Revisiting Observation

Caretaker keeping tabs on toddler playing beside her.

To individualize care, education staff must know and understand each child and family. Staff develop this knowledge by observing each child and connecting with each child’s family to share information. Observation provides information about what and how a child is learning. It happens informally, for example, as a teacher observes a young toddler sitting on the floor and sucking her thumb to calm herself after her grandmother drops her off in the morning. A home visitor observes how a father watches his infant and uses nonverbal strategies to calm her when she starts to cry. In situations like these, observation happens naturally in the moment. Formally, observation and documentation happen when education staff intentionally plan who they will observe and when, where, and how they will record what children do and communicate. The program’s child assessment tool guides this observation. Whether informal or formal, paying close attention to infants and toddlers provides valuable information about their development and learning, as well as their interests and needs.

For more information, review Child Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care for Infants and Toddlers. It covers:

  • Why observation is important
  • Using goals to focus observations (including the relationship between observation and ongoing assessment)
  • Identifying the “lenses” through which staff and families observe children
  • How to observe and document
  • How to set up observation systems
  • Reviewing and reflecting on observation information and responding to infants and toddlers based on observation