What are IEP Behavior Goals for Preschoolers?

preschool behavior goals

What are behavior goals for preschool?

Writing preschool behavior goals can be some of the most challenging because ALL preschoolers have challenges with self-regulation and emotion navigations, ammi right? What I try to do is 1) think of behaviors I want to INCREASE (and not just decrease), 2) think of strategies that will help them functionally and socially navigate their natural environment, and 3) focus on the FUNCTION of the behavior and not the form. Here are some ideas.

IEP Goals for Preschool

One important note (before sharing some ideas) is to remember that IEP stands for INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plan. This means that getting ideas as a jumping point is great, just remember to ALWAYS work it like playdough to fit your actual student! Massage the heck out of it until it’s the right shape! Check out this BLOG on how to write a great IEP goal or this one on how to write the Progress Report

The following are some ideas for Behavior goals for preschoolers and Kindergarten students. 

Do you struggle with the time-consuming task of writing IEP goals for your Preschool Special Education students? Or finding the correct wording to create specific, meaningful goals to meet the needs of your early intervention and Pre-K students? This resource is perfect for busy teachers looking to save time and simplify the task of writing IEP goals.

“This is one of the best purchases I've made! Great goals, user friendly, so helpful for teacher writing goals for IEP. If you need examples to get you started, this is amazing!”

Cooperation Goals

For many of this age, preschool is a student’s first experience with “group learning” and following adult directions from someone other than a parent. What a great experience!

Behavior goals in the area of cooperation for a preschooler might include responding to an adult, waiting for an instruction, doing a non-preferred task, asking for help, even being a flexible thinker!

Here is a sample IEP goal to target Cooperation:

cooperation goals

Flexible Thinking

When given an unexpected change, STUDENT will respond with a positive affirmation (e.g., “That’s ok,” “I can do it later”) improving flexible thinking from BASELINE to 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities over 3 data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Reinforcement Goals

These are some of the first goals I may include on a preschooler IEP. I always teach the staff I work with to become the “giver of all things good” and to “BECOME the reinforcer.” Essentially, for early learners and those with the most supportive needs, controlling and contriving reinforcement may be your greatest power. And this just means that you are finding out what that student loves, and you seek to pair yourself with that so you can share the world with them! (and gain cooperation 🙂 )

Goals may include approaching a partner to receive reinforcement, fading the amount or time of reinforcement to continue learning, tangible but also social reinforcement responses (including by peers and by the natural environment!).

Here is a sample IEP goal to target Reinforcement:

Works for social interaction

When given a teacher-directed task, STUDENT will respond to praise as an effective reinforcer improving reinforcer effectiveness from BASELINE to working for 15 minutes for praise only in 4 out of 5 opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

reinforcement goals

Looking for quick social emotional lessons for your preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten students? Wanting to do social skills activities in morning meeting or community circle? Are you doing social groups but need the simplest of content for your special education or speech students? Here is a buttload of social lessons for you!

❤️ Each of the 25 SEL lessons are designed to be short (5-10 minutes) and then there are printable extension activities. These are in a simple format with limited distractions for your youngest students or those who need the most support. I’m continuing to add new lessons almost weekly, designed by the needs of the students I know!

Perseveration Goals

Now, if you work with students with autism, you may become well-acquainted with terms like perseveration, delayed echolalia, obsessive (or “sticky”) thoughts. This can be an IEP behavior goal!

Goals may include reducing obsessive questions (repeating questions after given an answer), perseverative talk (wanting to only talk about one thing), showing interest in a partner, learning when to (and not to) engage in self-stimulatory vocalizations.

Here is a sample IEP goal to target Perseveration:

perseveration goals

Perseverative Talk

When given a highly preferred topic (e.g., typically a restricted interest) they want to talk about and a speaking partner who would like to have a limited conversation, STUDENT will engage with a partner on the topic but limit the duration improving verbal self-control from BASELINE to talking about the preferred topic no more than 5 minutes at a time in a 1-hour period in 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Function-Based Goals

YASSSSS! This is the key! Focusing on the functions of the behaviors you want to reduce (or increase) and less on the form (what it LOOKS like) is going to get you much further! Always always think “why” the student is doing something, what need is getting met with their behavior. What can you do to help them learn to find another way which is better FOR THEM to get that need met. If you help them find that replacement behavior that works better for them in their natural and expanded environment, you help your class along the way!

Goals here should focus on the four main functions of behavior: attention (I need someone’s attention), escape or avoid (I don’t want that), tangible (I DO want that), and sensory (I have an internal need).

Here is a sample IEP goal for Functions:

Function escape

When given a situation where STUDENT want to stop an activity, STUDENT will request to stop the activity using socially-validated methods (e.g., asks to end, asks to do something else, uses “break” card) improving behavior management from 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

function of behavior goals

Find some great visuals and task analyses in this bundle to help with communication and other life skills. Tons of great stuff, here!

Self-Regulation Goals

Emotional regulation is going to be a big part of any preschool program, not just those with IEP students! They’re so little, and they’re just learning. So focusing on proactive methods of self-regulating and understanding emotions should be included in your daily routine. 

Goals here may include addressing peer conflict, accepting “no,” expressing “big” emotions, having appropriate reactions to match the size of a problem, or impulse control.

Here is a sample Self-Regulation goal:

self-regulation goals

Impulse Control

When given a correction or non-preferred interaction, STUDENT will use a “waiting strategy” previously taught (e.g., count to 10, take a walk, talk to a teacher) before responding improving impulse control from BASELINE to using a strategy to increase the latency of response to at least 2 minutes in 4 out of 5 situations across 5 data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Looking for a SIMPLE activity to teach identifying feelings and emotions to toddlers, preschoolers, or students with disabilities? A fun social emotional learning activity? This set of PRINT and DIGITAL feelings bingo cards includes an increasing level of difficulty with cartoon faces. It’s perfect for early childhood learners!

Remember! This is not an exhaustive list but just some ideas to get you going! Trying to make teachers’ and clinicians’ lives a little easier because coming up with fresh ideas can be hard! 

This is a set of IEP goals WITH instructions and broken down into editable objectives for the domain of BEHAVIOR. Other domains also available (AdaptiveCognitiveLanguageSocial Emotional). Includes bonus daily raw data collection forms.

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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