Goals are more than just benchmarks for learning. In the early childhood arena, goal-setting can help you to build your students' developmental strengths. Before you set goals for your preschoolers, consider what is developmentally appropriate for each child. This means that you need to meet the students where they are in their development. Create goals that are challenging, yet achievable for each student. Define strength areas that align with your state's early learning standards and bridge areas such as motor, social and emotional development.
Create Physical Goals for Motor Development
Building fine and gross motor skills is a key area of early childhood development. Fine motor skills include use of the small muscle groups in the hands, such as dexterity and eye-hand coordination. Gross motor development includes building the use of large muscle groups in the arms and legs. Preschoolers are growing more agile and refining their physical skills. Play to these developing strengths by creating goals that focus on age-appropriate uses of both small and large muscle groups. For example, goals for a 3-year-old preschooler may include using scissors, drawing a circle or kicking a ball. An older preschooler between 4 and 5 years old can also make a simple drawing of a person, use utensils without assistance, skip and hop, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org website.
Setting Social and Emotional Objectives
Even though preschoolers aren't socially or emotional mature, they are better able to control their behaviors than in the toddler years. Setting strength goals for your students' social and emotional development should include helping them to interact with each other in positive ways and manage their feelings appropriately. The degree to which you can expect your students to recognize, deal with and express their emotions will depend on their ages. You shouldn't expect a young 3-year-old to have the same level of control as you would a 5-year-old. Instead of expecting full control, set goals that focus on attainable abilities. For example, a 4-year-old can learn and use coping strategies such as acting out a stressful situation with pretend play, according to the PBS Parents website.
Building Mental Abilities
One of the primary cognitive, or mental, strengths that preschoolers are developing is the ability to think internally. The learning and development goals should reflect this concept and focus on the child's growing use of thinking before acting. Specific objectives within this strength goals may include problem-solving or representing real objects with pretend play ones. Cognitive goals should focus on the general ways in which the students think, and not specific academic content areas. Think of these goals as learning as opposed to what is being learned.
Developing Academic Strength Areas
Academic strength isn't synonymous with being an "A" student. The preschool years should focus on building the basics. Goals for this type of learning may include developing pre-literacy and pre-math skills. These goals may also include your state's standards for early childhood education. For example, Pennsylvania's "Learning Standards for Early Childhood" state that preschoolers should name the numerals up to 10 and count up to 10 objects. Your state's learning standards may differ. Include goals for material that your state or district expects students to know by kindergarten.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Key Messages of the Position Statement
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 4 to 5 Year Olds
- PBS Parents: Social and Emotional Growth: 4 to 5
- Prentice Hall: Cognitive Development in the Preschool
- PA Keys: Pre-Kindergarten Learning Standards for Early Childhood
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