Responding to Infants and Toddlers Based on Observation

In the ongoing child assessment cycle,1 observing, documenting, and reflecting guide education staff to intentional and purposeful responses as part of the Use and Share activity. These responses happen in the moment, as with the "watch, ask, adapt" strategy, or may be planned and carried out later. By observing and reflecting, education staff get to know each infant or toddler on a deeper level so they can individualize opportunities that support relationship-building (e.g., child-teacher, child-family child care provider, child-family, child-child) and each child's developmental profile, preferences, interests, and needs. Staff use what they know about each child to individualize the curriculum and:

  • a boy plays with measuring cup and bowlAdapt the environment (e.g., rotate toys and materials; rearrange space to enhance opportunities for movement, sensory exploration, social interactions, or privacy; introduce a new piece of equipment) and modify toys and materials for children's use
    • Modifications may be identified in IFSPs for infants and toddlers with disabilities
  • Bring elements of the children's home life and culture into group care and socialization settings to provide continuity between home and the program
  • Modify schedules and routines in consultation with families
  • Make decisions about how to guide the child's learning in all ELOF domains through intentional interactions and teaching practices based on what the child knows and can do, as well as what the child is ready to try. These decisions include how to best support children's home language learning and use as well as expose children to English

Essentially, individualization is driven by the interests of the child and the belief that even the very youngest children play a significant role in selecting their learning experiences, materials, and content.2 This individualization process starts with observation.

1Office of Head Start, Ongoing Child Assessment: A Guide for Program Leaders.

2J. Ronald Lally, "Infants Have Their Own Curriculum: A Responsive Approach to Curriculum Planning for Infants and Toddlers," Curriculum in Head Start: Head Start Bulletin #67 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children and Families, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Head Start Bureau, 2000).