The EYFS requires that parents are involved in assessments of their children because there is a recognition that parents spend more time with their little ones than any individual carer does and therefore knows them best.
Carers should take the time to talk with parents as a key part of undertaking assessments. In particular they should solicit the parent's views on how their child is developing and what milestones they have noticed the child has hit or is progressing towards. They should talk about what each child enjoys doing because what they do in a domestic setting may be different to what they do with a childminder or at nursery.
Parents may have a better insight into how language is developing and should offer their observations to the keyworker undertaking the assessment. They should also discuss other patterns that they have observed in play or development.
Parents aren't trained child practitioners so may not willingly express the information required so the childminder or key worker should spend the time asking relevant questions to try to ascertain information from the parents that is useful for the assessments.
Ideally parents will interact with childminders and key workers regularly so that this information is gathered frequently and not only at junctures where formal written assessments are being made. This will help the key worker plan next steps for children, taking into account emerging development.
As a parent, if your work life restricts the time you have to interface with your child's key worker, perhaps you have to drop off quickly before work and pick up quickly once done before your next scheduled engagment, then look at setting up meetings with the key worker on a regular basis so that you have the opportunity to feed into assessments.
Weather makes for a great long term project, especially at this autumnal time of year when the weather is quite changeable. Observing the weather ticks a number of EYFS boxes, particularly in Communication and Language and Understanding the World but you can also extend it into Literacy by having your older toddlers write weather symbols, and you can easily create counting games based on weather observations.
You can buy some really good weather and calendar charts, but you can make them yourself at almost no cost. Just create a chart on a large sheet of paper covering the days of the week and cut out some weather symbols stuck onto card. Have your little ones select the right weather symbols to match the current weather.
Because the weather can change, they can add symbols for each type of weather during the day. It may start off sunny, cloud over and then rain before clearing up again. Instill observation in your little ones by encouraging them, proactively, to add a symbol to the weather chart each time they observe a change outside.
One of the requirements of the EYFS has always been to observe children and gage their progress against the areas of Learning. Observation should tell you what stage your children have reached in terms of development and will help you plan activities to challenge their current capabilities. Parents naturally observe their children but in an informal way, and it doesn't necessarily lead them to challenge their children.
There are two key modes of observing children. The first, formal mode, is to watch them for a period of time as they play in their setting. Watch what they do, what they say, how they solve problems, and make a record. Doing this on a frequent basis will let you notice patterns emerging and help you plan progress. The other mode of observation is simply noticing particular moments that strike you as funny, special, amazing. Young children are constantly amazing us, perhaps they do something in the way that you do, or say something that you would nomally do; maybe they achieve something that you really didn't think they could do, a baby rolling over, pulling a cushion off a sofa, pulling themselves up to a standing position. Note these moments too and again you will see patterns emerging over time.
Using ToucanLearn's Daily Diary, you can keep a permanent record of progress and come back to it over time. If you are a childminder, share the Diary back with parents and that way they can log in at any moment and see how their child is progressing, and what they are doing.
Play is important for every child and for the first few years of their lives, babies and toddlers learn a huge amount during what they consider to be 'play'. This is why teaching through play is such a great way to guide and educate our children because the message gets through, they learn and yet it all happens while they are having fun, playing!
During play, children expand their understand of the world, their understanding of themselves, and indeed their understanding of other people. Once children play together, it is also a way to start communicating with other children and sharing ideas and games.
By six months, children have learned, through trial and error, various sequences that they practice. If they push a ball, it rolls! They see that something happens and they like the feeling of it happening. They are learning to grip and drop and use their hands.
By nine months they might push a ball, crawl to get it and push it again. They master new skills and make the play more interesting and complex for themselves. They use props more and gravitate towards toys they like.
By a year, they are able to be even more accurate with their props/toys. They know a rattle will rattle and can kick or throw or roll a ball.
Types of play
- Sensory play: As they gain confidence and control their games become even more complex. They enjoy the sensation of movement such as swings and slides. They will do things over again to relive the experience.
- Pretend Play: Children begin by being adult led and take the initiative from parents when starting out with pretend play. Once they see what they can do, they may take the lead. They may take familiar roles of doctor, or Dad when playing. They may need, props and costumes and will probably be happy making a dressing gown into a super hero cape or tying a scarf round their head to make a princess veil.
- By 4 or 5, pretend play becomes peer focused and they children will happy to share a pretend game together, working out what to do and who is going to be who in the game. They will discuss the rules of the game, how it will unfold. They may well guide behaviour by suggesting an action. "You'll need to drink your tea before you go to work, Dad." Pre-schoolers will also have to overcome conflict and negotiate.
- Constructive play: Blocks and boxes are used to create a pretend miniature world. This type of play, allows the child complete freedom to create a world of their own.
- Physical Play: Rough and tumble, running games, chasing games are all popular with pre-schoolers. They have more control at this age and can jump, run, climb and chase. Overly aggressive behaviour should be checked, but it's all about learning how to control their body and what they are capable of.
- Organised games: A more logical and formal game arrangement becomes popular between 4 and 5 years old. They can cope with and understand the idea of having rules and are able to follow those rules in order to have a fun game. The idea of competition is introduced and that of winner or loser! Teams are also introduced and the idea of working together for a common goal.
What's our role?
Observe and comment in a positive way to encourage them.
Play with them especially when they are young, It affirms the idea of playing and makes them feel worthwhile if you are willing to play too.
Create a playful atmosphere and allow them to play - give them permission to make some noise or a mess!
Make suggestions if they are stuck.
Ensure everyone plays safely ie. the equipment is safe and that the children behave properly too!
Children love the responsibility of ongoing projects, diary projects make for wonderful activities that you can dip into a little bit each day. Diary projects are great for identifying slow change over long periods. Buy a little notebook or staple some sheets of paper into a booklet. Select your project and each day, once a week or every couple of weeks, make an observation on your project and have your child draw what they see or capture elements of what you are observing. Take photographs and stick them into your diary.
Here are some project ideas:-
- Plant a sunflower in a pot and observe it growing. After initial planting, it will be a few days before anything appears but when it does you'll observe daily change for several days. After the stem has unfolded from the seed, measure it each week and draw it in your project book.
- Plant cress seeds or mung beans in a little pot and grow them on a windowsill. These little plants grow very quickly and you can observe them each day. Draw what the plants look like and note how tall they are. You can even eat them at the end of the project!
- Watch the transition from winter to spring and into summer. Every two weeks draw a picture of the trees. At first they will be bare, then buds will appear, they will flower and at the same time, new leaves will start to grow.
- Monitor the weather, each day draw symbols to show what weather you are experiencing; is it rainy, sunny, cloudy, snowy? Is there a lot of wind? Is it hot or cold?
- Keep a note of birds frequenting your garden or park. Go out every few days and note down what birds you see. Talk about their colours and explain that this is how you can identify them. See how many different types of bird you can spot over the course of a few weeks.
- Make an activity diary, have your children draw pictures of the activities that they undertake. Draw any models that you make, draw a picture for days out, stick in pictures from brochures and so on.
- Learn a new letter, number or word each day. Write it in your diary and draw pictures to help remember the meaning.
Diaries offer a great way to sustain attention on slow changing things surrounding your children and give a sense of purpose that your children will simply love! You might run projects just for a week, or you might keep one going for months. There's no reason why you can't have lots of projects on the go at any one time - why not have a different project for each day of the week?!
Children and babies at nursery or pre-school, or children looked after by a childminder, are usually "observed" by their carer or teacher. Parents may be familiar with an "Observation sheet" that comes home or is available to look at in the childcare setting. However, as parents we are often too busy to sit back and observe our little ones and yet it can be a fascinating exercise.
In order to understand and consider a child's current interests, stage of development and their learning, observation is essential. It allows us to see the child's responses in different situations, see what they choose to do or which toys they prefer to play with. It's a means to plan appropriate games and activities based on what you see.
How do you undertake an observation?
- Solo: Prepare a few different toys or activities for your child. Try not to guide or lead them, and watch to see what they do. Record what they do, how they manage the tasks and their movements. Use your ToucanLearn Blog so you can compare week on week.
- Together: prepare an activity or craft that you do together. Record how your child manages, how you interact, what is said, how instructions are followed etc. Try to be honest though - its only for your own benefit - and your child's!
- Photograph: Take a couple of photos to record what they do. Don't get them to pose - try to do it without them seeing; just snap them at play!
- Moving pictures: Take some video or digital movies of your child playing. Again, don't bother when they are performing to the camera or doing things on purpose. Just catch them when they are restful and playing without thinking about you.
- Notes: It's a good idea to have a little notepad to hand to scribble down anything your child does or says that's funny or interesting. Record these observations in your ToucanLearn blog at the end of each day or week so you can look back at them without losing the little bits of paper in the meantime!
Observation is a great way to get to know your child even better, see exactly where they are in their development and identify any area that may be weak and need extra help.