Tips for Observations in Family Day Care

Conducting anecdotal observations assist family day care educators to create a plan to ensure each child’s needs are being met. However, this process can be challenging and time-consuming, especially for educators who are working alone. This article offers a few quick tips to help you develop your own anecdotal documentation system. 

Now, before I share my tips about anecdotal observations, I wanted to mention the benefits of completing a milestone checklist for each child that is enrolled in your program. Conducting a milestone check gives you a starting point to work from. You’ll know what a child’s needs are, as well as what their strengths may be. This is important because it will help you to develop an authentic educational program. Once the program is implemented, anecdotal observations are a great way to help that program evolve to meet the needs of each child and keep them engaged.

You can download a developmental checklist here 

Anecdotal observations provide snippets of each child. The value of keeping anecdotal records come when you do your reflection, because you will see the themes and threads appearing in your notes for each child that will help you identify their needs, interests, and abilities. Additionally, they help you meet the education and care legislation around you as an educator.

Here are three tips that have worked for me:

1) Avoid using templates to record your anecdotal observations. They are rigid and restrictive and don’t give you enough room to develop program strategies and creative ways to help each child. Sure, you can use prompts to guide you, but don’t limit your notes to a small box.

I follow the Incited Media process for my journals, which encourage using as many pages as I need to brainstorm and plan, rather than using a planner or templates  that only allow a  certain amount of room for your notes each day. You can find out more about the Incited Media process here.

2) Always have a pen and Post-It notes handy. When I was an educator, I carried a pen and Post-It notes with me all the time so I could write down observations. For example, I would note down the initials of the child and write things such as:

“Completed an 8 piece puzzle. Was engaged.”

The next day I might write, “Asked for an additional puzzle.”

Another day, “Stayed at the water activity for ten minutes.”

If you stick these notes in a notebook or journal, when it comes time to do your reflection you can see the child’s interests, abilities, what kept them engaged, and their skills. Then you can make a plan for moving forward. For example, in this case it might be to provide more problem solving or sensory activities.

3) Snap a photo: When working alone, a really quick way to record an anecdotal observation is by using your phone to take a quick photo. Then when you have a moment, you can print it out and stick it in your journal and jot down a few notes. I use a Sprocket printer that is very small and handy, and fits in my pencil case or handbag (you can check it out here )

The thing I love about photos is they add a visual element to my notes, which is more stimulating to look back through opposed to only reading heaps of text. 

There are some quick tips for you to help save you time with your reflections, and to meet the requirements around the education and care legislation. If you have any tips of your own, I’d love you to share them in the JPS Facebook group. Please feel free to share this post with your team.

For more information, you can download my free PDF 

More resources:

Family Day Care Educator Survival Guide (Downloadable) developed by me. Tips, strategies and brainstorm your way to success with this easy to use guide.

Recommended text books: 

Preschool Teacher: Anecdotal Observations: Write over 450 anecdotes in one book

Teacher Anecdotal Record Notebook: A logbook of student assessment observations

Focused Anecdotal Records Assessment: An Observation Tool with a Standards-Based Focus

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