Tips from the CATS
In our first two blogs, we talked about the importance of planning and some techniques to consider as you plan. This blog will talk about one of the most important tools you need in order for your planning to actually make your work easier. You probably already know each of the children in your program well. Do you have that information in writing or do you keep it all “in your head?” Having written information about each child gives you a way to develop goals and to ensure that your activities throughout the day are helping the children in your program meet goals you know are important.
Observing each child is an important piece of developing both short and long term goals for the children you have enrolled. Written observations don’t have to be complex – you can make notes about children’s skills or interests when it’s convenient for you or you can make a plan to spend a few minutes observing and writing down your observations each day.
Often, these deliberate observations will give you new insight into a child’s behavior or even into the interactions of the group. You might intentionally observe children for several days and realize that 11:30 is more hectic than other times during the day. When you watch the group, you see that several children have a difficult time waiting until lunch time – this may tell you that you need to revise your daily schedule and serve lunch earlier or offer morning snack later.
Besides helping you see patterns in children’s group behavior, observation helps you recognize developmental milestones that a child may be approaching or may have missed. For instance, recognizing that Johnny isn’t able to use scissors yet might help you plan activities that will help him develop this skill. Intentionally planning to have more opportunities for children to practice small motor activities like tearing pictures from magazines or tearing along a bold line might help all the children and give Johnny reinforcement to move to the next step of using scissors.
The More You Know
The more you know about each child’s growth and milestone achievement, the easier it is for you to plan activities that will support them in their next steps and that will help them achieve upcoming milestones in engaging ways. Child observation is a valuable skill and one of the foundations of planning a program to meet children’s individual needs. It’s another way to be intentional in preparing for your program and gives you additional information to help you plan activities for young children.