top of page

Goal Setting with Children and Families

Why goal setting is important?

One of the most crucial steps for occupational therapists and their clients is goal setting. Setting goals is important for children because it helps them develop a sense of direction and motivation. It allows them to take control of their own lives and focus their efforts on achieving specific objectives. This can lead to a sense of accomplishment and pride, boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, setting goals can help children develop essential life skills, such as planning, prioritization, and time management. These skills can be valuable in both their personal and professional lives. Overall, setting goals can be a powerful tool for helping children to grow and succeed.

A Collaborative Process

Goal setting needs to be a collaborative process between children, their families, and therapists. Occupational therapists must be client-centred and family-centred so that children's and families voices are being heard and their values respected. Often, it is assumed that young children cannot identify their therapy goals. However, recent research has highly debated this topic. Research has shown that children do have the capacity to understand abstract processes. Therefore, children must be allowed to identify meaningful goals during therapy. Developing effective relationships with children and families is crucial for occupational therapists.

Examples of Goals

Children can set goals in many different areas, including academics, sports, extracurricular activities, and personal development. Some examples of goals that children might set include:

  • Achieving a certain grade or test score in school

  • Improving their performance in a specific sport or activity

  • Participating in a school play or joining a club

  • Learning a new skill or hobby, such as playing a musical instrument or speaking a foreign language

  • Saving money for a specific purpose, such as a trip or a toy they want

  • Developing a healthy habit, such as exercising regularly or eating more fruits and vegetables

  • Making new friends or building stronger relationships with existing friends

  • Overcoming a personal challenge, such as overcoming shyness or managing their emotions effectively.

Ultimately, a child's goals will depend on their individual interests, abilities, and priorities. They must choose goals that are meaningful to them and committed to achieving.


SMART goals are a popular method for setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The acronym "SMART" is used to remind people of the key criteria that their goals should meet in order to be effective.

The specific criterion means that a goal should be clear and well-defined, so that it is easy to understand and focus on. The measurable criterion means that a goal should have specific, quantifiable targets, so that progress can be tracked and measured. The achievable criterion means that a goal should be realistic and within reach, given the resources and constraints that are available. The relevant criterion means that a goal should be aligned with the person's overall goals and values, so that it is meaningful and motivating. The time-bound criterion means that a goal should have a specific deadline or time frame, so that there is a clear sense of urgency and accountability.

By using the SMART method, people can ensure that their goals are well-defined, actionable, and likely to lead to success. This can help them to stay motivated and on track, and to achieve their goals more effectively.


bottom of page