Activity 1-4:
Observing the
Whole Child

Purpose: In this activity, participants will observe a child several times to learn how Head Start experiences can contribute to growth and development in all domains-social, emotional, cognitive, and physical.

Participants recognize that children develop in four interrelated domains: social, emotional, cognitive, and physical.

Participants observe how Head Start experiences encourage children's growth and development.

Chart paper, markers, tape
Handout 3: The Whole Child: Summary of Development
Appendices A through E

Coach Preparation Notes:

Participants complete Part A of Handout 3: The Whole Child - Summary of Development during a meeting with you. Then, they complete Parts B through E independently. You may need to help participants arrange for relief from other responsibilities so they can conduct their observations. If you are not on site, be sure to let participants know how to reach you if they have questions or need support in completing their observations and summary. You will meet with participants during Step 4 to discuss their observations and plans.

1. Explain to participants that this activity will focus on conducting firsthand observations of children's development across all domains. Participants will review their observation recordings and, if necessary, plan ways to change their practices to support children's development

For example, while observing a child playing house, a participant might see the child sharing (social development), playing with familiar items found at home (emotional development), making up a scenario and solving problems (cognitive development), and using items such as cooking utensils (physical development).

Explain to participants that understanding how development is interrelated will help them plan programs that encourage growth across all domains. Tell them that this activity will include practice in observation and recording, skills used for a number of purposes such as getting to know children, sharing information and strategies with parents, and planning and evaluating the program.

2. Distribute Handout 3: The Whole Child - Summary of Development. Have participants select a child to observe in different settings (indoors and outdoors) and at different times of the day. Ask participants to complete A. Introduction of Handout 3 using what they already know about the selected child.

3. Review what participants will do to complete Handout 3: The Whole Child - Summary of Development.

Record what you see and hear without making judgments, using labels, or drawing conclusions. 4. Meet with the participants to discuss their observation notes and completed sections of Handout 3: The Whole Child - Summary of Development. Ask them: to explain their strategies for continuing to learn about each child's development in all domains, sharing this information with parents and staff (as appropriate), and using practices that encourage all areas of development. Provide copies of Appendices A through E for participants to use as resources.

In your discussions with participants, cover the following key points:

  • Parents provide valuable information about their children's backgrounds, skills, interests, and needs.

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