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Encouraging Purposeful Pursuits

Dr. Joanne Foster –

What should I do?” is a question many kids ask throughout the year. They may be at loose ends, or bored, or looking for new and exciting activities. Children who are uncertain about what to do are well-positioned to find fresh opportunities to pursue interests, learn, and have fun. Such times also offer a chance to relax, read, and play, all of which can be fulfilling and lead to discovery and creative expression.

However, it’s smart to be 'planful' as well as playful.

What Should I Do? Planning Considerations

The world is full of wonder and choices. Kids can become more purposeful and action-oriented if they’re encouraged to consider the following options:

  • Change the question! - “What should I do?” might be voiced with curiosity, exasperation, or a yawn—depending on the child’s feelings at the time. However, they can modify that question to “What do I want to do?” What might be fun, thrilling, or unusual? How can they tap into their creativity, interests, and capabilities? Adults can offer encouragement and help kids find their own preferences and pathways instead of telling them what they should do.

  • Be proactive! - “What do I want to do now?” This slight revision addresses individual desire while focusing on the importance of now—that is, seizing the moment. Maybe it involves building a tree house, doing artistic sculptures, or playing a musical instrument. Choices that generate excitement in the here and now can drive motivation, creativity, and pleasure.

Children who are encouraged to ponder targeted questions like the two noted above are better able to plan, find direction, and become motivated.

Additional Questions for Kids

Here are some other targeted questions that older kids can ask themselves or that younger children can discuss with their parents. The answers will help provide a way forward.

  • What matters to me?” Think about what makes you proud or happy, what you want to learn how to do, or what might benefit family members or others in your neighborhood.

  • What will likely happen next?” No one knows what lies ahead, but you can anticipate—by thinking about what you’d like to accomplish. Set doable expectations and picture successful outcomes. Believe in yourself!

  • What do I need to get stuff done?” Planning may involve step-by-step preparation, such as figuring out materials and resources or how to connect with other people. It’s good to strategize, organize, and have a “ready, set, go” mindset. This will help you feel in control.

  • What about taking a break?” Take time to relax and wind down when you feel the need. It’ll give you energy so you can be more productive and creative. You’ll experience greater joy if you pace yourself and have a chance to play.

  • What if I need help?” Don’t be afraid to ask adults or friends for guidance or support. You can collaborate, discuss concerns, and cheer each other on as you see things through.

  • What have I enjoyed doing before?” Past experiences and pleasures are like springboards for the present. Build upon what you already know and enjoy.

In the whole scheme of things, kids who choose what they want to do, make moments matter, and plan ways to prepare and move forward are poised to feel empowered! “What should I do?” becomes less of a plea and more of a starting point for creativity, fulfillment, and adventure!


Joanne Foster, Ed.D. is a multiple award-winning author of several books. Her most recent is Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids. To find out about her publications and presentations and for resources on supporting children’s well-being, go to .

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