a basic understanding and be able to differentiate at least the primary hues on the color wheel. Blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green, along with white, black, and brown should be easily identified, matched, or named.
- Number Concepts & Counting – between ages three and four, most kids will be able to count at least five objects accurately. As the ability to understand number concepts grows, your child will understand things like “more” and “less,” “smaller” and “bigger,” and be able to tell you things like how many crayons they’re holding, how many apple slices are on their plate, and beyond.
- Exploring Fantasy & Imaginative Play – Here comes the pretending and imaginary friends, folks! Kids learn so much through free play, which often includes playing pretend or unreal, acting out fantasies, and exploring more complex concepts. He or she may start role-playing scenarios, fabricating ideas and games, all without any prompting from you.
- Following Commands – Trust us, even the most well-behaved preschooler is not going to follow every command at this age. But your child should be grasping the concept, also achieving a 3-part command, in most instances. They will be speaking in complete sentences, follow clear and concise directions, and even be able to give you clear instructions if prompted.
Keep in mind that there will be variation from child to child, and of course, the above list presents a great way to think about what kind of goals you should be working on with your child.
Remember, these goals aren’t necessarily ones you’ll have a talk about with your child but are more so things to keep in the back of your mind during everyday interactions with your child. As you’re eating dinner, ask her to identify what’s on her plate, how many, and what colors, amongst asking about her day.
You can play games in the car, naming the colors of passing cars, or identifying vehicles from trucks and buses. There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed by this process at all. It’s more about awareness, exploration, and growing along the way.
Goals for Preschooler at Home
Working on goals for preschooler home life is simpler than you think. It can be as easy as making some parenting goals for yourself and sticking to them. Goals you may think about working on are establishing a daily routine, sticking to boundaries and consequences, committing yourself to positive parenting, and remembering to have more good times than bad.
Try completing daily activities on a predictable schedule so that your child can follow along. If it’s possible, get up around the same time each day, and do the same things around the same time, whether that’s breakfast, getting ready, heading out for activities/school, quiet time, play time, or beyond, try to make the schedule predictable, so your child knows what to expect.
The same goes for setting boundaries and consequences for your child. Whatever method you choose, you have to be consistent. If you consistently give your child one chance or three chances, make sure it’s the same each time, with the appropriate consequence that is also the same each time.
While we won’t get into it too deep right now, remember not to engage in power struggles, as a parent, you’re not always right, and there are times when letting something go is the better choice in the long run rather than making something into a power struggle.
Remember that as long as the good times are still tipping the scale over the bad, you’re doing just fine. If, the opposite is correct, try focusing on one single goal or aspect of the parent/child relationship that needs work, you’ll get there.
Goals for a Preschooler Morning Routine
As you focus on making daily routines a part of your positive habits, you may wonder what some appropriate age expectations are. Here’s a look at what your three to five your old may be capable of, even if it includes some frequent and gentle reminders.
- Dressing, or picking clothes out with a little help
- Brushing teeth
- Coming to the breakfast table
- Getting shoes on
- Help with packing snack/lunch
A morning routine may include different things for different families but should consist of at least the basics. If you’re still walking alongside your child and doing each task for them, you may be shocked at what they can do on their own.
Organizing your kids’ clothes into drawers they can open, or hanging organizers is a great way to allow them freedom of choice where it doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things. You may want your child to dress a certain way, but allowing them to go pick out a shirt, underwear, their bottoms, and socks.
If they still need a little help putting their clothes on, that’s certainly OK, but they should be taking the lead about now. Moving on is where preference comes in, but you may have your child come to the breakfast table, sit down and eat, clear their place, and head off to brush their teeth.
Once they do the same thing each day for some time, they’ll need fewer reminders about what comes next. If your child goes to preschool, daycare, or off with another caregiver, it can be a fun idea to let them help pack their snack or lunch.
Your child can fill their water bottle at the sink, grab a juice box from the fridge, and even grab snacks from a bin in the refrigerator of perishables, or a container in the cabinet of non-perishables. Let them know what you expect each day, whether that’s an item from each bin + one piece of fruit + whatever main dish you have prepared, or just one item and one drink.
Remember that adding in the option for your child to help or make choices that aren’t affecting anything can help them feel like they have autonomy and some control, making them more willing and cooperative in other areas. Things like what they’re wearing, which snacks they pick – after all, you’ve already purchased the snack you’ve approved of are great choices to let them exercise a little freedom.
Goals for a Preschooler Night Time Routine
A nighttime routine may start whenever you want it to, but it could start with dinner time, after the last scheduled activity if you have older children, or even just within the hour before bed. For the sake of the example, we’re going to consider the routine, to begin with, dinner time.
Example of a simple, “nighttime routine”:
- Wash up before coming to the dinner table
- Sit down for the duration if dinner
- Clear your place
- Head off to shower/bath
- Put pajamas on
- Brush teeth
- Short play time /TV time
- Clean up toys
- Choose story
- Reading time with siblings/mom/dad
- Tuck in, lights out
You may have a different order, have more or less time than others at night for certain things, but most preschoolers can accomplish all of the above items on this list. Of course, you’ll be there for reminders and help along the way, but keeping a consistent evening routine can lead to a more relaxed time putting your little one to bed, more restful sleep, and less nighttime struggles.
Goals for Preschoolers with Special Needs
We don’t want anyone to feel left out here; we know that there are plenty of kids who have above or below abilities than what we have been discussing. Your child may have special needs in one area and excel far passed other kids his age in other areas.
If your child has special needs, goal setting can be a great way to build a trusting relationship with your child, overcome the frustrations or barriers you face in parenting a child with special needs, and give your child the best chance at performing to the best of his ability now and throughout life.
We’re sure you already know that you must be careful not to limit your child’s abilities and not to push them past the limits of their skills either. It’s a delicate balance that you should feel free to take your time figuring out.
Try setting manageable goals in each area and providing your child the opportunities to excel at what they’re good at to help build their self-esteem and confidence, just as you would with any child.
Enjoying the Preschool Years
All this goal-setting can get a little crazy if you don’t take the time to realize that it all comes in stride. There’s no reason for you to be thinking about it always; most of these things will come naturally to you and your child. You may be picking and choosing certain things that don’t come usually, those things that need extra work, and those things that you’re already mastering.
Keep on keeping on and enjoy these most joyous years with your preschool, before you know it; they’ll be heading off to kindergarten and giving you a whole new set of worries and joys!