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Make A Play Plan

Are you looking for a way to help your child make plans and reach goals at home? Then let’s plan to have some fun!

Today, we will give your child the opportunity to think about their interests, practice planning, and stay focused on a goal. 

This article is part of our weekly series Executive Function Tips for Families.


In this activity, your child will think about what they do during the day. They will write or draw a goal for the day and a plan for how they will meet it. Once they make their plan, they will work to follow it and reach their goal. This will let your child practice an important part of Executive Function: being goal-directed.

Executive Function Skills Practiced

  • Planning: Your child will choose goals and make plans for meeting them.
  • Working memory: After finishing an activity, your child will need to remember what comes next.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Your child will practice changing directives when they change activities.

Ready To Plan? Here's What You'll Need:

Duration: 5-15 minutes

Materials List:

  • Notebook or paper
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Pictures that represent activities/parts of your daily schedule

Environment: Anywhere in your home/yard

  • You can adjust the activity at any time if it seems to difficult or easy. To do this you simply up or down a level.
    • Read: Check out this article for more information about the stages of EF!
  • Give children some think-time.

Activity Levels and Step-by-Step Instructions:

Plan Level 1–  (2-3 years): Picture Choice

1. Using images from the internet, magazines, or by drawing simple pictures, prepare two pictures of activities to choose from, such as playdough and blocks.

“Today, we are going to make a plan about what we are going to play! Do you want to play BLOCKS (show the block picture) or PLAYDOUGH (show the playdough picture)?”


2. When your child picks a picture, start the activity right away.

“You picked the picture of the BLOCKS, so we are going to play BLOCKS! Thank you for telling me the plan! 


Plan Level 2–  (3-4 years): Picture Schedule

1. Prepare 4-7 pictures of activities for your child to choose from. The pictures should be activities like lunch, brushing teeth, drawing, puzzles, etc.

2. Discuss important parts of the day, like lunchtime, and other times for activities like going for a walk or playing in the backyard.

3. Use the pictures to create an ordered schedule for the day with your child.

“Let’s make a plan for what we are going to do today! I have pictures of different things we can do. Some things we have to do today—you have to eat lunch so you don’t get hungry—and some you can choose to do! You are going to help me put them in order so we know what we need to do next! You get to decide on the plan.”


Plan Level 3–  (4-5+ years): Plan One Play Goal

1. Give your child a notebook or paper to write on.

“We are going to make plans and set a goal today! Let’s think about our day. For example, after lunch, we’re going to do an activity! Think about the special things you like to do. Pick one to do today. That will be our goal.” (Examples: Blocks, take a walk, draw, etc.)


2. Have them draw or write their plan in their notebook/paper.

3. Do the activity. Return their notebook and ask if they met their goal.

“Here are your plans and goal for today. Take a look at what you drew. Did you do what you had planned? You did! You met your goal!” 


Activity Level 4–  (5+ years): Academic Plan

1. Follow Plan Level 3 instructions.

2. Ask your child how it felt to follow their plan and meet their goal.

3. Have them use the activity they chose to plan another activity for more learning.

Example: If your child chose to build a tower with blocks, they might make a plan to count all the blocks they used in the tower. If your child chose to take a walk, they might write or draw a plan for where they would like to walk the next time.

Talk & Reflect:

After you finish, ask your child questions like:

  • “What was your favorite part of your play plan today?”
  • “When is another time you might make a plan and set a goal?”

Additional Ideas & Resources: