Thursday, 6 February 2014

Observations and the EYFS

There are lots of different types of observations and they serve different purposes.

Typical observation sheets offer you the option of filling in a series of boxes and can be useful as prompts. However, you do not have to use them – and if they don’t make any sense to you or there are boxes that are never filled in, change them to something that you feel more comfortable using.

For example, if your observation sheet has a gap for ‘parent comments’ and they never write anything – why set yourself up for a fall? Remove the box and ask them verbally for feedback which you can write on their behalf.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to write an observation such as to find out –
• The child’s current interests;
• How they interact with other children;
• The child’s learning styles – characteristics of learning ;
• What the child has learned by asking questions and watching their play closely to see how it has developed over time;
• What they know and you need to teach them next;
• Whether the child likes or dislikes something;
• Whether the child is happy or sad / involved or disengaged;
• How they interact with other adults;
• Where they prefer to play so you can support their learning in other areas;
• Whether behaviour is linked to a time of day, play with another child etc.

You might just want to write a short observation
Jack makes a tower with 3 bricks.
EYO link – physical development (handling)
Ideas for next steps – build more towers with jack to support his interest. Maybe use Lego as well.


You can focus on Jack’s learning at home
After mum said that Jack really enjoyed playing with the bricks at the weekend, we got them out here. He made a tower with 3 bricks.
EYO link – PSED (following Jack’s interests)
Ideas for next steps – find out more about what Jack enjoys doing at home and plan some activities to link into his interests.


You can write a long observation to look at what Jack did in more detail – this is often called a focussed / narrative observation –

Jack was playing with the bricks. He carefully selected 3 of the same size and shape (maths) and made a tower with them (PD). Jack pointed to the tower and started making counting noises using some of his new counting words – one, two (maths / C & L). I sat with Jack and we counted together using his counting finger to point at the bricks. Jack started laughing and knocked the bricks down with a big shout (PSED)!
Jack is learning about / EYO link…
Next steps activities to extend Jack’s learning might include…


If Jack has done something new for the first time you might write a WOW observation to share with parents –

WOW! Jack made a tower today!
He has never played with the bricks before!
He was so proud of himself and we all clapped 


Some childminders use time sample observations to look at parts of a child’s day and note what they are playing with and what areas of provision they might need extra support to access –

9 – 905 – Jack came in happily, greeted his friends and went to read a book.
905 – 915 – Jack was invited to join us to welcome everyone, sign the register, talk about the day and weather and sing our ‘hello’ song. We had also planned to read a story. Jack got up and wandered off very quickly.
915 – 930 – we had a planned activity building some towers in the construction area. Jack was busy with the playdough but he did come over and play with the bricks – he made a tower with 3 bricks.

You only need to look at a short part of Jack’s day to know you are not meeting his needs during the group session… he enjoys playdough… he likes adult led activities as well if they interest him!


Your observations might include the child’s learning characteristics
Jack made a tower with 3 bricks, counted out the bricks, knocked it down and re-made it – we have noticed that he is concentrating for longer during his play when it interests him and that he is making lots of towers and lines of toys.
Links to learning characteristic – Jack is learning using a trajectory (straight line) schema.


Some childminders – but mostly group providers – carry out group observations to see how a group of children are learning or interacting.

It is not easy to maintain confidentiality if you do group observations and I tend to do them in my head rather than recording the information.

I then use what I have seen to plan my days better, for example –
• If a 3 year old needs my attention to make a model and the baby wants milk, I might decide to organise model making while baby is asleep…
• If a 4 year old needs to read his book after school and the little ones need attention at the same time, I might read the older child’s book while the little ones are having their tea with my assistant.


An observation might link a child’s learning in another setting
Jack’s pre-school key worker told me that he really enjoyed using the blocks today so we got out our big blocks in the garden. Jack….
EYO link – physical development (handling) or maybe maths (counting) depending on the focus of your observation.


You should aim for a range of different types of observations through the months. This will keep your Learning Journey files interesting and will stop you getting bored!

For a part time child I try and write a range of observations from different settings as well - 1 x inside the house… 1 x in the garden… 1 x on an outing… 1 x from home… 1 x from another setting (if relevant). This will give you a good overall view of the child / what the child can do / what the child is learning / how the child learns etc which you can feed into the child’s individual planning.

I have written an e-book about observations including lots of ideas and sample documentation - it is e-book 14 and you can buy it from

Thank you. Sarah x