Observations and Goals - Are They Related? (Part 1)

We all do it – observe, that is

You might call it people watching but the scientific term for what you do without even recognizing you do it is “observation.”  For many it’s a hobby and they do it for fun.  For others, including early childhood professionals (that’s you,) it’s part of the job.  

In previous blogs we’ve talked about goal setting so we want to expand that conversation a bit.  This month we’ll focus on observing the children and the child care environment.   You may not be observing on purpose – or intentionally – but people with children in their lives are always watching.  Whether it’s to make sure that a child is safe, to offer help if they need it, or just to see “what they’re doing,” it comes with the territory.  

Why is it different in early childhood settings?

People in an early childhood setting often observe children in a different way and for different reasons than a parent or guardian.  Before we start, maybe it will help if we explain what types of observations there are and why you might want to use one method instead of another.  

Informal observation

One of the simplest kinds of observation is informal.  As the name implies, this is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of time or planning.  It could be as simple as pictures you take of the children doing an activity to show the parents later that day or running your hand across a cranky child’s forehead to see if they are warm.  Informal observations can capture a moment in time and can help to remind you of something you want to remember or share.  If doing observations is new to you, think about starting with something informal like pictures or the anecdotes you share with parents at pick-up time, telling them about the cute things their children said or did during the day.  If you’ve written any of those things down so you wouldn’t forget, you’re on the road to observation.

More formal observation methods

Following are several different types of observations.  In most cases, just the name of the observation type explains how it might be used.

  • Anecdotal – these are the “stories” you often share with parents.  Those stories are often important when you want to set specific goals for children.  Many providers find it helpful to make brief notes or write a few sentences for later.
  • Diaries or Running Records
  • Skills Checklists
  • Portfolios of children’s work
  • Photo Portfolios
  • Environmental

What good are they?

As you look at the list of types of observations ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why would you use these different types of observations?  
  • How would one of these help you set goals for a child?
  • Do you know where each child is in their level of development and what developmental milestone is next?
  • Do you know what they need to reach the next developmental milestone?  
  • Do you know what their interests are?  
  • What are each child’s strengths?
  • What areas are challenging for each child?
  • Where might a child need extra attention?  

Next time we’ll talk about ways to use the different observation methods.  






About Child Care Consulting & Training Services, Inc. CATS, Inc. We are a national not-for-profit training consortium with a 501(c)3 designation from the U. S. Internal Revenue Service. CATS, Inc. is governed by an appointed Board of Directors. Training and consulting for CATS, Inc. is designed and presented by the four active training partners of the organization: Elaine Piper, MA.ED. Nashville, TN Barbara Sawyer, MA Arvada, CO Susan Eckelt Tulsa, OK Deborah Eaton-Keeling San Diego, CA CATS, Inc. specializes in customized early childhood education services with an emphasis on professional development of the field and a particular expertise in family child care. Each active training partner has direct experience as a family child care provider. In addition, all partners have been actively involved in early childhood professional organizations at the local, state, and national levels and are considered leaders in the field of early care and education.