Methods of observation in child care

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Observing a child is an instrument that parents and educators can use not only to gauge a child's developmental progress but to discover new things about the child that can then be incorporated into curriculum teachings as well as offer guidance into problematic situations.

Observation goes hand in hand with a recording system that provides ongoing monitoring of a child throughout different settings to provide a holistic picture of a child's needs and growth.


Notes can take several forms when you are observing a child. At its most basic, you can use a system of informal notation which you can use on a sticky note to supplement or form the basis of more in-depth notes or records about the child. Shorthand gives you a way to jot down impressions quickly and as they occur, to be elaborated on later.


Recording what you observe can involve writing as you are witnessing the child or writing after you have observed. Both types are longer detailed versions of notes that provide invaluable glimpses inside specific events and interests displayed by the child. A collection of these anecdotes and narratives over time offers a closeup and extensive picture of the child as you assess his progress.


Another method of child observation involves using checklists, which gives the observing educator a simple means of documenting a child's development. With a checklist, a variety of developmental abilities are tabulated together, specific to a child's age. Educators can quickly scan a checklist and use it to mark numerous abilities at once and design curricula accordingly.

Work Samples

Along with your notes and records of a child's behaviour and ongoing participation in activities, you can also include examples of drawings and other projects that the child created as part of the overall portfolio of the child's progress. If you cannot include the works themselves -- if they are too large or the work is displayed in the classroom or is in the child or parent's care -- take photographs of the pieces and include them in the file. As a supplement to the observational notes, photos of the child "in action" as he draws or takes part in an activity will provide additional insights into his behaviour.