Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Kids

New Year's resolutions for kids and teens

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

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New Year's is the perfect time to talk to your children about realistic goal-setting. Learning to work towards sustainable, positive changes is an essential life skill that benefits people of all ages, from preschoolers to adults.

Unfortunately, many New Year's resolutions are abandoned before the month of January is over. That's usually because the initial groundwork of establishing support and accountability hasn't been put in place. Here's how you can set age-appropriate resolutions as a family for a healthier and happier year ahead.

Set SMART Goals

Instead of typical resolutions, try setting SMART goals, which are:

  • Specific: List exactly what you want to achieve (instead of "running faster" think "run a 5k in under 30 minutes").
  • Measurable: How will you keep track of your goal and determine whether you've been successful?
  • Achievable: Your goals don't have to be easy, but they need to be possible. Do you have the means and ability to make your dream a reality?
  • Relevant: Does this goal serve your greater focus and purpose in life?
  • Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline. Aim to reach milestones by certain dates.

Resolution Ideas for Preschoolers

Kids from the ages of 3 to 5 might have trouble sticking to long-term goals. However, thinking about a few small goals to work on each day is a good strategy for this age group. Set up a sticker chart on the refrigerator to help them keep track of their goals. You can even discuss planning a reward if they're successful.

Here are some examples of age-appropriate goals for preschoolers:

  • I will clean up my toys at the end of the day before bedtime.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, once after breakfast and again before I go to sleep.
  • I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I will try all the food on my plate, even if it's just one bite.
  • I will work on my letters and numbers for at least five minutes per day.

Goals for School-Aged Kids

Coming up with resolutions is a fun activity for school-age children (from kindergarten to middle school), too.

Here are some ideas to help your child get started:

  • I will drink plain milk and water, limiting soda and fruit drinks to once per day or less.
  • I will wear sunscreen before I go outdoors on a sunny day. I will keep it by the door so I remember to apply it before heading out.
  • I will find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing, or riding my bike) that I can do at least three times per week.
  • I will always wear a helmet when bicycling.
  • I will buckle my seat belt every time I get in a car.
  • I will turn off electronic devices, like tablets, television, and video games, at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • I will read at least one book per month.

New Year's Resolutions for Teenagers

Teenagers are old enough to set their own resolutions. However, they might need some guidance to make sure they're putting realistic goals in place. Talking to your teenager about their resolutions gives you an opportunity to bond and learn about what's important to them.

Here are some things your teen might want to work on:

  • I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day.
  • I will spend 30 to 60 minutes per day being physically active.
  • I will limit video games or television to one to two hours per day.
  • I will help out in my community through volunteering or working with community groups.
  • I will wipe negative "self-talk" (i.e., "I can't do it" or "I'm so dumb") out of my vocabulary.
  • I will store my phone away in the glove compartment when driving so I'm not tempted to check text messages or take calls.
  • I will start a savings account and work on putting away a certain amount of money every month.
  • I won't check social media notifications after I go to bed for the night.

Family New Year's Resolutions

How about setting some New Year's Resolutions to work on as a family? Include your kids in the process of setting goals to improve your interactions and build healthy habits together.

Here are some ideas:

  • We will limit fast food to twice per month or less.
  • We will add at least one fresh fruit snack to our daily routine.
  • We will spend 30 minutes outside playing together every weeknight. If the weather is bad, we'll play an active game indoors.
  • We will pick a fun run/walk or 5K a few months away, sign up, train as a family, and participate in it together.
  • We will share a meal (whether it's dinner or breakfast) together four days of the week. We won't use cell phones at the table.
  • We will play a boardgame together every Sunday night to bond and enjoy quality time together.

A Word From Verywell

Even the most realistic and carefully-planned resolutions don't always work out the way we hope. If outside factors get in the way of your child's goals, you can use the experience to teach them flexibility. Learning to adapt and pivot when life throws us a curveball is a fundamental aspect of building resilience. Turn disappointments into teachable moments and help your child navigate their own New Year's resolutions.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.