18th April 2024 Nursery Management Software

Planning and Observation in Early Years Education

Childcare settings are engaging environments where children are encouraged to play, learn, and develop. These early years are pivotal in shaping a child’s growth and potential. Therefore, the practices of planning and observation hold significant importance. 

In early years education, every moment presents a learning opportunity. This underscores the crucial roles of planning and observation, as they synergise to create enriching and effective learning experiences for young children. Let’s explore the significance of planning and observation in early years education, and how they contribute to the holistic development of children.

Planning in early years education

Planning in early years education is more than just sketching out activities; it’s about intentionality and purpose. Effective planning begins with a clear understanding of the children’s interests, developmental stages, and learning goals. Early years educators create activities and experiences that align with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework or the childcare settings curriculum, ensuring a holistic approach to learning.

Planning is no longer seen as a structured approach but a flexible guide to engage children in play, creating learning and developmental opportunities. While early years educators set the initial activities from their planning, they must remain responsive to the children’s evolving interests and needs. Through observation, educators gather insights into what captures the children’s curiosity, allowing them to adapt and refine their plans accordingly. This responsive planning ensures that learning experiences remain engaging, relevant, and tailored to each child’s unique journey.

Check out some of our other blog articles on ‘Planning in the Moment’ and ‘In The Moment Planning in the Early Years Sector’.

Observation in early years education

Although EYFS discusses professional judgement, frequent observation ensures effective teaching in early years education. It involves keenly watching and listening to children as they explore, interact, and make sense of the world around them. Through observation, educators gain valuable insights into children’s interests, strengths, challenges, and developmental progress.

Observation in early years education is not a passive act but an active and intentional process. Early years educators employ various techniques, such as anecdotal notes, photos, videos, and checklists, to capture children’s learning experiences comprehensively. By documenting observations over time, educators can identify patterns, assess progress, and tailor future learning experiences to meet individual needs effectively.

The synergy between planning and observation in early years

The synergy between planning and observation is where the magic happens in early years education. As educators implement planned activities, they keenly observe children’s responses, interactions, and levels of engagement. These observations serve as a feedback loop, informing educators’ understanding of what interests children and what requires adjustment.

For example, if a planned activity on storytelling forms engagement and active participation from the children, educators may extend the learning by incorporating more storytelling opportunities into the planning for the day/week. However, if an activity fails to capture the children’s interest, educators can easily recognise this throughout their observation and explore alternative approaches to achieve the desired learning outcomes.

In some early years settings, observations inform ongoing assessments, enabling educators to track children’s progress, identify areas for growth, and provide targeted support when needed. This continuous cycle of planning, observing, and reflecting ensures that early years education remains knowledgeable, responsive, and aware of interests and development milestones for every child, creating an environment that caters towards play and learning opportunities for all. 

Technology in early years education

At Connect Childcare, we are committed to empowering early years educators with technology to plan and observe effectively with ease. Our award-winning app, iConnect, streamlines the planning and observation process, allowing educators to focus more on meaningful interactions and the ongoing learning and development of the children in their care.

With our intuitive features, early years educators can effortlessly create, store, and share observations and snapshots that align with frameworks such as the EYFS and Birth to Five Matters, Development Matters, as well as many more. The platform also facilitates real-time observation recording, enabling educators to capture and document children’s learning experiences, share with parents and use the snapshots for future planning. By harnessing the power of technology, educators can optimise their time, enhance collaboration, and gain deeper insights into children’s learning journeys.

Through documented observation, settings can also inform their planning using our Big Picture report, which shows a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening in your early years setting. This report enables you to track the progress and development of an entire cohort of children or each child individually. This feature provides an up-to-date overview of the areas of learning where progress is being made, whilst allowing you to identify any recurring or prominent patterns. This report helps to develop your settings pedagogy, with informed planning of activities and learning opportunities that can help children meet specific developmental milestones.

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About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare