Using Observations in Family Child Care (Part 2)

As promised last month, this month we continue our topic of observations to expand understanding of how the various types of observations might be used in family child care – or other settings!

Often when providers think about observations, the mere thought overwhelms them.  After all, they are already (usually) alone with a small group of active and often needy young children. How is it possible to take time to observe? That’s one of the lovely parts of being in family child care – if things get too hectic, it’s always alright to discontinue or interrupt your time of observation to “take care of business!”

One of the simplest forms of observation is Anecdotal Observation. This type of observing is exactly what you would guess from its name; the observer simply writes what she sees the:

  • simple behaviors,
  • words; and
  • funny stuff that happen during both routines and free time.  

Anecdotes are short and interesting stories about a real incident or person. Anecdotal observation is especially useful when you are trying to figure out the “whys” and “hows” of a behavior. Through simply writing what you see, patterns may emerge that could easily go unnoticed as the day flies by. Many providers carry a small pad and pen in a pocket and write down things they notice throughout the day. Perhaps they are focusing on one child who is exhibiting a new, undesirable behavior and are hoping to make a connection to a trigger that is causing that behavior. Or perhaps it is the behavior of the group as a whole and capturing the interactions and their effects on the children or yourself.

Anecdotal observation is also a great way to connect with the parents of the children. Parents love to know what goes on all day. Many child care providers believe that parents don’t have a clue what happens when their child is with you – this is your opportunity to make the day come alive for them. The fact that you are making the effort to capture their child’s activities will be meaningful for the parents and will surely help you become even more of the “child care magician” in their eyes that you already know you are!

Diaries or Running Records are another type of observation. This type of observation may not occur during the child care hours, but rather may be a reflective practice at the end of each day when  you take a few moments to think back over what went well, what did not, and possible reasons why. It may include how children interacted, what activities seemed to generate unusual behaviors, and ways to do things differently the next time. Or it may show you that there are issues with when certain activities take place; for example, if the younger children routinely fall asleep during story time right before lunch, perhaps story time could be moved to right after lunch and help with settling them in for nap.

Next month we’ll focus on more forms of observation so that by the end of this series of posts, you’ll be more able to decide which techniques might be best for your particular program needs. The time spent in observation can become one of your most valuable tools for a variety of reasons.

Previous Article on Observation: Observations and Goals - Are They Related?

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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.