Observation, Assessment and Planning

Close observation of babies and very young children enables us to notice their fascinations and how they are trying to make sense of the world. We can see how they use multiple forms of communication to express their needs and can try to make sense of their intentions.

We use assessment of our observations to know what each child can do, so that we can reflect on our provision to support them to build on this and make progress. 

By using our observations and assessments, our knowledge of how to scaffold their learning and by involving parents and carers in what we are noticing, we can plan our provision accordingly. It is helpful to consider the environment as being part of the planning process.

 An environment that encourages curiosity and offers consistency, balanced with the provision of interesting and inspiring resources and open ended learning opportunities will support young children to explore, practice and strengthen new learning.      

Young children need uninterrupted time when engaged in their explorations, therefore adults need to be attuned to when and how to come alongside children and offer suggestions.

Notice how babies respond to your face when talking and singing to them. Imitate their expressions and sounds and leave pauses so that they can respond.

Read their body language to learn what they like and dislike, what calms or soothes them and what alarms them. Let them know that you understand them

Learn from their parents about their communication style (e.g. kicking legs – excitement or distress?) and achievements

Follow their gaze so that you know what is interesting them and can talk to them about it.
Lay them down where they can touch different surfaces and textures, where they can watch things moving in the breeze. Provide things that will move or make a sound when they reach out to touch them. Be close to notice how they respond.

When they can hold things, offer them interesting natural things with textured surfaces, make sounds, that move or have an odour. Talk to them using the language of the senses.

Once they can sit, they can be offered a treasure basket with collections of interesting natural materials. Observe how they interact with the resources and other babies engaged in the same exploration.

Sit babies with other children so that they can watch, listen and interact with them and experience being part of a group.

Observe how children move. Ensure they can explore taking risks without actually hurting themselves. Plan for opportunities for them to express their physicality and test their strength.
Notice patterns of behaviour that is repeated in different contexts (Schema – e.g. rotating resources & spinning themselves). Reflect on what they are trying to express or learn about so provision can be made in response.

Talk about the here and now, use language to support their current focus, naming, describing movement, using sensory language and positional language (e.g. “Your hands are moving side to side, swishy-swashy”). Give children time to think and respond.

Offer opportunities to make choices and try things for themselves.

Introduce opportunities for developing creativity, enabling the children to explore in their own way. This is very much a process. Let the children express themselves through their “hundred languages”.https://reggioemilia2015.weebly.com/the-100-languages.html

Maintain a consistent environment but introduce provocations which will inspire and ignite curiosity and problem solving. Open-ended materials enable the child to think and try different ways of doing things.

Engage children in real things: sweeping, cooking, gardening, washing etc. Involve them in tidying up.

Provide opportunities to look at and share books and stories, including home-made photo books. Talk about the pictures etc. as well as read them.

Ensure the environment reflects diversity & that the provision is inclusive, enabling all children to make progress and succeed.

Practitioners will be using the same skills of observation and attunement to plan for two-year-olds and build on the provision for babies on the move.

Offer opportunities to learn alone, in pairs and in small groups with or without adult support.

Ensure there are sufficient resources for sharing.

Encourage increasing independence in self-care, trying new things, having a go. Support them to be persistent or try a different way.

Plan for developing what they can do, not for what they can’t do.

Have high expectations but be realistic about what is achievable in terms of their development.

Reflect as a team to dig below the surface of what you see to inform planning. E.g. An interest in vehicles might be linked to their experiences of travel, their interest in speed or distance, their knowledge of makes of car or their interest in the wheels turning.

Schema may be expressed through movement and mark-making, support this with imitation, giving the child appropriate language and showing genuine curiosity and interest. Representation may be expressed by movement rather than an object (e.g. a car might be represented by the journey- movement of the pen)


Provide opportunities to listen to stories one to one or in a small group, told in different ways by different people, using props to enable accessibility. Use dialogic book talk to introduce early concepts of reading (talking about the pictures; feelings; characters etc.)

Planning Examples:


E.g. Mohamed (20 months) was laying on the floor pushing a car along the carpet, saying “brrm brmm” quietly to himself. He got up and went over to the sofa and moved the car up the arm, he then climbed up and moved it along the back of the sofa, looking closely at the wheels. A few minutes later he started to move the car up the slide and down again, deeply engrossed in what he was doing.

Possible reflective questions:

Interest in vehicles?

Interest in different surfaces; vertical/ horizontal/diagonal?

Interest in how the car moves on different textures?

Is he always alone or with other children?

How does he respond when a practitioner joins him?

What does he do when he’s outside?

What else do we know about him?

What else does he do?

How else does he communicate?

What do his parents say?

Possible provision:

Ensure the environment provides lots of different textured surfaces

Ensure he can explore different levels, slopes and vertical/ horizontal

Provide vehicles in the garden

Provide books about vehicles & talk about them together

Invite him to join others in vehicle play

Provide a commentary, up & down, under, over, along the top, slowly, fast, push, pull etc.

Combine vehicles with sensory activities: paint, cornflour, shaving foam, sand etc.

Imitate his actions with another vehicle

Songs: “This little train goes up the hill”

“Here comes the big red bus”

“The wheels on the bus”

“Row the boat”

Assessment Possibilities:

Early Learning Contacts

Nicola Theobald, Early Years Improvement Officer
Kate Hubble, Senior Foundation Years Consultant
Nicky Bale, Foundation Years Bristol Standard Consultant
Beth Osborne, Foundation Years Consultant Birth to Three
Kate Irvine, Interim Foundation Years Consultant
Ali Carrington, Interim Foundation Years Consultant