Recommended age: 6-12
For: Individuals or groups
Requires: Parent or professional to facilitate
Includes: Two PDF worksheets (Download here or at the end of the post)
Will enhance social and emotional skills:
Self Awareness: Identify own beliefs and values
Social Awareness: Respect for others
Responsible decision-making skills
Are you looking for a simple activity for your child to identify their values that is fun and engaging?
Or maybe you are wondering, why it is important for children to understand their values?
I am happy to finally share my values activity that I developed for my psychotherapy practice.
It has been field tested and revised several times with valuable feedback from my children clients. And it is now ready to be shared with you!
But first, what are values?
Personal values are what we find important in life. They are personal (e.g. health, knowledge, independence), social (respect, honesty), relationships (friendship, family), and materials (money, toys).
Values are like guidance markers for our belief system. They tell us what is important and in the order of priority. Ultimately, values impact how to we make decisions, think and act.
Values begin to develop in early childhood. And over time, it will evolve and refine through life experiences and relationships.
If a child has a lot of positive experiences of academic success in school, then they may find academics to be important to them.
Or if a child experiences a lot of negative consequences for being honest, then they may find honesty is less important.
Values are dynamic and never stops changing. They generally change slowly, bit by bit, compounded through life experiences. But it is also possible to change suddenly over night - usually through a significant or traumatic experience.
Since values begin to emerge early in life, children are already able to identify and understand them.
Why is it important for children to understand their values?
Simply, if children are consciously aware of what is important to them, they are better able to understand how to make decisions and understand what drives their behaviors.
For example, if a child values friendships more than honesty, and they are in a situation where they have to compromise honesty to preserve a friendship, then they may be more likely to compromise honesty.
And if they understand their values, they are more likely to live by them or actively refine them to better navigate through the intricacies of life!
Every child has their own set of values and it shouldn't be perceived as right or wrong, but rather a reflection of what they believe in, in the present day.
The Personal Values Activity
The activity is for home use or professionally in the classroom, counseling or psychotherapy sessions. It can be used for an individual child or with a group of children. The activity includes two pages in PDF format. The first page includes contains 21 value items and the second page are discussion questions.
The activity requires an adult facilitator and not recommended to have children work on their own. The adult facilitator can provide clarification to unfamiliar terms and ask follow up questions to help with children's thought process.
The main purposes of the activity are:
To help children identify and understand their values.
Inform the parents or professionals of the child's values.
The activity is structured for direct reflection and discussion of values using language children can understand.
From my experience working with children on this activity, the majority really enjoy talking aloud about what they find personally important to them.
Since the activity is directly focused on values, children are able to organize their thoughts and beliefs. And as a result, they understand themselves more and increase their own self awareness.
When parents and professionals use this with their children, they will be able to better understand what their children's values are, and how they formulated them.
21 Personal Values
The first page of the worksheet contains 21 items that each correspond to a personal value. Although many more values exist, the 21 values were carefully selected based on how common and relatable they are for children ages 6 to 12 year olds. The following values are on the worksheet:
Items - Values
"Having good grades" - Academics
"Being good in sports" - Physical activity
"Having fun" - Pleasurable activity
"Being popular or famous" - Social status
"Have a lot of money" - Money
"Have material goods" - Material satisfaction
"My religion" - Religion
"Being clean and organized" - Organization
"Being careful and safe" - Personal safety
"Being creative" - Creativity
"Learning new skills and information" - Knowledge
"To keep trying and not give up" - Perseverance
"Able to do things on my own" - Independence
"Being responsible for my actions" - Integrity
"Spending time with my family" - Family
"Having good friends" - Friendships
"Being honest" - Honesty
"Helping others" - Compassion
"Being respectful and fair" - Respect for others
"Being thankful" - Gratitude
"Being able to forgive others" - Forgiveness
How to use the activity
Whether you are a parent or professional, it is important to be mindful and nonjudgmental for the child to be honest and engaged in the activity. If any concerning content arises, it can be marked for further discussion at the end of the activity.
Step 1: Introduce
Introduce the activity by discussing the purpose. The purpose is for children to understand what is important to them. And to help others (facilitator/peers) to understand them better.
Step 2: First page
Have the child go through each item and rate how important it is to them. Each item includes three blank circles. Marking or filling the circles will indicate how important the values are. If "Very Important", mark three circles, if "Important", mark two circles, if "A Little Important", mark one circle, and if "Not Important", leave blank.
This is where the child is able to actively reflect on their values. Provide any clarification to unfamiliar terms and ask follow up questions to support their process.
Step 3: Second page
Page two of the worksheet are discussion questions for further reflection of their values. This page is optional depending on how relevant it will be for the child's process.
Included questions are:
A. Of all the values you marked as "Very Important", what are the top three most important to you and why?
B. Of all the values you marked as "A Little Important" and "Not Important", what are the top two least important to you and why?
C. Which values do you think your parents will choose as very important to them?
D. Which values do you think your close friend will choose as very important to them?
Step 4: Conclude or provide follow up discussion
As the child may have shared a lot, it is important to debrief and acknowledge the child for completing the activity. Ask about their experience of the activity, whether if they learned anything or found it helpful to reflect on themselves.
They may have also shared important information that can lead to further follow up discussion. For example, if they shared a recent difficult experience with trust and it impacted how they value friendships, it can be a topic to further explore.
And finally, the discovered values should be retained and revisited. The knowledge gained should not be a once-and-done activity, but rather kept in mind to aid in decision making and self-consciousness and relationship building.
Recommended to use activity to build rapport and strengthen relationships with facilitators and peers.
If done in a group, establish rules that all participants will be respectful, non-judgmental or critical of answers.
Facilitator can also participate in the activity, and share their own values.
This activity is one of my favorite to work on with children. It is incredible to hear what they value and how they understand it. Many children are even able to articulate why certain values are important to them and why some are not.
I have witnessed children's self awareness expand as a result of the activity! Some have told me they have never talked about this topic ever. And felt this experience was eye opening and insightful. Many end up informing their parents what they learned or ask me to share with their parents in details.
And the best part for me, is the knowledge and understanding I gain about the child. With the child, I often reference their values as we examine their thought process, decision-making and behaviors. And with the parents, this allows me to help them understand their child better, and thus strengthen their relationship.
By sharing this activity, my hope is more parents and professionals can work with their children in discovering what is truly important to them. If you use this at home, school or office, I would love to hear your experience! Feel free to comment below or email me. And please share with others!
Play Attune is about providing parents and professionals practical play activities and resources focused on enhancing children's social and emotional wellness. Behind every content we share is the belief that children learn valuable life skills through meaningful relationships and experiences.
Play Attune is created by William, a child and family psychotherapist with extensive experience working with families in various settings. We recently launched in the summer of 2018 and we invite you to join us on learning more and contributing to shape our content!