Why Observe Children?
3 Spontaneous or Planned Observation
Your observations can be spontaneous in nature. Sometimes you
take in information as it happens and add it to your internal think-
ing about each child. In these instances, you are truly in the moment
with the children and are enjoying the interactions to their fullest.
You may document some of your spontaneous observations, writ-
ing them down when you can (at the moment or later in the day).
Many teachers report that there is nothing as delightful as witnessing
the sense of accomplishment when a child tries something new and,
with bright eyes and a big grin, announces, “I did it!” Being there to
smile with the child, to offer a hug, and to say, “Congratulations!” is
You can also plan for observation and documentation. To truly
get to know all the children you teach and be ready to figure out the
best ways to help them, planned observations are necessary. Planned
observations allow you to make sure that no area of development
or daily experience is missed. And documentation—writing down
the observation—is essential if you want to remember clearly what
each child can do and how each one responds to different situations.
The documentation is an ongoing record to refer back to as you
think about each child. And that documentation of your observa-
tion provides you with evidence to share and discuss with the child’s
family members or with other specialists if necessary. Documentation
can also provide you a means to explain what you are doing to help
children learn and grow, so that families understand more about your
curriculum. Parents tell us that when teachers share documented
observations of their children at play, they understand more about the
value of play and exploration. Teachers report that these parents then
offer more support for what goes on in the program. Your observa-
tions open a window onto the world of their children that family
members wouldn’t otherwise see, and invite them to share more fully
in their children’s experiences away from home.
Rosemary: Sharing my
families helps them
see their children as
individuals—and that I see
them that way as well. They
feel I have taken the time
to get to know their child
and their family.