Observing children

You can practice recording observations of children’s development in this free learning resource from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and earn Open Badges along the way. Comments, questions and links to more information are included to support your thinking and practice.

A young boy and girl playing with a toy train on the nusery floor. Soft toys are scattered around them.

Introduction

Observation is about watching children's actions, expressions, gestures and behaviours, and listening to their talk and interactions. Observation is the practice of looking at and listening to children to find out:

  • how they are developing
  • what they like doing
  • what they are learning through their play and the experiences on offer.

Good observations come from the staff member who knows the child well and has built a positive relationship with the child and their family.

It is important that you share your observations with parents and your colleagues, so together you can decide whether the child’s development is at the expected stage. Observation will help you support the child and to help them develop new interests, learn new skills and gain new knowledge. Your observations will also allow you to make sure that resources, such as toys and equipment and experiences are suitable for the child.

It always requires a sensitive and respectful approach to children's play and an attitude of openness to the child’s learning journey. Observations should document what the child has achieved, not what they have failed to do.

In this learning resource we take a look at everyday situations that you might see at any time in your work. These occasions can be short-lived and in a busy day easily lost among other events that take more of your time and attention.

Get started

Choose one of the groups below to get started.

Babies
House
Toddlers
House
Young children
House

Collect Open Badges as you complete each observation. Find out more

Useful resources

These links take you to resources and websites that should help inform your observations.

How good is our early learning and childcare?
How good is our early learning and childcare?

Education Scotland

Visit

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC)
Getting it right for Every Child

Scottish Government

Visit

Building the Ambition
Building the Ambition

Scottish Government

Download

Effective observation leading to effective assessment
National Improvement Hub logo

Education Scotland

Visit

Getting it right – Using wellbeing wheel to record and share
Wellbeing wheel thumbnail

Scottish Government

Visit