How to Set SMART Goals to Get your family in Nature by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

In most places, it’s starting to look like winter, and with the Winter Walk with Wox kicking off, it’s time to get outside again for some cold weather fun! In theory, it’s as easy as getting out the door; but with kids in tow, sometimes it can be a challenge. One way to motivate your kids is to set SMART goals. SMART goals have become quite the trendy practice. Give it a quick search online and you’ll find a vast array of articles directing you on how to set SMART goals. If you haven’t yet heard this term, here is your CliffsNotes-style rundown.

SMART goals should be:

  1. Specific – Give your goal a name.
  2. Measurable- Define a way to quantify your progress.
  3. Agreed upon – Once the goal is set, you need to make a commitment to work on your goal.
  4. Realistic – It needs to be possible, in all likelihood, with hard work and dedication to achieve said goal.
  5. Time-bound – There needs to be a finite end date, at which time a new SMART goal can be assessed and set.

In summary, SMART goals are realistic goals, and they are achievable.

Setting SMART goals as a family

When setting SMART goals, my family has a system we like to follow. My kiddos get excited to be a part of this process, which also helps us to stay accountable. Here are the steps we take to set our family SMART goals:

  1. For starters, we discuss our family goals at dinner time. This ensures they are agreed upon by all members of our crew.
  2. We suggest making weekly or monthly goals. This will ensure they are  time-bound.
  3. Next, we mark our goals and progress on a whiteboard calendar. This calendar is displayed in our kitchen and helps us to measure our progress with our goals.
  4. It’s important that we put a name on our calendar, for example: “McNulty’s Crush HiB30 Challenge.” This ensures the goal is specific.
  5. We also carefully consider whether or not our goal is attainable for each member in our family. We ask ourselves, “Is this goal realistic for the oldest/strongest member of our family and also the youngest/weakest member?” If so, we set it.

Applying SMART goals in nature

Now that we know what SMART goals are and how you can set them with your family, let’s look at using them to get out into nature with your kiddos! Instead of simply saying, “Hey, let’s try to get out in nature more often,” try getting SMART.

Specific:  For the month of April, set a goal to get out into nature three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time.

Measurable: Schedule days of the week and the duration you plan to be outside each time. Also, marking your intentions and progress in a visible location for your family helps keep everyone informed and motivated.

Agreed upon: Commit to each other, as a family, and support and motivate each other. If one person is dragging his feet, remind him of how much fun you’ll all have. I am not opposed to dangling a carrot in front of my kids (or husband). It is okay to have a family reward set upon achievement of your family SMART goal at the end of the month.

Realistic: We all know that, as families with small children, curveballs are thrown our way ALL THE TIME. Know that one missed hike does not mean your monthly goal is out of reach. Simply pick it up another day that week or add an additional hike the following week.

Time-bound: Keeping your goal to one month allows you flexibility. You can assess your progress at the end of the month and plan a new (possibly more ambitious) goal for the next month. You can adapt your goals to the season for some variety too, such as biking and canoeing in warmer weather and skiing, snowshoeing or playing in snow in the winter.

Does your family practices setting SMART goals? Share your successes with us in the comments below.

How to Set SMART Goals to Get your family in Nature by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby



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Photos by Stephanie Jacobson and Jessica Human.

How to Set SMART Goals to Get your family in Nature by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby


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