As our children grow day by day, there are many small changes that we may not notice; using a diary can help you observe and identify change over a longer period. Observational diaries are a good instrument for observing and monitoring over a long period. Simply keeping a diary of what you do each day will highlight long term changes in development because when you compare entries weeks or months apart, you will see that your little ones are undertaking activities that were previously beyond their capabilities.
Diaries are a useful tool to explore long term concerns that you have, for example, to help identify what triggers certain physical conditions or behavioural patterns in your child. If your child is prone to allergies, you might want to log what they eat, where you have been during the day, what the weather was like and how their allergies were manifested. Over time you might pick out certain triggers such as food types, weather patterns or locations. By isolating the causes you can then learn to avoid them.
If your children are cared for by childminders during the day then you should ask them to undertake monitoring for you, and to keep a regular diary. ToucanLearn offers a Daily Diary which can be used for such purposes, fill entries in regularly and then look through them every couple of weeks in order to try to ascertain what you are looking for.
At ToucanLearn we encourage you to keep a daily diary for your little ones, but if you have children of a school age who can read or write, why not have them record a diary of their baby and toddler siblings? A diary kept by a young child of their younger sibling would make for a fascinating account, you would get a glimpse of their understanding of the world and interpretation of events. If your children are too young to be able to write, then how about trying to keep a recorded diary, making an audio or video recording each day? It's really easy to make audio and video recordings these days, using mobile phones, smartphones or laptops or computers with webcams.
Keeping a diary of a young baby from a siblings perspective would make for an interesting project for you, but would become an invaluable record for your children in years to come!
Observing children forms a fundamental part of the Early Years Foundation Stage, childminders are required to observe children and make notes. This helps to record each child's progress through EYFS and also helps you to plan ahead and work out what areas of learning to focus on for the medium term. Key to observing children is simply that - watching what they do without offering any external direction, or offering only minimal interaction. Childminders are so used to interacting with their wards that it can feel a little strange just stepping away and watching!
Make notes of what you observe; you might choose to do this straight into a diary, or you might prefer to take notes whilst you watch and later write them up more formally. A written record creates an invaluable resource both for you and to share with parents, or indeed to carers in other settings.
When you undertake your planning, go back though your diaries of observations and work out what areas of learning you need to concentrate on over the coming weeks. Compare your notes over time to ensure that your children are progressing. Although keeping a diary seems a big chore, if you write it regularly you will quickly find that it takes very little time and becomes part of your routine. A number of ToucanLearn members are using their private blog spaces to record their observations and this is an area that we intend to improve to facilitate better records for professional childminders and diligent parents alike!