10 Tips to Write Meaningful Observations in Early Years

Preschool Assessment: What to Expect | Procare Solutions

Observing young children is an important component of how you teach them in their early years. Teachers must select how best to handle these observations, just as they must pick how best to approach learning experiences. There are no set formats or time limits. However, there are certain tips to help make the process of observation in the early years more efficient. You can achieve this efficiently by using various observational approaches.

In this post, we’ve outlined what makes a good observation for toddlers and how you write insightful observation reports to assess their development and learning process.

Table of contents

  • Why are observations in the early years important?
  • What makes a good observation in early childhood?
  • What are the best types of observation in the early years?
  • How do you write good observations for toddlers?
  • How do you use observations to support the learning of toddlers?

Why are observations in the early years important?

Source: Red Rocks Community College

Let’s consider a case in which two toddlers are disrupting your class by throwing toys at each other in the classroom. Instead of punishing them, you decide to observe them and arrive at the conclusion that these two students have made a game out of it. As a result, you dedicate an area of the classroom to this game where these two are able to redirect their energies stacking soft blocks and throwing them after, thus developing their cognitive skills.

Respecting a child’s best interests while keeping them healthy, happy, and safe is a top priority for any EYFS teacher. Staff who observe children on purpose gain immense value out of it in the following ways:

  • Personalize care for each student
  • Learn about children’s relationships, and their learning experiences, behaviors, schedules, and routines
  • Measure and track children’s development in acquiring skills and concepts, as part of the ongoing assessment cycle
  • Gain a solid understanding of how children think, feel, and perceive the world

As a result, EYFS teachers are able to make educated judgments about how to deliver learning experiences in the classroom.

What makes a good observation in early childhood?

Such a simple concept, yet when used in early childhood settings, it can be unclear as to what exactly is anticipated when we talk about observing children. Observing is obviously the act of looking and focusing. It also includes the ability to listen, question, reflect, and document what you see. Here’s what makes a quality observation in the early years:

Read: Writing Effective Preschool Assessment Reports: A Quick Guide


A good observation is one that describes the interaction between the child and another child, an adult, or an object. The description doesn’t have to be long and drawn-out, but it should give a sense of the interaction with that youngster.

Using the child’s voice to demonstrate how engaged the child is with their learning is a terrific way to go. Quoting the child is a great approach to do since it demonstrates the child’s thoughts, mental processes, and how they interact with others.


Good observations provide a clear picture of the child’s progress throughout time. Look for the following things when observing a child:

  • The child’s demonstrated interests
  • New skills demonstrated by the youngster that has not been noted in previous observations
  • Learning that expands on previous skills or knowledge

It’s also crucial to recognize whether there are any areas where a youngster is experiencing significant difficulty so that you can create opportunities for them to improve. Consider whether the youngster would benefit from practicing any abilities, such as counting or fine motor skills.


Recognize the learning that the youngster is doing and scaffold it to get the most out of the teachable moments. To help the child in providing their thinking and ideas, you can also consider using open-ended questions in class.

What are the best types of observation in the early years?

Source: First Discoverers

It is important that while using different observational techniques, parents and teachers are well aware of the purpose of what they are doing.

Anecdotal evidence

Anecdotal records should be recorded in the past tense and should include the three Ws: What, When, and Where. With Illumine, you can document the body language in a few clicks and instantly share them with the parents so that they can monitor their child’s activities.


This involves scribbling down key occurrences, behaviors, and discussions in short lines.

Example of work

Paintings, sketches, poems, figures, and other crafty creations of the child. You should take notes on what the child did while working on these samples.


Photographs reveal a lot about who the child is as a person. Illumine enables you to share photographs of student activities, replete with annotations and descriptions of what was going on at the time it was shot. Parents can download them, like them, and even drop in a comment.

Running records

This method involves taking notes on what you see and what the youngster says as it occurs.

Time samples

This entails making notes on the child’s behavior as well as what the child is doing at various times. This can be done at regular intervals and is useful for recognizing undesirable behavior.

How do you write good observations for toddlers?

When writing observations, remember that you can’t know precisely how a youngster is feeling, so write down or record what you see and hear, not the way you believe he or she is feeling. Here are 10 tips to write meaningful observations for toddlers.

1. Describe what you see

Describe the interests, abilities, and skills of children in the following ways:

  • What are kids doing, touching, and saying when they have free time, space, and resources?
  • How children react to activities, their surroundings, routines, and unexpected situations.
  • Children’s interactions with adults and other children, as well as how they respond to others.
  • Any other ways the youngster learns, such as schematic behaviors.
  • The child’s disposition, as well as his or her level of happiness and participation.

Illumine has a number of features to make parent communication about student learning easier for you, including video sharing.

Also read: A Secret Tool to Help You Build Preschool Curriculum for Daycare

2. Cap the number of observations

Consider quality over quantity, and don’t observe only to observe. Set no goals for yourself, such as a certain number of observations per child every week, month, or year. Observations should be proportional to the amount of time the child spends in the setting, and most importantly, they should be guided by a goal.

3. Timing matters

For example, has a child just arrived and is feeling disturbed; is it nearly lunchtime and they are hungry; is it naptime and they are sleepy; is it approximately home time and they are unsettled or eager about being picked up soon?

4. Focus on a key trait

You may choose to do a more extensive observation by intently studying a child for a period of time and recording in detail what you see and hear in order to gain a rich, in-depth understanding of the youngster.

You can choose to focus on one area of a child’s development, such as social skills or fine motor control, or how they interact with their environment and the activities they participate in. Your observations should help you plan what to write.

Once you’ve created a detailed development report, you can share it with the parents on the Illumine app to deepen your shared understanding of the child and keep them up to date. Our daycare report app also has an inbuilt calendar to share upcoming events when you plan to conduct observations in the classroom.

5. Be objective

Take a look at the following observations about Khalid, an 8-month toddler:

Note 1: Arrival on November 29th at 8 a.m.

When his mother brings him inside the room, Khalid has a hard time. He despises being thrown to the ground. When she tries to read a book to him, he ignores her. Crawls over to Lettie and takes the ball from her; becomes irritated when his mother kisses him, says goodbye, and exits the room.

Note 2: Arrival on November 29th at 8 a.m.

Khalid’s mother carries him into the room and places him next to a book bin on the floor. Khalid sighs and whimpers (no tears). Mom takes a seat next to him, takes a book from the shelf, shows Khalid the cover, and begins to read. Mom approaches Khalid, kisses him, says her goodbyes, and walks away. Khalid begins to cry (tears).

The first note contains the teacher’s assumptions and interpretations of Khalid’s behavior, whereas the second note contains the teacher’s assumptions and interpretations of Khalid’s behavior.

Khalid’s actions are described rather than interpreted in the second note. It gives a far more accurate image of what Khalid does and says during the arrival routine.

6. Start with basic information

To put the observation in context, a general overview is offered. There are details on the surroundings and who is in the classroom. Describe the events that took place during the observation. You should document details of what the pupil was doing throughout the observation.

7. Talk about influences on behavior

Include any information that could affect a student’s abilities or behavior in the classroom. For instance, the report should state whether the student comes from a displaced household or speaks English as a second language. In the observation report, explain learning impairments, anxiety causes, and intellectual gifts. This part also contains information about the student’s behavioral concerns.

8. Document student interactions

Include a section in which the student’s conduct and progress are compared to that of his peers. Any assistance that the student receives should be documented.

9. Evaluate your observation

Each part of the observation should have an observation and a comment section. The objective of the observation determines which aspects are analyzed. If a student is being observed in the classroom to see if they are developing adequately, the report would cover social and emotional behavior as well as physical skill displays.

Student assessment reports in Illumine can help you gauge a student’s shortcomings and prepare you to combat them.

Also read: 12 Toughest Challenges Faced by Childcare Owners in 2022

10. Stay flexible

Your observations of the child, as well as your assessment of their needs, interests, and abilities, must be the foundation of your planning. Because children change so quickly and unexpectedly, it’s impossible to plan ahead for the weeks ahead, therefore any plans and routines must be adaptable. The pandemic has made planning forward much more difficult.

How do you use observations to support the learning of toddlers?

At Illumine, we give parents and guardians a chance to witness their children learning in action by documenting observations in the form of photographs, notes, and milestones. You can get a detailed assessment report and make the evaluation process effortless using the preschool assessment tool. Get a glimpse into how you can use our daycare reporting feature to improve parent-teacher communication. If you’re keen on investing in your students’ futures and exploring their strengths and interests together, book a free demo with us or take an 11-day trial with all features included.

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