Documenting Observations

In my family child care program, I keep a communication notebook with sections for each family by the sign-in sheet. I use it to jot down quick notes about things I see my children do and say so I can refer back to them later. I usually remember to tell parents what I observed about their child during the day even before they check the notebook.

One day, Tomás's grandmother came to pick him up instead of his father. She was just about to walk out the door with Tomás when she noticed the notebook. She looked in Tomás's section, read "Tomás—wooden rocking boat story—shared with Eli," and asked what that meant. I told her that I had watched Tomás, who is 12 months old, and Eli, one of my older toddlers, successfully negotiate how to share the wooden rocking boat. They figured out who got in the boat first and who sat in which seat. There was no crying or pushing as there had been in past attempts, and they peacefully rocked for several minutes.

Tomás's grandmother seemed so pleased to hear this. Tomás is an only child. He hasn't had much experience being around other children and sharing space and toys. When I saw what this story meant to her, I realized two things: how important it is to jot down my observations and how important it is to share them with all family members!

Various methods may be used to capture what children do and say—and for home visitors, what parents and family members and their child do and say together. The decision about what method to use depends on what education staff want to learn, what children are saying and doing at the time, and personal style. Additionally, each method makes different demands on time and energy. This section briefly reviews some of the more common documentation methods education staff are likely to use.