Why Observe Children?

Commonly heard responses are that early care and education (ECE) professionals observe children to monitor progress, to complete required assessments and screenings, and to identify learning or behavior challenges.

Observation is a core piece of the assessment process and continuous quality improvement (CQI) planning. ECE professionals use observation to document a child’s learning and to inform teaching practices. But another reason for observation is to spark learning and development.

Interactions come first

Research shows that young children’s learning occurs best within relationships and with rich interactions. Children need stimulating and focused interactions to learn. Researchers find that boosting children’s thinking skills through quality interactions is critical to children’s learning.

“Children benefit most when teachers engage in stimulating interactions that support learning and are emotionally supportive. Interactions that help children acquire new knowledge and skills provide input to children, elicit verbal responses and reactions from them, and foster engagement in and enjoyment of learning.” (Yoshikawa et al. 2013)

Quality interactions happen when a teacher intentionally plans and carefully thinks about how she approaches and responds to children. Emotionally supportive interactions help children develop a strong sense of well-being and security. Responsive interactions are responses and communication with children that meet their needs in the moment.

Most interactions with children offer ECE professionals the opportunity to engage, interact, instruct, and exchange information that supports healthy development and learning. Relationships between children and teachers grow stronger during everyday interactions. As children gain new information and ideas, ECE professionals can encourage them to share what they think and learn. Deeper thinking and learning engage children in the joy of learning and help to prepare children for new experiences and challenges.

Observation nurtures relationships and learning

Observation helps ECE professionals look at their interactions with children, and discover how important interactions are as they get to know and support children. Observation is a way to connect with children, to discover their connections to others and to their environment. Children who feel cared for, safe, and secure interact with others and engage in their world to learn. They are more likely to gain skills, and to do better as they enter school.

Use observation for an objective view of a child. When you really see the child, you get to know her and see more of her abilities, interests, and personal characteristics. Knowing each child helps you to plan individualized and developmentally informed activities. Look at what the child does and says without evaluating or labeling.

Find ways to build each child’s self-confidence. Reinforce success and effort. He may not be successful in all things but he can learn from failure as well as success. Encourage persistence, curiosity, taking on challenges, and trying new things.

Strengthen relationships as you learn more about the child. Talk to her about what she likes, and discuss shared interests to connect with her. Take her moods and approaches to situations into consideration, and let her know that you understand her perspective.

Observe to engage a child with you, other children, and the learning environment. Set up the environment with activities and materials that appeal to him, address his individual needs, and support his development.

Reflect on observations to assess each child’s progress, understand her needs and personality, improve teaching practices, and plan curriculum. Put ideas into practice to enhance learning and relationships.

Verify questions and concerns about a child. Talk to families and staff about him. Follow up if development or behavior is not typical.

Be aware of the quality of interactions with each child. Step back and consider how and why you and other staff interact with her. Do all interactions nurture relationships and learning?

Make tweaks, or small changes, while observing and afterwards. If something doesn’t work, try another approach or activity instead of “pushing through” with plans. Reflect on why something didn’t work, brainstorm ways to improve activities, and think of new activities to try.

Use information from observations to inform program practices and policies. Take a broad look at how the program supports all children and learning. Use the information for CQI plans.

Make observation an ongoing practice, a part of all interactions and activities, and watch for small changes and individual traits. Ongoing observation offers a chance to be proactive, to prevent problems.

Take notes, either during activities or shortly afterwards. It is easy to forget the quick “aha” moments when you are busy with teaching and care tasks, not to mention all the unplanned interruptions that pop up! Notes also make it easier to identify patterns and growth.

Interaction, relationships, and connections offer the deepest support to learning. Observation connects many pieces of information to give ECE professionals a better picture of each child. Observation is an ongoing, integral part of a quality ECE program, and professionals play an important part.

 

Emergent curriculum resource guide written by Elizabeth Jones​ adapted by Town Square for Family Child Care Providers

Emergent Curriculum

 

This Town Square created guide can be a helpful tool when planning activities for multiple ages and  different learning domains.

You can learn more about learning domains and planning for multiple ages in the material modules

 

 

To use this document on your computer using Microsoft Word

Click Here

If you would prefer a hard copy please download and print

Click Here – Printer Friendly

 

Daily Jobs are an excellent way to build a community in your program and develop a sense of purpose in children. This Town square created resource guides in understanding the importance of jobs, how they can be beneficial in the program’s daily schedule, and how to best utilize them for your specific children.

Daily jobs

After selecting the jobs that best fit your program, one way to create a job chart is to use a baking sheet and magnets. Take pictures or have children draw the jobs, then print or have children write their name (if possible laminate them). Attach a magnet to the names and the jobs. Alternatively, you can use a felt board and velcro. Make sure that the Job chart is visible daily for children, and they can have access to it if they need to look at their job for the day.

 

As adults, we utilize a calendar for scheduling and to remember important events and holidays. While it might be second nature to look at the calendar and understand which month, date, and day of the week we are in, a calendar is very confusing for children. We can utilize a calendar because we have gained the knowledge and experience to know how time works. Young children are developing this skill.

To foster this understanding the focus of calendars should be a visual representation of a sequence (yesterday, today, tomorrow). Time should also be relatable to children, by understanding what they did in the morning (arrival), afternoon (after a nap), evening(at home). A great tool to use in the classroom to help children build this understanding is a linear calendar. A linear calendar helps children understand the pattern of time, incorporate their own experience of the day, and visually see time moving.

 

This sample emergency plan for a family child care home provides an example for building your own emergency action plan.  Being ready with a plan in place for a variety of emergency situations will help you remain calm and communicate to parents that you are prepared.  This is a sample used for training purposes and you always need to check with local emergency agencies and state licensing guidelines when creating your own emergency action plan.

Sample Emergency Action Plan

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This guide can be a helpful tool when planning activities for multiple ages and that address different learning domains.  You can learn more about learning domains and planning for multiple ages in the module: Selecting and Managing Materials that Support Learning Across Domains on the Grow Page in Town Square under the Town Square Modules tab.

materials management guide screen shot

Materials Management Guide for the FCC Home

This sample emergency plan for a family child care home provides an example for building your own emergency action plan.  Being ready with a plan in place for a variety of emergency situations will help you remain calm and communicate to parents that you are prepared.  This is a sample used for training purposes and you always need to check with local emergency agencies and state licensing guidelines when creating your own emergency action plan.

Sample Emergency Action Plan

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This guide offers much of the information you will need to get started in your family child care business in Illinois.  There are sections about planning for your business, preparing your home, creating a contract, planning meals, and much more.  This overview of the process is a helpful resource for understanding the steps in becoming a licensed family child care home.

Illnois Child Care Guide for Family Home Providers

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