Goal Setting & Motivation Guidance Activities for Elementary Children

By Damon Verial
Having high hopes at a young age can push a child to work that much harder.
Having high hopes at a young age can push a child to work that much harder.

As a parent, you want your child to get as motivated for life as possible, and you know that goal setting is one of the most invaluable tools for helping her do so. But at the elementary school level, your child might not be so interested in adult affairs. The responsibility is therefore on you, the parent, to make such tasks interesting. Luckily, you have numerous activities at your disposal, activities that don’t seem like goal-setting and motivation-guidance activities but actually are.

Working Your Body Can Also Work Your Brain

Goal setting and motivation activities don’t need to be all pen-and-paper. A parent can take advantage of her elementary child’s natural propensity for physical activity to turn play-time into goal-setting time. Before engaging in an active activity, set some goals for your child, both short-term and long-term. For example, if you’re playing jump rope, see if he can break his record of 20-in-a-row this time. Set the goal at 50-in-a-row by the end of the month. Not only does this type of activity benefit your child’s health, but it motivates her by showing her she can do what seems so hard at first -- "50-in-a-row is impossible!” she might say at the beginning. In addition, Ontario Education cites a study in its 2005 publication "Daily Physical Activity in Schools" that shows how physical activity can improve decision-making and problem-solving skills, making such activity even more important in your child’s daily schedule.

Education is Not Motivation -- At Least Not in School

Most parents send their kids to school, assuming the teachers will be motivators as well as educators. But with 30 kids per class, not all teachers have the time to motivate and help kids set goals in addition to teaching class. Thus, in many cases it’s up to Mom and Dad to motivate their elementary students to do their schoolwork and garner an interest in education. Parents can easily turn homework into a brainstorming activity, adding fun where there is none. Activities in which you help your child with his homework can be as easy as making the material relevant to him, such as using Pokemon cards to do addition problems or by changing bland history text into a grand story.

Visualizing with Visual Aids

The ingenuity of parents never ceases to astonish. But some parents might ignore the power of the assignment sheet, a tool that can not only remind your child of his goals but also keep track of his progress, further motivating him. An assignment sheet looks just like a calendar but with important goals in each category. For example, if you and your child’s goal is for her to learn one new word every day, you could place a vocabulary word in each entry and go over the word with her in the morning. Then, at night, you could test your child on the word, crossing out the entry if she’s right. In this way, you turn work into a game and you allow your child to visualize her progress. You could even give rewards when she satisfies a certain number of goals per month.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

It’s never too early to start planning for the future. Though your child will likely change his mind 1,000 times before he reaches adulthood, you could start during the elementary years. Ask him what he wants to do in the future, but don’t let him stop there: Ask him what he’ll need to do to get there. By doing so, you make the goals and steps in the process salient. In addition, ask him why he wants to be a DJ. By doing so, you make the motivations salient to him. Though you know it’s all just talk, use his answer to push him forward in activities that will help him grow toward his goal. A DJ needs good charisma, an understanding of music and a strong voice: all good excuses to encourage your kid to join the school choir.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.