Recording observations for baby and toddler groups can be a challenge for early childhood educators but it just takes a little thinking outside the box!
You need to give yourself permission as an educator to work differently, use an alternate planning system,document then reflect and communicate in a way that perhaps you haven't used before when working previously with older children - but makes a whole lot more sense when it comes to meeting learning outcomes for babies and toddlers.
In this blog series - Planning & Play for Babies & Toddlers I'm sharing with you ideas to help make planning play experiences and programming for this age group not only easier and faster but also more meaningful and effective for the children and carers.
What does this Baby/Toddler Planning & Play Series Cover?
The WHAT. The WHY. The HOW
This first post in the series shares with you WHAT it is we actually need to do as early childhood educators working with Babies & Toddlers, WHY we need to do this when it comes to meeting not only the planning cycle steps but also meeting the wellbeing, nurturing and safety needs of a child 0-2 years in care. And finally, a brief introduction into HOW we are going to make it happen!
How to Observe & Tools to Use
You will find out WHY recording the learning, meaningful moments and progress of a baby or toddler needs a different approach. We'll explore WHAT you can observe and HOW to use different observation formats and tools effectively.
Learning Environments, Voices & looking Forward
We finish the series with part 3 and it is in this post that you will find out how to create and support learning in Baby & Toddler environments, seek out , incorporate & use the child's voice in your planning (even when they are non verbal!) , empower and support educators working with this age group and end with some strategies for closing the planning cycle loop and taking some simple action steps to help get you moving forward!
Ready to get started on Part 2 of this series? Let's Do It Empowered Ed!
Planning & Play for 0-2 Years - Part 2 - Observations.
Why 'do' observations for babies and toddlers?
To help us understand them better.
To assess current and ongoing development.
To identify their interests, needs and what they are learning through everyday play.
To help you keep families in the loop about what their child is doing when away from their care - the special moments, developmental milestones and goals you can work on together as a collaborative partnership. This information can also help educators to support parents to continue the learning in their home environment as well.
To help you decide how to plan future activities, environments, challenges and whether what you are providing currently is effective.
You really don’t need to wait for that big 'wow 'moment that smacks you in the face when observing babies - you just need to know them well and then you will recognise the tweaks and twists when they occur.
So now that you know a little bit about WHY it is important to start with a well-informed baseline through your orientation and communication with parents, being observant during everyday routines and nurturing the individual child while getting to know them better…. let’s take a closer look at the HOW.
We take action and answer the HOW by recording our observations so I’m going to simplify that process by offering you a few suggestions to help you stop procrastinating and just make a start on documenting those observations for baby and toddler – without the uncertainty and overwhelm. That leads us to the WHAT part!
“You really don’t need to wait for that obvious 'wow 'moment that smacks you in the face when observing babies and toddlers - you just need to know them well, add that to your current knowledge of early years development, then acknowledge the magic moments unfolding through everyday routines and actions”
The Empowered Educator
What can Educators look for briefly when documenting an observation?
In the 1st part of this series you might remember that I mentioned the trick to simplifying observations for baby and toddler is not to overthink the moments you choose to record.
I encouraged you to narrow your focus and see the importance in the smaller everyday actions, moments and everyday routines. Compare to the knowledge you already have of the child. Let's briefly recap below some of the basics I listed that educators can start with when documenting an observation.You might look for and focus on:
Now let's break those down into more detailed observations and assessments.....
What can educators look for in more detail when observing babies and toddlers in an early childhood setting?
I think it is important here to mention again, that when you observe in this age group you don’t need to always be watching for an obvious big new skill or interest for it to be important and worth further reflection. The moment just needs to be significant in the day to day journey of the baby and toddler and stand out to you as important to record because of the knowledge you already have of this child.
So What is NOT a meaningful observation?
- A description of a moment you might include briefly in your reflections or daily parent communication but not detailed enough to tell the whole story of what was happening before and after this moment.
- Just a few ticks on a developmental checklist, 1 photo or a series of links to EYLF outcome numbers or the NQS (or the framework specific to your region that you are following).
- Interrupting the experience or child’s work and efforts to make it easier to ‘find something to write about’ or extend further on your observation. Intentional teaching moments have their place and can provide meaningful moments for observation and further reflection but if you are trying to direct the play to reach a particular outcome this is different and not helpful to you or the child.
- Getting too caught up in taking endless photos, video or audio to include on your app or for your observation that takes you away from being in the moment with children. Try to be unobtrusive – use those sticky notes and snap a pic here and there to use later but don’t let it become your sole focus!
“ The moment just needs to be significant in the day to day journey of the baby or toddler .”
- Jodie Clarke
How can educators record and document the meaningful observations?
Let's take a closer look at the HOW now that we know what we are looking for with our observations.
What observation tools, moments and documentation can early childhood educators use to help them assess and build a picture of each child’s progress on their individual learning journey?
It’s helpful to you as an educator and the children you are observing to incorporate a variety of different assessment and observation methods – remember there is no specific Australian regulation about what app, form, template or system you have to use and you don’t need to limit yourself to one format either!
If this is something your leader or coordinator is asking you to do then perhaps initiate a conversation around why you are being asked to only use one type of assessment tool and if there is an option for you to use a couple instead of one.
Make sure to explain WHY you want to do that – not just because you don’t understand the one you are being asked to use. You should always ask for clarification and extra training or support if you need it to complete your documentation. No one is going to give you a mickey mouse badge for sitting there feeling more confused and overwhelmed by the day because you are staying silent!
I have shared a few suggestions for you to consider below – I have split them into two categories to show how various forms of observation and documentation can give you different levels of information to assess learning and extend with.
Some you could combine to get a better overall picture e.g. – ideally you would not just use a developmental checklist on its own as there is not enough background information – you might add it to another observation format like an anecdotal record to help you identify the learning outcome area you want to focus on and give you a clearer picture.
Other types of observation can provide you with all the detailed information you need to further analyse and extend as you forward plan. For example, a running record or learning story will no doubt give you enough information to move forward with on its own.
Remember that you don’t need to do all of the things, all of the ways, all of the time to share the story of a child's learning journey meaningfully!! You should also aim to keep them simple and easily understood by parents so that you can effectively communicate the learning that is taking place. So, leave out all the complicated outcome numbers, codes and waffly words and just record what you see as best you can!
“You don’t need to do all of the things, all of the ways, all of the time, to share the story of a child's learning journey meaningfully”
- Jodie Clarke
Methods for Observation Recording & Assessment
If this is an area you struggle with try using one and build on it over a month by adding in other elements and moments then make your analysis and decide how you want to move forward and meet the goals you have set for the child involved.
Below I have listed more in depth methods for recording observations and assessments.
As an educator, you can use your observations and the information gathered from them to support not only development and learning but also baby or toddler's individual needs.
Hopefully part 2 in this blog series has helped you to connect the WHY, WHAT & HOW of child observations and assessment and better understand how meaningful observations inform your forward planning, environment setup and day to day routines with baby and toddler.
Review for Planning & Play - Baby and Toddler Observations.
What have we learnt in Part 2?
“Children’s learning is ongoing and each child will progress towards the outcomes in different and equally meaningful ways. Learning is not always predictable and linear. Educators plan with each child and the outcomes in mind.”
- Early Years Learning Framework Page 19 -
In Part 3 of this planning and play for babies and toddlers series you will find out how to create and support learning in Baby & Toddler environments, seek out , incorporate & use the child's voice in your planning (even when they are non verbal!) , empower and support educators working with this age group and takeaway some strategies for closing the planning cycle loop and taking some simple action steps to help get you moving forward! Read Part 3 Now.
If you are a subscriber to the Empowered Educator Academy make sure to look for the Baby & Toddler Planning & Play resources and templates mentioned throughout this post to give you a helping hand with some of the strategies I have mentioned here in Part 2 of this series (you already have access to them inside Academy - so go look now!)
Don't forget you can also download one of the hundreds of activity idea guides linked to learning outcomes when next logged into the Academy - especially created just for the 0-2 years age group!
Not a member yet but want to save time on your planning and access program ideas, activity guides for 0-12 years, templates and training videos? Join us inside here!
A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.