It is optional to use a tool like the Ages & Stages Questionnaire to assist in your observation and assessment of children, but developing a routine of collecting and recording child observations is a great first step. Here are some tips for successful observations:
- Focus on observing exactly what the child does. Be as objective as possible. Do not let previous opinions, stereotypes, or personal values influence what you write.
- Record your observations as soon as possible. Details may be important and can be easily forgotten.
- Observe in a variety of settings and at different times during the day.
- Be realistic in scheduling observations. Haphazard or incomplete observations will not present an accurate or comprehensive picture of the child’s behavior or skills.
- Focus on one to two children at a time. If you are able to recruit your teachers to assist with the observations, assign teachers to observe specific children so that those observers can concentrate on getting to know those children very well.
- Observe children during their natural daily routines. Avoid putting them in an unrealistic situation for you to observe.
- Maintain confidentiality at all times and avoid talking about the children in front of them.
- Plan ahead. Consider times when the availability of extra staff or the nature of the day’s activities seems better suited to observation. (ie: you're not trying to multitask)
- Plan activities that do not require the full involvement of caregivers when they observe children.
- Observe often and record your notes daily. You want this to be a part of the normal routine so that your children are more likely to behave naturally and allow the observer to take notes without interruption.
- Carry a small notepad or sticky notes in your pocket, or use the Notes app in your phone so that you are able to jot down your observations anywhere.
First 5 California has a great video on how to approach child observation. Watch this 5 minute video for additional ideas.