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Child Care Observation Guide: All On Types, Reports & More

Observing children in your care is more than sitting back and noticing their growth and improvements, it is also documenting their every milestone so you can quantify their development as they play, explore and learn. An observation checklist allows you to document the experience of each child competently.

Nicky Liedtke
by Nicky Liedtke | September 06, 2022 | Reading time: 11 minutes

What Is Child Care Observation?

Child care observation is important in every part of a child’s life. The inception of a child is one of the most important times of their lives. This is the time for parents and caregivers to pay a whole lot of attention to infants and toddlers. Child care observation is most useful when dealing with infants and toddlers as they change so rapidly, it may be hard to keep up. Proper documentation and observation is a crucial part of toddler and infant care. This will help you focus on the child’s personal growth and identify their strengths and weaknesses so that you can support them where they need it the most.

Daycare observation is not a short-term process and as such needs careful and consistent monitoring to adequately record the necessary information on each child. But what is a checklist observation in childcare? Checklists are analytical and insightful tools that help you discern the capabilities of each child and further track the progress of such capabilities. A child observation checklist report is used to track record and data of each child’s behavior, communication skills and even IQ. As an educator, it is important that you document the progress of each child in order to gain holistic insights and help you with your overall assessment.

A childcare observation report also helps you keep parents informed on their child’s development stages. To help you record the children's progress adeptly, you can take pictures with child care observation templates and also create reports for easy relay of information to parents. How best to get to know your child as an individual if not through analyzing and documenting their behavior and habits. You can learn a whole lot from watching your children and noticing their little habits, from that you can get to know their likes and dislikes. This will help you decipher if they are growing at an expected stage or if there is something to look out for.

Proper daycare observation hints you if there are toys or particular environments that triggers their personal growth. This will also help you know the tools and activities a child needs to take on new interests and skills.A reliable observation should be factual and precise which should be as detailed as possible. Any information worth observing should be noted down throughout the day in the checklist and this will create a report.

As a carer for infants and toddlers, it would be hard to remember exact details about each child by the end of the day. This is why a daycare observation checklist is of utmost importance as it’s hard to remember intricate details about each child at the end of the day.

Observations of performance, character and ability are nothing new and they occur in various stages over our lives: from childhood to the work environment and even in healthcare and, at later stages, in elderly care.

Observations are the starting point for any kind of research, conversation and subsequent feedback talks or different actions to be taken. Only through proper observation can children be approached appropriately, employees coached effectively and lasting changes be made.

In this guide, we will explore:

1. The relevance of child care observation

2. Types and methods of child care observation

3. The checklist as a tool for observation in childcare

4. How to write a child observation report sample

5. The purpose of observation in daycare

Toddler hands drawing scribbles with crayons on a white paper

The Importance of Child Care Observation

Careful child observation is relevant for parents, medical staff and, of course, educators. Especially in a schooling context, it is highly important to carefully observe each child to be able to finetune individualized activities and tasks for them. This allows each child to develop well and at their own pace. Most child educators understand their roles and that they should be observant but do they exactly know how important child care observation is? Early childhood education is more than just educating the children, it is allowing them to explore and watching them closely to see exactly how each child explores and what they explore and take most interest in.

Educators are a crucial part of childcare as they help children reach their milestones, observe and also document each child’s milestone. Observation may be one of the oldest, simplest yet most effective techniques to get accurate results. Observation is specific which means you do not have to generalize how all children behave and can truly focus on individual characteristics and needs stemming from these.

With observation, you can direct your attention at one child and uncover significant information about that child. As an educator this means you look out for how they handle situations, how they interact, and how they act in their learning environment and how they socialize. Proper observation therefore

  • helps educators and parents understand why a child acts the way they do.
  • helps identify kids with challenging behaviors and special needs.
  • helps understand the child so you can relate better to it.
  • helps to easily document the skills, progress and weaknesses of each child.
  • helps identify the communication methods and skills of the child.
  • helps discover how they converse with their peers.

Child care observation helps you reflect on each child and this in turn will help you document and gather information about the child. This information can be used to plan and take action on how best to teach and communicate with a child. The assessment of a child would also be based on what information has been observed about him/her. This will help the educator pick the best assessment method for every child. This gives you evidence of a child’s growth so you can see where they are at and where they are coming from.

Research shows that children communicate more with teachers in a teacher-centered setting and on an average, children talked more with their peers and were more positive with tasks in a child-centered setting. This was based on an observation of 145 children for an average of 80 minutes during 8 occasions across 2 days using the inCLASS. This observation was to measure children’s teacher, peer, task, and conflict interactions. It also reveals that children have more disagreements during recess and routines/transitions. All of these findings were made due to careful observation and the results will be used to provide more support and encourage more intentionality with the children.

Types of Child Care Observation

There are several types of child care observation and the one to choose depends on what you want to observe as each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. The type of child care observation to settle for is determined by the child’s personal history and the kind of assessment you want to conduct. The documentation of your observation should be periodic and comprehensive, including all the important details. Below are some of the different types of child care observation that can be utilized in the early childhood development;

  • Anecdotal records: this is a recount of an event that covers the 3 W’s (what, when, and where). It gives a clear account of what happened and is written in past tense. Other factors such as body language, reactions and facial expressions are included in the record.
  • Running records: this is a record of what is going on at the moment and it is written in present tense and gives a detailed account of occurrences.
  • Time samples: this is recording information about a child at intervals. This can be used to easily identify a negative behavior and its cause as if it helps you understand the situation surrounding the behavior.
  • Jottings: these have the purpose to note down important things that happened during the day. These are short and precise sentences that document interactions, behaviors and events.
  • Work samples: these are the creations of the child like drawings, writings, figures and other crafty creations. These would help you gauge the progress of each child. You can also note what the child did around the time they were working on the creation.
  • Photographs: images of each child complete with notes and descriptions of what was happening before the picture. This helps you document changes in their appearance and even more.

It is vital to use several observation techniques to be able to take into account every area of the child’s life and growth and get a holistic perception. The collection of these observation documents could be a great folder to own as a parent to look back on to see how far your child has come, how they are doing and the type of persona they have.

Wooden alphabet on a tray in a daycare facility

What Is An Observation Checklist In Childcare?

An observation report checklist is used in observation of children to evaluate their growth overtime and facilitate the observation process. This can really shed light into the areas where a child is lagging behind and bring to light the areas they shine in the most. This is done by observing and then comparing their behavior in a sequential manner compared with set down expectations. This way, the carer can clearly see where there are issues and where everything is going swimmingly. With a checklist, you can get an understanding of the evolution of a child and significant events in their life.

Checklists can help you notice changes in the child so you can adjust or assess what needs to be assessed. If you need to change the environment or methods of teaching and handling a child, you can find out with a checklist. A checklist can be shared by a caregiver with the parents so they can consider what changes the child needs and what kind of additional assessment the child may need. The family of a child can also share a checklist with professionals should the child need additional help. There are so many uses of checklists, one of which is how checklists help showcase growth of a child overtime.

Educators complete checklists to give their views on the children and their development. Checklists are easy to use and do not require an educator to spend time rigorously documenting information. One of the best things about checklists is that it can be used for virtually any scenario. There are lots of checklists to pick from that are available for use. A lot of websites offer checklists that educators can download and use for several situations. For example, this Child Care Aware offers several checklists on children’s health and nutrition, safety, indoor environment, caregiver-child interaction, parent partnership checklists and more in order to support healthy and thriving children through observations.

A checklist is used to record the developmental observations of each child at a time. These checklists will then be kept and either used for immediate assessment or in the nearest future and for documentation purposes. In a way, these different types of documents serve as a traceable and tangible timeline of a child’s growth that might otherwise go unnoticed or unacknowledged since changes usually occur in a more creeping manner.

Whatever skills or behavior that you haven’t observed should be left blank and updated later when you have. There are also checklists you can curate to suit your needs like this checklist.

How To Write A Child Observation Report Sample

As important as child observation is, it is incomplete without a child observation report. This is why every educator needs to know how to write one. Basically, a child observation report is putting together all the notes written down about the child and making it into a bunch of information that can be used to estimate what kind of personality the child has and their strengths and weaknesses. The kind of report you give depends on the kind of observation you conducted. If you need to create an observation report on the child’s social development, then your observation may be centered on the children while they are at the playground.

For a productive observation, you need to pick a time that you can pay the most attention to the children. Observing the children and collecting data on the children at the same time may not be a small feat that is where checklists come in. If you need an easy way to note down information while also teaching, you can easily use checklists like this that can also create a report for you. Taking time to observe the children is not enough, you need to take detailed notes of significant events. These notes are what your child observation report will be made up of.

If you’re looking to write a digital child observation report, check out one of our examples here.

However, if you’re leaning towards creating child observation reports yourself, simply follow these steps in order to create your own checklist:

  1. The first thing you do is find a format you think is easy to understand by everyone. This obviously depends on the context the checklist will be used in, as well as the type of observation that is to be completed. Do you need a lot of white space for independent observations and long texts? Should photos be attached?
  2. State the goal of the observation and describe the observation type so that the person using the checklist is aware of what is expected of them.
  3. Include a specific column for information about the child (gender, age, group, special circumstances) that the parents need to know, if applicable.
  4. You can also include information about who else was present during the observation, that is if parents, students or other teachers were present.
  5. You can then state the exact activity you observed and how the child behaved through the activity.
  6. Include child development theory and research that pertains to the observation.
  7. Finally, conclude with the mode of action you plan to take next after the observation or if you have any plans to help the children improve in any area.

Child observation reports are crucial to the development of any child as it allows you as an educator or parent see where the child needs to improve and how they have improved over the years. A narrative report is also called an anecdotal record as it states in detailed information about the child. This means every information noted down is factual and completely true.

What Is The Purpose of Meaningful Observation In Daycare?

The purpose of meaningful daycare observation cannot be overrated. How else to prepare the children for the next phase of their life if you have not observed and assessed them to know what they need on their developmental journey moving forwards? Daycare observation helps adults understand each child and have a good programming plan in place.

Early childhood educators will usually intensely observe kids as this is the stage they develop and form habits, interests and skills and also gather knowledge. This is the best time to know how they learn and if they are encountering an issue with any area so you can pay more attention to that and get them the help they need.

Another clear and simple purpose of meaningful daycare observation is to improve students’ learning experience and outcome by fine tuning the educator’s educating skills to suit each child. Meaningful daycare observation can help you answer the following questions:

  • What do they like that piques their interest?
  • How do they feel and react to transitions and the daily routine?
  • How do they react to some activities and/or environments?
  • What is their style of learning?

We can then use this information to create deeper connections and engagements in class. This will also help educators know which activities to line up for the children and exactly how to line them up. During an observation, you get to know materials they like to work with and figure out those that would aid them in their learning the most. As they grow, these observations will help you create individualized support for each child to ensure that everyone receives the same opportunities. Research has stressed the importance ofensuring children’s competencies early for school success later in life, including social relationships and self-regulation competence.

Kindergarten teacher helping child sign his name on a crayon drawing


What is observation in childcare?

Childcare observation helps keep track of a child's developmental stages and records progresses. This way daycare workers as well as parents can focus on the child's strengths and support it in its weaknesses.

What are types of observation in childcare?

Children can be observed in four different ways, each serving a different purpose. They are classified as follows:

  1. Covert observation
  2. Overt observation
  3. Participant observation
  4. Non-participant observation

Why is childcare observation important?

Other than becoming aware of a child's general strengths and weaknesses and supporting them properly, childcare observation also helps identify kids with behavioural issues and special needs early on so they can get the help and care they need.

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Nicky Liedtke

Nicky Liedtke

Passionate about literature and writing of any kind, Nicky graduated with a master’s degree in cultural and literary studies in German, English and French and is now putting her writing and research skills to the test at Lumiform, growing and learning together with the company.

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