May 17, 2023

The importance of observing our children in the Early Years

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
The importance of observing our children in the Early Years

Observation is a fundamental and crucial aspect of the early years' practitioner's role. It enables them to understand children as learners and as individuals. It helps to monitor, track, and understand children's development, and it is an integral part of the assessment, planning cycle, and accurate planning of children's next steps in their learning. 

Children's learning is a complex journey! Observing children is not only an essential tool for practitioners but for parents too! Observing our children empowers parents to provide an even richer and stimulating environment to play in at home, with rich learning opportunities that our children enjoy, inspiring their curiosity and exploratory impulses. 

Observations involve watching your child at play and taking part in activities both inside and outside.


Observing toddler

What does an observation look like? 

An observation should be descriptive but not very long, it should tell the whole story of the interaction. 

  • Describe what your child is doing and how.

  • What are they saying? 

  • Are they focused?


What to include in an observation

  • Take a picture or a short video of your child engaging with an activity, game, books, etc.

  • What was the length of time your child was engaged in the activity?

  • Write exactly what they were doing, with details about resources and words they used. Use exact words of what they said, using the same words and sounds.

  • Ask yourself, what does this mean for my child's learning? What are they getting out of this activity?

  • Ask yourself, does this observation give me a feeling of progress in my child's development? Or does it explain where they might be stuck and in need of support?


Your role as a parent

To guide and nurture your little one during the most crucial years.

Be a watchful observer

Give your child space and time to explore activities, games, and books in their own time, at their own pace to help support the development of their independence. Remember to give your child enough time to think, make links and respond. Be a watchful observer and offer a friendly smile.

Lead by example

Some activities can be adult-led but remember to follow your child's lead still. You can do this by repeating words and mirroring movements. Show your child you are listening by repeating vocalisations, sounds, words, and asking follow-up questions. 

A journey of discovery

You should be able to see a clear progression in your little ones learning as you flick back through your observations. In time, you should see your child starting to spend longer on specific interests and more deep-level learning taking place.

Observations often record more than just every day or the mundane. They should give you improved insight into your child. That might be:

  • A new skill they've learned 

  • An emerging/new interest 

  • A new challenge they may be facing 

  • Something they might be struggling with 

This is an opportunity for you to engage with your little one and keep a record of what you have done. 


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